a Day Trip to Superior and Apache Leap

Apache Leap, Superior. AZ
Apache Leap, Superior. AZ

Today Liz and I took a day trip to Superior. Liz’s niece in Michigan owns property in Superior and asked that we send her some photos. She is going to have to arrange for somebody to cut down the overgrowth.  One day they plan to build a house on the lot, which has a grand view of Apache Leap.  More on that in a second.

It was a nice excuse to stop for lunch at the Jade Grill, a very intimate little restaurant run by Superior native and master chef Lucy Wing. The cuisine is Asian Fusion – the presentation is nothing short of artistic.  Highly recommended. Lunch for two ran $24.

It was also an excuse to do some shopping at Funky Junk, an eclectic thrift store. We walked out with a coal burning stove and an old pick-axe that Liz purchased for the Superstition Mountain Museum miner’s cabin exhibit. I walked out with about 15 feet of antique barbed wire which I plan on fashioning into a wreath. He refused to charge me, and offered two bundles of wire. I didn’t want to take advantage.

You never know what you are going to find at Funky Junk – antique furniture, musical instruments including outsider art electric cigar box banjos and cigar box amplifiers, old mining equipment, a jackhammer, Herb Albert and the Tijuana Brass Band 33 1/3 RPM albums, coils of barbed wire, fine antique china, a vintage smelter (if I had the cash I would have walked out with it) and an odd assortment of books and CDs and DVDs.

The son of the owner was lamenting the loss of business due to the highway expansion.  The only highway between Phoenix and Miami/Globe is shut down for three days a week for construction.  Superior is in the middle, and they have lost a lot of the tourist traffic they rely on.  Superior is an old silver mining town that was shy of becoming a ghost town before the Chamber of Commerce created a sort of arts district in the downtown.

The highway is closed for blasting, as the mountains have to be chipped away to make room for two more lanes of road. Superior is a town that is at once charming and also creepy. Artists have taken up residence in neighborhood that reek of poverty – of real poverty. Superior is on the outskirts of what used to be Apache territory – a few miles further east past Globe and you are on Apache reservation. If you are a White Eye, you do not want to screw up or do anything stupid. The Apache remember.

Which brings me to the story of Apache Leap.

The Apache had inhabited this territory since before recorded history. The Apache and The Navajo are descended from the same people. The Navajo settled and created an agrarian community. The Apache wandered and roamed, and hunted for sustenance. They also raided and took what they needed to survive, whether from white man or other native tribes. When the White Eyes began encroaching on their land, they did not rest easy.

Superior was once a farming settlement, and was named Florence Settlement. Frequent Apache raids were cause for a military fort to be situated a few miles west at Picket Post Butte in 1870.  Picket Post Butte was originally names Tordilla Peak.

This was the location of the town called Pinal, which boasted the Silver King Mine. A stamp mill was built here, and the silver was stripped from the vein.  A few miles east rose a mountain named the Big Picacho.  It is a huge up-cropping of rock whose face has been eroded by thousands of years of precipitation.

The Apache had established a small community at the top of Big Picacho. The path to the top was obscure, and the Apache felt safe in their secret hideaway. They used this vantage to observe military movement in the valley below, and via smoke signals communicate with other tribes. The military post eventually discovered the hideaway and were able to find the secret path to the peak.

A group of military and civilian posse surprised the Apache.  The Apache quickly surrendered, understanding the futility of fighting a larger force, they had no route of escape. The posse, however, would not accept surrender, figuring that the Apache would one day attack anyway.  They killed man, woman and child.  The Apache, with nowhere to go, ran to the ridge and lept to their deaths.Many Apache warriors rode their horses off the cliff, as some of the stories go.

Apache Leap overlooks Oak Flat, a parcel of land that indolent politicians in cohorts with international corporations have conspired to sell for the promise of a few low paying local jobs. While not tribal land, indeed the land is part of Tonto National Forest, it has a certain meaning to Apache tribes in the area. It is considered sacred because of the Apache Leap incident.

The company buying the land is an Australian/English consortium that has mines with Iranian interests. One of their mines had 15% Iranian interest. Money and greed have no national boundaries, and allowing terrorists to profit comes in second to personal riches.

The copper vein that would be mined lies miles beneath the surface, and the mine would destroy a landscape that is unique not only to Arizona, but to the United States. A gaping hole would be left in the wake of wanton avarice. Some jobs would be created for residents of Superior, and as unemployment is at an all time high, it is enticing to give consideration, however, the high paying administrative jobs wold go to foreign nationals that have no interest other than self-enrichment.



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