Grab Your Minolta For A Little Fall Hunting

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If your idea of eye-popping fall fun is to see trees in their autumn dress of golds, yellows and reds, you don't have to travel all the way to New England to do it. You can get all of the craning your neck can handle right here in the Rim country.

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 dark brown, light brown and off-brown.

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Visitors will find the best place to spot fall colors is on top of the Mogollon Rim. Take plenty of film with you to catch the spectacular hues.

Here, in the fall months, they'll encounter a world perhaps best described by former Rim country resident Zane Grey, the famous Western novelist who spent much of the early 1900s in the cabin he built near the headwaters of Tonto Creek.

"In places where Lucy could see the Rim, she was astounded and delighted," Grey wrote in "Under the Tonto Rim," one of his 85 novels. "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 fall color-seeking is that it can be enjoyed at a variety of levels of physical activity.

The Rim country boasts hundreds of miles of unpaved roads, so you can stay right in the viewer-friendly confines of your car. And with literally 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 suggested. "Bring a lot of film ... and have fun framing your shots. Put some people in your photos right next to the color. It makes for a great portrait background."

Beckstead's favorite Rim country spot to snap while basking in the reflected glory of fall colors is Christopher Creek's See Canyon.

"The changing colors of the sycamores along East Verde River and the yellow leaves of the aspens along the Mogollon Rim are subtle signals of the winter to come," he said. "Yet the ultra-colorful See Canyon maples seem to be part of a misplaced landscape that's been uprooted from New England."

All told, Beckstead concluded, See Canyon produces "the most beautiful riot of fall colors I've seen within 100 miles of Payson."

To visit See Canyon, drive 21 miles east on Highway 260 from Payson to Christopher Creek. Take Forest Road 284, across from the food market at the center of town, and drive to the end.

Bring your camera.

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