With its reputation as a summer vacation paradise, many travelers and locals alike can easily overlook the multi-dimensional opportunities that the fall and winter seasons afford in the Rim country and it all begins with an explosion of autumn color.
While predicting precisely when and where in the Rim country those colors will occur is a little like trying to predict the weather, people who want to put a little color in their life should definitely head up the Beeline especially desert dwellers whose color palettes consist mostly of shades of brown. In the fall months, they'll encounter a world perhaps best described by Zane Grey, the Western novelist who frequented the area in the early 1900s.
In "Under the Tonto Rim," one of his 85 novels, Grey captures the Rim country's transformation from summer to fall:
"In places where Lucy could see the Rim, she was astounded and delighted. She had carried away a picture of the colored walls, but now there was a blaze of gold, purple, cerise, scarlet, all the hues of fire. Frost had touched maples, aspens, oaks, with a magic wand. It seemed another and more beautiful forest land that she was entering."
With three national forests combining to form a woodland area the size of Massachusetts including, of course, the Tonto, which, at 1.1 million acres, is the largest national forest in the Southwest there are plenty of places where Grey's words can be fulfilled.
While higher elevations are more likely sources of fall color, you'll also want to check out canyons, and areas along the Rim country's countless rivers and streams. Those are the places you're most likely to encounter "all the hues of fire."
One of the great things about the sport of fall color-seeking is that it can be enjoyed at a variety of levels of physical activity.
The Rim country has hundreds of miles of unpaved roads, so you can stay right in the friendly confines of your car. And with thousands of miles of trails for hikers, backpackers, mountain bikers and horseback riders, more strenuous options are also plentiful.
But however you get there, once you find the color there are two things you will want to do take in the moment and take pictures.
Local photographer David Beckstead says you should sit and relax for a bit to put yourself in a creative mood.
"Then," he said, "pick up your camera and start snapping."
Amateurs need not be intimidated by the splendor they're trying to capture.
"If you're a point-and-shooter, just start shooting and get a little exercise with your index finger," Beckstead said. "Bring a lot of film ... and have fun framing your shots."
Unlike a lot of photographic subjects, time of day is not a big issue when shooting fall color. Although Beckstead prefers a bright, overcast day, when the clouds diffuse the light and make the colors look three dimensional, "the wonderful thing about fall colors is you can photograph them any time of day," he said.
More advanced photographers can get as complicated as they want with lenses and filters and such, but slow films rich in color saturation are your best bets.