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Weekend Planner

Mining historic riches

Globe, Ariz., has something for every taste

Email|Print| Text size + By Diane Daniel
Globe Correspondent / December 28, 2005

GLOBE, Ariz. -- We chose to visit the small mining city of Globe for two reasons -- it was only 85 easy miles east of Scottsdale, where we were staying, and it sounded charming, in a scruffy sort of way.

We were right on both counts, but it took us six hours to drive there. We had opted for the long way, which included the 43-mile Apache Trail, said to be an Indian footpath and later a stagecoach route. Now, the trail -- Highway 88 -- is a partly unpaved road that winds through some of southeastern Arizona's most beautiful backcountry. Whether you take it to or from Globe, don't pass up the chance to get a taste of the real Arizona, where, with a backdrop of the jagged Superstition Mountains, the saguaros stand in salute and the rattlesnakes lie in wait.

There are stops along the way for every taste. Starting just outside Apache Junction, there is the Superstition Mountain/Lost Dutchman Museum, which recounts tales of hidden treasures; the commercial Goldfield Ghost Town; and the Lost Dutchman State Park. After 18 miles that include multiple hairpin turns between cliffs and drop-offs, you reach Tortilla Flat, a tourist trap serving overpriced, mediocre food. But you have to stop anyway because it's fun. Dollar bills are pasted to almost every available wall space in the restaurant, the barstools are real saddles, and you can buy prickly pear ice cream in the market.

From there the drive gets dicier, as the pavement fades to packed dirt and two lanes narrow to 1 1/2. Several reservoirs keep the landscape diverse, though the large pickups hauling powerboats are not what you want to meet on a blind curve. Locals drive as if they own the road, and the dust can gag you. Driving the trail is a not-quite-white-knuckle adventure that will get you to Globe in half a day instead of 90 minutes on the highway.

Before the Apache came in the early 1600s, there were the Salado, and you can see evidence of them at Tonto National Monument, between Globe and the trail. Lower and upper cliff dwellings are a fascinating testament to the tribe, named after the nearby Salt River. Just outside Globe, the wonderful Besh-Ba-Gowah Archaeological Park features a restored pueblo, with some re-created living spaces that housed the Indians from about 1225 to 1400. As you near Globe, you see a different sort of landscape -- one that's been mined. Many hills contain terraces of tailings, the main waste produce of the ore milling process, and from certain highways you can view giant open pits, evidence of the industry's continued presence here.

As for the city of Globe, it was as opposite a place from new and high-end Scottsdale as we were looking for. If you adore Scottsdale's upscale shops, luxurious spas, and lively nightlife, then you might not appreciate Globe. The closest it comes to having those amenities are a few antiques stores wedged between empty storefronts in the downtown historic district, a day spa, and a smoky century-old saloon/dive bar. And instead of the white-linen, nouvelle cuisine bistros plentiful in Scottsdale, Globe features a mother lode of hole-in-the-wall, family-run Mexican restaurants.

Globe, with 7,500 residents, doesn't have much in the way of lodging, either. There are some budget chain motels, and two bed-and-breakfasts in town. The nicer B&B is the Noftsger Hill Inn, a former elementary school. The classrooms are now for guests, complete with original blackboards. No rooms were available, so we stayed at Cedar Hill B&B, in the center of town. If you like to be treated like family, this is the place to stay. Mother-daughter proprietors Helen and Linda Gross are extremely friendly, and the setup here is as informal as it gets.

Linda Gross, who moved up from Tucson four years ago, represents the new wave in Globe: midlifers trying to make a living at a slower pace in a struggling town that oozes with potential. ''It takes a while to be accepted here by the locals," Gross said. ''Things can move really slowly."

Gross also has started a photography business, deals blackjack at the Apache Gold Casino (she'll show you how), and just last month started a community blog, GlobeMiamiTimes.com. (The nearby smaller town of Miami, which has several weekend-only antiques shops, shares a chamber of commerce and economic development council with Globe.)

One big setback came this past summer, when an electrical fire destroyed the Globe Theater and the historic Pioneer Hotel, which of late had been transformed into an art gallery and coffee shop.

''It was heartbreaking," Gross said.

It's not just newcomers trying to make things work here. In the mid-1980s, local artists banded together to restore the abandoned 1906 Gila County Courthouse, now the Cobre Valley Center for the Arts, an imposing structure on Broad Street -- Globe's best asset. Along and near Broad there are more than 25 buildings dating between 1870 and 1920. The boom came when copper was king. (Now, with just three mines left in the area, copper mining accounts for only 20 percent of jobs.) The local coin laundry is in the old Arizona Eastern Railroad Depot, and Kelly's Broad Street Brewery used to be a JC Penney. The town's oldest saloon is the Drift Inn, in the former International House, built in 1902 and the largest existing adobe structure in the state. It has the original tin ceiling and a historic mural.

If there's one shop not to miss, it's Bacon's Boots and Saddles, opened in 1947 and one of the last saddle makers in the country. You'll likely find the father-son team, wearing Western shirts, jeans, and boots, in their workspace in the back of the store, which also sells Western wear. At 78, Ed now takes Mondays off.

Business has slowed considerably because ''working cowboys are disappearing," said Earl Bacon, 55, who trains roping horses and competes in roping events. He's happy to take some time off to show how he's forming and adorning the $3,500 ''basket weave" saddle sitting on a stand.

''I've been messing with leather since the fifth grade," Bacon said, but he's pretty sure the business will die with him, because his four daughters aren't interested in carrying it on. He knows Bacon's will be in business at least two more years because that's how long the wait is for a custom-made saddle.

Contact Diane Daniel at ddaniel@globe.com.

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