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Ten Things to Love About Cave Creek, Arizona

Updated on April 14, 2013
Uncovered wagons
Uncovered wagons | Source
"Booting up," has a different meaning here.
"Booting up," has a different meaning here. | Source

Cave Creek is All About Western!

While nearby Scottsdale boasts cosmetic surgery and Jaguar dealerships, Cave Creek cherishes its western heritage. True West magazine is headquartered here, taking its place on Cave Creek Road alongside boot shops, feed stores, and western-themed thrift shop, gift shops, and furniture and accessory shops. We love our cowboy lifestyle. You'll find it in the names of such businesses as Spirit of the West, Big Bronco, and the heartbeat of the town -- Harold's Corral. You'll hear it in the music spilling out of the Buffalo Chip, or the sound of the cowboys hitting the dust in the back of the bar on Saturday nights as they try to reach eight seconds on a live bull. You'll smell it in the loads of alfalfa at Black Mountain Feed right on the main drag, and you'll feel it in the air during the entire Fiesta Days weekend. Western is Cave Creek.

Cave Creek remembers its past
Cave Creek remembers its past | Source

Cave Creek has its Own Quirky, Creeky Identity

We call ourselves "Creekers." It's more than a geographical reference; it's a lifestyle and an attitude. It's a matter of pride that we aren't the planned community of our neighboring Carefree; ours is a more iconoclastic identity. It's no coincidence that a group of local merchants put together a terrific outdoor marketplace called Thieves Market, and assigned the slogan, "Perfectly Uncivilized" to the market and, by extension, the town itself. That, of course, got under the skin of a few people who would rather see Cave Creek become the new Scottsdale (heaven and Hank Williams forbid!) The true Creeker is proud of that moniker.

Creekers are a proud bunch indeed. You'll find the familiar Cave Creek front license plate on a large percentage of our pick-up trucks (and cars, since Creekers are a tolerant bunch and let them share the road). Having trouble merging onto the freeway in downtown Phoenix? Look closely at the front plate of the guy who backed off and waved you on in front of him -- he's probably a Creeker.

As with any quirky town, you'll see a rich variety of local wildlife -- and I'm not talking about the scorpions, rattlesnakes and javelina. I mean the residents. Men wearing the ubiquitous cowboy hat wander the streets wearing shorts, cowboy boots, and dangly earrings. Plenty of people will introduce themselves with western names that they've adopted by choice. Belts with first names hand-tooled on the back are abundant on the salt-covered dance floor at the Chip on Saturday nights. Look for a pick-up truck decorated with skull and roses, a turquoise Lincoln the size of a yacht, or the antique un-restored pick-up with a vintage pitch-fork in the bed vying for attention on the local roads.



Cave Creek is Dog-Friendly

All the best people are dog lovers. Cave Creek is no exception. Many businesses throughout town cater to those of us who cater to our dogs. On cooler days, check out how many dogs accompany their humans to the patios at Bryan's Black Mountain BBQ, Oak's Diner, and Janey's Coffee House. Some of the locally-owned businesses feature dogs who'll greet you happily as you enter; the Document House offers great printing and an adorable pug.

Not the only patio in town where you'll see a pup or two
Not the only patio in town where you'll see a pup or two | Source

Not just one, but TWO local thrift stores benefit animal rescues. Water dishes are strategically located in front of many businesses -- we're in the desert, after all. It's a small town, and not only do people paste "lost dog" bulletins on street sides, but when the dog is safely located, you'll sometimes see "FOUND!" written on the posters to let us all know that all is well.

One of TWO thrift stores that benefit pets in our town
One of TWO thrift stores that benefit pets in our town | Source
It's a desert lizard.  Honestly.
It's a desert lizard. Honestly. | Source

Cave Creek has Unique Business Names

For a while, Cave Creek had a long-standing restaurant called "The Satisfied Frog." That name might puzzle you until you drive a little further east and happen to see "The Horny Toad." Creekers have a great sense of humor. You'll see it in the signs announcing businesses throughout the town: The Buffalo Chip is across the street from The Town Dump (which truly is one of the most unique shops in the world, where you can buy a moth-eaten stuffed bear (the real thing -- as in taxidermy), a garden-art piece crafted of antique typewriters welded to a tractor seat, or a Freda Kahlo reproduction. We also boast The Lazy Lizard, Big Earl's Greasy Eats, and For Goodness' Sake thrift shop (so named because it benefits animals).

(For those of you who aren't familiar with our western vernacular, a horned toad is a variety of desert lizard, and a buffalo chip is a cow patty -- another name for cow poop.)

The much-loved Buffalo Chip Saloon has live bull-riding weekly
The much-loved Buffalo Chip Saloon has live bull-riding weekly | Source
Don't you wish YOUR town had a Big Earl's Greasy Eats?
Don't you wish YOUR town had a Big Earl's Greasy Eats? | Source

Cave Creek has an Awesome Rodeo

I like rodeos. Organized rodeos, at least -- not the kind of rodeo I often have when I climb up on a green horse on a windy day when they get spooked by a covey of quail shooting up underneath them from the brush. I like the Cave Creek rodeo most of all. It's set against the backdrop of the absolutely stunning Cave Creek Mountains, not yet surrounded by tract homes and gated communities. It's a community get-together and you'll see townspeople waving at each other all the way across the arena, and then reaching for their cell-phones to call the friend they've just recognized. The annual Fiesta Days rodeo is a treasure.

The rodeo parade kicks off the festivities on Saturday morning of rodeo weekend. Because everyone knows everyone, participants in the rodeo often just stop along the route to talk to friends and neighbors. I used to be mystified at how many people came to watch the parade -- not because it's not a great parade, but because it seemed everyone was IN the parade. I'm not ordinarily a parade fan, but I love small town parades, and no one does it better than Cave Creek.

Don't miss the rodeo dance, where you can maybe snag a two-step with one of the bull-riders -- or one of the locals who tells you he's a bull rider, and that yes, Ma'am, he did win that buckle.

Gettin' down in Cave Creek
Gettin' down in Cave Creek | Source

Horses Still Rule

As I mentioned before, all the best people love dogs -- and all the VERY best people love dogs and horses. Cave Creek is full of the very best, and it clings tenaciously to its horsey lifestyle. A few years back the town approved a system of trails that run along Spur Cross, Cave Creek, and School House roads so that riders (and other users) can access the town and the amazing desert trails to the north. Volunteers from the community scraped out those trails and edged them with native rocks (of which the town has no short supply) and riders on horseback are a daily sight.

Move over, Trigger!  Meet the Black Mountain pony.
Move over, Trigger! Meet the Black Mountain pony. | Source
Where the hoof print meets the sidewalk
Where the hoof print meets the sidewalk | Source

This is a typical sight as you're walking along Cave Creek Road -- a hoof print juxtaposed against the concrete of the sidewalk.

Get a little farther back off the main roads, and you'll still find plenty of ranches, ranging from lavish to humble. On weekends, you can catch some of us sorting, cutting, or roping cattle; caring for our backyard horses; and being photographed by tourists as we ride. I used to sometimes wonder if I was Amish, I had my picture taken so many times by wide-eyed visitors.


The Best Mexican Restaurant in Town has a Lagoon

Sure, there are a few different places to have terrific Mexican food around town. Among them, don't miss the chance to try the spinach enchiladas at Indian Village -- and visit with Bart and Bear for conversation with some true Creekers. But it's hard to top El Encanto for ambience, prickly pear margaritas (make sure you ask for sugar on the rim), and amazing Mexican food. It's memorable for its duck-filled lagoon lined with tables where you can enjoy the heat of summer and the heat of chile peppers at the same time. I enjoy taking out-of-town visitors there for a relaxing lunch; sometimes they can't remember the name of it, but there's no mistaking what they're talking about when they mention, "the pond place."

The lagoon at El Encanto
The lagoon at El Encanto | Source

You Can Ride Your Horse to the Local Saloon

Yes, I already mentioned that horses rule here. But it deserves special mention that you can not only use Cave Creek's trails to ride to town safely, but you can ride to the Buffalo Chip Saloon or Harold's Corral, put your horse in the corrals in back, and enjoy a beer and a meal before riding home. There's a watering trough at either place for your horses to refresh themselves, too.

Two horses hang out at the Buffalo Chip Saloon
Two horses hang out at the Buffalo Chip Saloon | Source
Cave Creek is a tapestry of texture, color, and colorful characters
Cave Creek is a tapestry of texture, color, and colorful characters | Source

Cave Creek is Colorful

Cave Creek is a virtual fiesta of cheery colors, from the purple mountains surrounding town to the green (yes, green!) of the desert brush. In town, you can't help but be upbeat with the southwestern shades of yellow, turquoise, purple, and brick red that have found their way onto most of the store fronts and signs. Unlike Scottsdale, where most self-respecting signs have been outlawed and regulated to the point of apathy, signs in Cave Creek are a part of the town's character -- colorful, often hand-painted onto building facades, and distinctively southwestern in influence. And not only are they part of the town's colorful character, but the town's characters are colorful as well.

Color is everywhere here; from the cactus blossoms in the spring to the talavera pottery that lines the roadsides, filled with brightly-colored sculpted blossoms.

Potted succulents in one of the town's many outdoor patios.
Potted succulents in one of the town's many outdoor patios. | Source
Colorful signs are a part of Cave Creek's unique identity.
Colorful signs are a part of Cave Creek's unique identity. | Source
Bless the beasts ... and the bikes
Bless the beasts ... and the bikes | Source

Cowboys and Bikers are Equally Welcome

Thanks to the biker-friendly climate much of the year (well, let's just say you'll rarely freeze), Cave Creek is popular with urban bikers whose bikes often line up in front of Harold's, The Hideaway, and other biker-friendly hangouts. During the annual Arizona Bike Week, several events occur in Cave Creek. Cowboys and bikers sit elbow-to-elbow at the bar.

If you're riding in Cave Creek, remember there's a noise ordinance -- keep those decibels down! County deputies do enforce this law. If you're not familiar with horses, please slow down and avoid gunning your engine around them. Unlike your bike, a horse will sometimes actively try to throw its rider. Please look out for the safety of our riders, just as our drivers will look out for your own safety and happily share the road.

There's more than one kind of wheel to be found in this biker-friendly town.
There's more than one kind of wheel to be found in this biker-friendly town. | Source

Ten's Not Enough

Ten's a nice number. Unless you're a roper who has lost your thumb because you didn't dally just right, you might know it as the number of things you can count on two hands. Unfortunately, it's not a big enough number to cover the hundreds of things I love about Cave Creek. I love the desert; I was born a desert rat, and a desert rat I'll stay. I love the deer that walk freely through the neighborhoods, and the rich variety of bird life -- I even love that pigeons haven't infiltrated yet, but that you can hear their country cousins, the Mourning Doves, cooing in the palo verde. I love the town, its people, its dusty corners. I love that the town is still largely free of gated communities, and I hope that as they encroach there will be people protesting, "Don't Gate Cave Creek!" just as they protested against the subdivision that once threatened to consume the absolutely awe-inspiring Spur Cross ranch (now Spur Cross Preserve -- hey, there's another item for the next list!) I don't love the Walmart and I don't love the new condominiums eating up the mountainside west of the town center, looking like slightly guilt-ridden Scottsdale escapees.

I love that Cave Creek still has a Christmas pageant and the state's last intact tubercular cabin. I love that western artist Lon Megargee lived here, and that Dick Van Dyke owned a ranch here, and that they recognized the unique nature and magic of the place enough to call it home. I hope that as asphalt creeps across the Arizona floor, enough like-minded individuals recognize that Cave Creek is a special place -- and that once it's gone, it's gone forever. They aren't making anymore 1860s mining towns, and they aren't minting anymore aging Creekers who remember when Big Earl's was still a gas station, and the Chip was still a bait shop.

I hope the newcomers strive to preserve what it is that drew them to this quirky, creeky town, and not try to change it to the cities they chose to leave behind.

(C) copyright 2013 MJ Miller *All rights reserved* Although no part of this article may be reproduced without express permission from the author, you may share this link freely.

Finding Cave Creek

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    • MJennifer profile image
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      Marcy J. Miller 3 years ago from Arizona

      Nina, thank you so much! There's just no town like it -- and Creekers are special people.

      Best -- Mj

    • profile image

      Nina Spitzer 3 years ago

      Beautifully written! Your words paint it perfectly! Thank you.

    • MJennifer profile image
      Author

      Marcy J. Miller 4 years ago from Arizona

      Hi, Valerie, thank you for stopping by and sharing the CC love! I can't think of a town I love more than Cave Creek -- it's just magical.

      Best -- MJ

    • profile image

      Valerie 4 years ago

      We love Cave Creek too! www.facebook.com/LoveofCaveCreek

    • MJennifer profile image
      Author

      Marcy J. Miller 4 years ago from Arizona

      Thanks so much for stopping by and commenting, Suzanne! I love hearing from another Creeker. Welcome ... And I'm happy to hear you love it as I do!

    • profile image

      Suzanne 4 years ago

      I moved to CC from ATL and I LOVE it here. Great job on the descriptions and snaps.

    • MJennifer profile image
      Author

      Marcy J. Miller 4 years ago from Arizona

      Thanks, Kasman! You'd fit right in with the rest of us Creekers ... Cave Creek definitely knows how to keep it real! I like the term "rustlin' town" -- that's an apt description for Cave Creek -- it's western from toes to topknot. Eventually I'll get something done on the human side of the story; there are some amazing people in town who deserve some recognition.

      Thank you for making a virtual visit to our much-loved town!

    • Kasman profile image

      Kas 4 years ago from Bartlett, Tennessee

      I think the Horny Toad is a place I'd visit.....along with the Town Dump. I'm always up for rustlin towns as I deem them. I don't care if it's in Australia or Arizona, I'm always game to have some fun in em. For me I would love to check out the rodeo...haven't been to one in about 3 or 4 years and I kinda miss it. Anything old west feeling is another favorite of mine. I did like the style you wrote this in......very down homey feel to it. Made me feel like I was there already especially with the pictures you chose.

      Great job, I'm voting this up as interesting for sure and I think I may even share it, MJennifer!

    • MJennifer profile image
      Author

      Marcy J. Miller 4 years ago from Arizona

      Thank you, Cathie! I'm so glad you visited my hub.

    • cathie bridges profile image

      Hamza Arshad 4 years ago from Pakistan

      very interesting information provided by you... i must apreciate

    • MJennifer profile image
      Author

      Marcy J. Miller 4 years ago from Arizona

      Thank you for visiting our town through my hub, Bill. It's a truly special place. And yes, I'm quite allergic to children -- sixth grade is the point at which they start to be distinctly humanoid and I can appreciate them somewhat! The odd thing is that kids like ME and I have to shake them off like gnats.

    • billybuc profile image

      Bill Holland 4 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Thanks for the tour my friend. I would like this town. I was reading on your profile that little kids give you hives? LOL I'm still laughing...that's why I never taught school to any grade lower than 6th grade. :)

    • MJennifer profile image
      Author

      Marcy J. Miller 4 years ago from Arizona

      Thank you for letting me share it with you, Rasta1. It is very much like a western film backdrop but all the characters are real! Yesterday I drove through town and a small herd of lifesize metal horse sculptures had been placed along the roadside -- they fit in perfectly. I hope you someday visit our western town!

    • rasta1 profile image

      Marvin Parke 4 years ago from Jamaica

      Sounds like a western movie setting. I would love to experience that lifestyle even for a day.

    • MJennifer profile image
      Author

      Marcy J. Miller 4 years ago from Arizona

      Thank you for your comment, Babs! I hope you get there again very soon. Who can resist a town that still has a tobacco shop with an authentic wooden Indian standing out front?

    • profile image

      Babs 4 years ago

      I have been to and through Cave Creek several times but your story makes me want to go and visit each and every spot you mentioned! I can't wait to go there again and soon!

    • MJennifer profile image
      Author

      Marcy J. Miller 4 years ago from Arizona

      Thanks so much, Prasetio! I hope you do get to share the beauty of our desert and the joyful character of our town someday. It's wonderful reading your kind words all the way from Indonesia!

    • MJennifer profile image
      Author

      Marcy J. Miller 4 years ago from Arizona

      Thank you, Pstraubie! You would love Cave Creek and I promise you'd get a good western welcome. Thanks for "visiting" through my hub.

    • prasetio30 profile image

      prasetio30 4 years ago from malang-indonesia

      Wow....I real love this hub. I just saw all of them from my television. Actually, I had never heard about Cave Creek. Because I live in Indonesia. But I hope I can see all the beauty of Cave Creek one day. Thanks for writing and share with us. Voted up! Arizona.....I am coming...

      Prasetio

    • pstraubie48 profile image

      Patricia Scott 4 years ago from sunny Florida

      Now I am ready to saddle up and mosey on over to Cave Creek...it sounds like my kind of town. With the humor and the down home feel of the place I think I would meet no strangers there. Thanks for sharing Voted up ++

      Sending Angels to you :) ps

    • MJennifer profile image
      Author

      Marcy J. Miller 4 years ago from Arizona

      Thank you, Peggy! It truly is a place like no other.

    • Peggy W profile image

      Peggy Woods 4 years ago from Houston, Texas

      Cave Creek, Arizona certainly sounds like a great place to visit to catch a glimpse of the past...and hopefully the character of the place will be preserved long into the future. It is obvious from this hub posting that you love the place and lifestyle. It sounds like a friendly town where people still know one another and care about each other. Up and interesting votes. Will also share with my followers.