One-stop shopping at Globe’s Pickle Barrel Trading Post

Pickle Barrel Trading Post's array of metal flowers

I’ve found it. I found the perfect place to buy everything you thought you could never find, never needed or for that matter — never even knew existed — it’s the Pickle Barrel Trading Post in Globe. Probably some of you already are familiar with the Pickle Barrel, but to those of you who haven’t yet been there, please don’t miss it. It’s a one-of-a-kind shopping experience.

From the street, this historic Globe tourism icon holds a prime shopping property on Broad Street, a concrete-blocked, corrugated-roofed reminder of a bustling, booming mining town. At first, the building seems out of place on the perimeter of the historic downtown area, but when you drive around to the front entrance of the store, it’s clear why Pickle Barrel is a popular shopping destination.

Metal Petal: A perfectly planted flower bed at Pickle Barrel Trading Post

If, after “antiquing” through the whatnot shops of Globe and the this-n-that stores of Miami, and you still haven’t found that special something, you may locate it at Pickle Barrel. Upon arrival, stroll through gardens of ornamental metal and wood: copper, bronze and wrought iron sculptures. Every imaginable kind of lawn decor is found here. Fountains, planters, gazing balls and weather vanes make up a kind of obstacle course for an entire colony of soldered metal ants, spiders, scorpions and butterflies. Don’t worry there’s a path up to the entrance, so you’ll be safe.

Pendleton blankets and pillows at Pickle Barrel Trading PostAfter stepping inside the Pickle Barrel, you immediately get the sense that this store is indeed a forum for ‘deal hunting.’ It’s all worlds of imaginable shopping combined: second hand merchant, gift boutique, antique mall, attic storeroom, furniture gallery, general store, Indian trading post, Southwest-Mexican art barn, Arizona souvenir shop, bargain basement and flea market.

Rock and gem display case at Pickle Barrel Trading Post

Take your time to look. If you glance around too quickly at all the merchandise you’ll get what’s known as “shopper’s eyestrain” – the pain acquired when one’s eyes constantly focus and refocus, moving from close objects to faraway objects. And I’d recommend bringing keeping your cell phone in close range in case your spouse gets sidetracked and decides to explore the opposite side of the building. There are so many nooks and crannies, kiosks, display cases and shelving units, it’s easy to get lost. You’ll find a full range of merchandise: from those items you see practically everywhere – like Leanin’ Tree greeting cards, to other items harder to find – like antique beer and “fillin’ station” signs. Please be warned of the effects serendipitous shopping has on your wallet.

Fedora or 10-gallon, felt or straw - Pickle Barrel has hundreds of hats

I would recommend Pickle Barrel Trading Post to any Arizonan – full-time resident, winter visitor or regular tourist — and anyone doing some early Christmas shopping for those ” folks back home,” because you’ll find gifts and souvenir favorites such as turquoise jewelry, silver belt buckles, Bolo ties and Red Rock landscapes. Everything that can be manufactured and marketed that defines Arizona or the Southwest can be found at the Pickle Barrel. And then some.

A saddle or skull from Pickle Barrel will round out your decor

Note: Pickle Barrel allows shoppers to bring in their “well-behaved pets,” so you don’t have to leave the pooch at home. Pickle Barrel Trading Post is open daily except Easter, Thanksgiving and Christmas from 10 a.m. to 5:45 p.m.

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Relaxing getaway at Roper Lake State Park

Natural hot springs tub makes Roper Lake unique

Remember Roper Lake State Park if you’re considering a peaceful Arizona weekend getaway. When we visited in early September, the place seemed almost empty. Except for a group of scouts loading up canoes, there were only a few several travel trailers plus a couple of tents scattered throughout the park — hardly any activity, granted it was a rather rain-soaked Sunday morning. But I have a feeling when the weather’s better, Roper Lake State Park, located 171 miles southeast of Phoenix, is probably buzzing with action. Roper Lake lures visitors for a variety of reasons. Here are a few:

Canoeing, kayaking. Add to that: paddleboarding, sail boarding and inflatable rafting. Exploring Roper Lake’s shores for wildlife sightings is one way to unwind. This quiet lake would be a great place for beginners to sharpen their skills on a non-motorized watercraft. Practice kayaking; try out stand-up paddleboarding. Rest assured: No jet skis or high-powered outboards will go whizzing by.

Mount Graham capped with clouds is a backdrop to Roper Lake's beach

Swimming. Roper Lake is one of 12 Arizona state parks with a designated swimming area and it also has a few hundred feet of “beach.” Although we didn’t see any people in the water on this rainy day — the only swimmers were ducks. I guess I could imagine children wading in the sandy shallows as a possibility, but the water looks to be more like a murky pond: muddy, sandy, with plenty of cattails.

Mariah Mesa Trail walkway starts from the hot tub area

Hiking. A short nature trail appears to be the only marked path. The Mariah Mesa Trail is about .75 mile and takes one up to a short ridge, but hikers are rewarded with closer views of views of Mount Graham and Pinaleno Mountains as well as blankets of Graham County farm fields. Walking around other sections of the park, such as along the lake’s edge and campground paths will measure about five miles. Otherwise serious hikers will be drawn to Mount Graham for numerous possibilities.

Picnicking. There’s a large picnic ramada on Roper Lake’s “island.” This location would be an excellent place for the family reunion, church or company picnic. Better bring the rolling cooler and wagon, because no vehicles are allowed in this area; it’s a bit of a toting distance from the parking lot. However, the grassy lawn area is ample enough to start up a game of touch football – just be alert that those long passes don’t get too long, or you’d be swimming out in the reeds for the reception.

Quaint camp cabins have porch swings

Camping. Cute little cabins have bunk beds, heat and a/c inside, and picnic tables, fire pits and porch swings outside. I’m imagining a perfect weekend retreat for relaxation: sitting on the porch swing finally finishing that novel and ‘cozying up’ around the campfire during the evening chill.

Fishing.  Small, quiet and calm, Roper Lake would be ideal waters for teaching children or beginners how to fish. There’s a fully accessible fishing dock, and 30 acres of surface area. Largemouth bass and rainbow trout are the popular catches. The park store has fishing supplies and bait.

Soaking.  Roper Lake State Park comes equipped with its own natural hot springs! It’s actually just one of many in this part of Arizona. But others are either on private land or difficult to reach. I’m estimating the waters in this park tub are about 95-100 degrees — perfect for a short “ah” moment. Imagine relaxing here after a day of fishing, paddleboarding or hiking.

A snowy egret tests the Roper Lake waters

Wildlife watching. As we strolled along the beach, we saw a number of different waterfowl and wading birds, including a snowy egret. Killdeer piercing high notes split the light breezy quiet of our morning. The high country desert scrub geography nestled at the foot of Mount Graham brings many other kinds of wildlife to view during the dusk and dawn.

Stargazing. Of course, you could venture up to the top of Mount Graham for a close-up view of stars, moons and planets or just relax in front of your cabin or in the hot tub and stare at the night sky. Because you’re far from Tucson or Phoenix city illumination, you’ll have a better view of constellations or the over-passing International Space Station.

Only major negative about Roper Lake State Park? It badly needs TLC. We noticed facilities were fair condition at best. Structures, signs and benches need repair and paint; day use areas need cleaning and clearing. We hope — if not the state parks department — maybe the Friends of Roper Lake will act soon to help with upkeep. Unfortunately, at this writing the group’s website was removed.

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Salsa Trail ends at Safford’s Salsa Fest

Delicious lunch at Salsa Trail's La Casita in Thatcher, Ariz.

It’s that time again in Arizona – fall festival time! And if you love Mexican food, especially all kinds of salsa, then chances are you’ll want to head to Safford for the Arizona Salsa Festival Sept 28-29.

Salsa is famous throughout the Southwest, and in Safford (located 165 southeast of Phoenix), there’s a literal melting pot of salsas of all types and flavors. As there are many different types of chile peppers; so is there a wide variety of salsas. And these varieties are likely to end up in the judging sample bowls for the Salsa Fest.

Safford is one of the primary Arizona cities along what’s known as Arizona Salsa Trail. The ‘trail’ stretches between Thatcher and Clifton including smaller communities such as Duncan, York, Solomon and Pima.  Several independent, family-owned Mexican restaurants, cafes, markets, plus a chile company and a tortilla factory participate in this culinary tourism route, dating back to 2005.

AzGetawayTravel picked up part of the Salsa Trail this past weekend, as we ventured to southeast Arizona. We stopped for a Saturday lunch at La Casita in Thatcher. Naturally — and very typically — we guzzled up the hot sauce with the chips before our entrees arrived. I ordered the taco-enchilada-burrito combo and Chuck requested the taco salad with beef. His looked wonderful: crisp, freshly cut vegetables, ample amounts of roast beef chunks in a bed of warm tortilla chips. I was glad I had no rice or beans to accompany my combo, since it was obvious I would already need a “to-go” box. My meal was so tempting I almost forgot to take a photo before I dug in. Oops — that’s why the above photo shows the burrito already dissected. I couldn’t wait to take a taste of that green chile beef filling. After eating my cheese enchilada, I decided to ‘take out’ the taco.

Salsa Fest in Safford is Sept. 28-29Tip: If you intend to try one of more of these Salsa Trail restaurants on a weekend getaway, you’ll need to plan ahead and check their business hours. Many of these are closed Sundays.

Festivities for the Salsa Fest kick off on Friday evening Sept. 28 with colorful hot air balloons on Main Street in historic downtown Safford. Saturday’s events include Chihuahua dog races and costume contest, live music, custom car show, kid’s activities, jalapeno pepper eating contest and of course, the salsa making contest, salsa recipe judging and salsa sampling.

Readers, I just have to ask: What’s your favorite kind of hot sauce or salsa? Do you like the smooth, blended red — or salsa verde? Or maybe a chunky style? Or are you a fan of pico de gallo? What’s your hot index?

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Besh Ba Gowah: park visitor tips, random facts

During its days of population, Besh Ba Gowah, an archeological park in Globe, had about 400 rooms. It’s impossible to get an accurate number of rooms because excavation during the 1940s may have bulldozed perimeter areas of the original settlement. No results were published after a five-year excavation project during the 1930s because of the director’s untimely death.

Polychrome pottery can be seen at the museum

Salado Indians who inhabited Besh Ba Gowah (approximately 1150 to 1430) were master potters and used a method known as polychrome – adding black, red and white paint and dyes to create colorful geometric shapes on the earthenware. Interestingly, the Salado had other distinctions such as burying the dead (as opposed to cremating), using advanced irrigation techniques and building their homes from the ground up using masonry-type construction with rocks and boulders. Salado Indians may have been a mixed culture of Hohokam and other regional ancient communities. From the jewelry and artifacts found at the Besh Ba Gowah site, it appears that the Salado were traders; trading networks may have extended to the Gulf of Mexico and Pacific Ocean.

Besh Ba Gowah is actually an Apache term, used much later to describe the settlement as a “place of metals,” probably referring to nearby mining activity of the 1800s.

Climb up to the second level rooms

Visitors can climb up to the rooftops of some of the buildings. On the second level, you will be able to get a better idea of the massive size and layout of the settlement.

Note varying sizes of entrances such as the wall crawlspace at far right

Noteworthy are the varying sizes of the doorways and the long, once-covered corridors which connect outer sections of the pueblo to a central, open plaza area. These building features may have been built to defend their community. Intruders could have been more easily fought off if they had to crawl through a small “doggy” door or climb up to a second floor level.

Barrel cacti in bloom at Besh Ba Gowah's ethnobotantical garden

Don’t miss a walk through the ethnobotanical and adjacent botanical gardens with a large display of cacti and other desert flora. Learn how the Salado Indians used these plants for both food and clothing. According to its website, the city park accepts unwanted desert plants from area homeowners.

If you’re a first time visitor, I recommend taking time to view the 14-minute video before you stroll through the ruins. It will give you a brief overview of the Salado Indians, their anthropological and archeological history and restoration. For me, it allows a greater appreciation of ruins and museum.

Spend a few minutes in gift shop after your tour.  In addition to the usual Arizona tourist gifts, the shop carries a wide selection of interesting souvenirs plus artwork by local artists.

Besh Ba Gowah Archeological Park is located at 1324 S. Jesse Hayes Road. Admission is $5. The park is open from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily except Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year’s Day.

Wait a minute! Somebody's still living here!

Further reading about the Salado culture:

The Salado: A Crossroads in Cultures

Besh Ba Gowah by James Q. Jacobs

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