Throughout summer the Rim country is filled with families whose hearts beat faster as they exclaim to one another, "We're going to the cabin!"
Whether that "cabin" is our permanent home or a second home, there is nothing quite like living in this forested mountain community.
It was 40 years ago, on an April morning, that we slowly picked our way along the narrow and perilous Apache Trail. The car was a small convertible with the top down.
This was a holiday outing, several days free from work in Phoenix, and our goal was to explore the back country of Arizona's central mountains.
We came upon Roosevelt Lake and the old Roosevelt Dam, then continued on gravel over the Sierra Ancha Mountains toward Young.
At the divide, it began to snow and we stopped to put up the car top.
We inched our way around ruts and boulders, descending into Pleasant Valley where we sought out the old cabins related to the Graham-Tewksbury feud.
The snow had turned to rain, but we braved the weather to survey the old cemetery, and found it full of names that meant little to us then, but would hold a world of meaning in years to come.
We followed the Chamberlain Trail, and it was a delicate matter to get our little car over the old road out of Young. It wound and twisted its way over ridges and through washes until it came to State Highway 260, at that time still a gravel road.
We passed Kohl's Ranch, and soon turned adventurously onto another forest road, called the Control Road.
The sun had come out, and the air was glorious. At one point we rounded a curve and stopped the car dead in its track. There, basking in the spring sunshine and lying full across the narrow road, was a magnificent mountain lion. He was as startled as we, and rose suspiciously, then bounded up the side of the hill and disappeared. The romance of that moment burned an image into our minds that has never faded.
We turned onto yet another forest road, known as The Old Rim Trail, and followed the East Verde River up past Stan Roper's ranch (Verde Glen) with its valley full of apple trees in bloom. By this time we thought we were entering the Garden of Eden. We had no idea Arizona had places like this.
After three soft river-crossings we came to an open meadow and a ranch house. Later we would know this was the homestead of Bartolomeo and Mercedes Belluzzi.
From there, on along the river, still more apple tress were blooming. Mercedes, we later learned, had saved seeds from the apple pies she made at a boarding house in Globe. After she and her husband claimed squatter's rights along the upper East Verde River she planted those seeds, and nearly 100 years later they were still producing apples.
As we continued slowly, the Mogollon Rim closed around us and the canyon became narrower. The road left the river and proceeded along Mail Creek, flowing from a side canyon. The old wagon road went through a deep forest and suddenly ended at a locked gate with a sign indicating it was owned by a Dr. Greer.
We turned around and picked our way back along the rock-strewn road, coming out at Whispering Pines and continuing on to Payson.
In those days there were six crossings of the East Verde, all gravel bottoms and all impassable after a rain. We were about to learn a good lesson: that just because the road is rough, don't give up, because it will lead to new and joyful adventures.
On the way out we discovered real estate agent Bill Miller owned and had subdivided the old Belluzzi Ranch. That summer we bought a lot and built a cabin.
It would be "home" for the next 30 years even though our employment took us to other places. Our children, and later our grandchildren, would come to know it as "the cabin," a wonderful place imprinted forever in their memories.
A country lane went by the cabin, one of those lovely, shaded, rutted trails you see in nostalgic picture magazines. It had such peaceful beauty, though I learned that this was part of the old trail to the top of the Rim.
Indians had used it for untold generations to trade with other tribes, and later to escape marauding enemies. U.S. Army troops had used it when Col. Thomas Devin came this way off the Rim in 1868 (He called it "the jump off"), and in 1882 the cavalry followed it to the top of the Rim in pursuit of renegade Apaches. It led them to the Battle of Big Dry Wash.
In 1883 laborers and dreamers used this trail to begin building a railroad tunnel at the head of the canyon. Throughout the early part of the 20th century local ranchers used the trail to drive their cattle to Winslow. And in 1964, the Phelps-Dodge Mining Company used it to lay a pipeline that brought water over the Rim and into the river.
I never walked that lane without all these images of the past taking shape in my imagination. Like a boy playing soldier, I could almost hear the sounds of Indians, cavalry, pack trains and cattle drives, to say nothing of seeing lions and bears lurking in every bush.
Everyone needs a country lane that goes by his or her cabin.
Maybe the best part about a cabin in the forest is the opportunity to be alone and quiet. To claim the wilderness, to sit under a tree on the side of a hill and wait for the animals to emerge. To lie back and listen to the wind in the pines. To stare at the riffles in the river and observe the native fish. Or to work one's way up and down the stream with fishing pole in hand. All of this is part of what it means to have "a cabin."
Even though we have long since moved to town, the memories remain and an occasional return to the old haunts brings the halcyon days back again.