A new bed and breakfast in Strawberry is welcoming guests to become part of an extended family and enjoy the Rim country.
A love affair with the Strawberry area and Rim country led to the construction of a home that could become a business. Then on Valentine's Day 2004, Up the Creek Bed & Breakfast was opened by Susan Roberts, her brother, Michael Muench, and his wife, Karen.
The family bought the property -- almost five acres -- on Fossil Creek Road nine years ago.
They had become acquainted with the area when Mike was doing construction work on homes in the community. They really were able to get to know the town and the people after Karen's sister and brother-in-law, Joyce and John Bittner started the llama ranch in 1996.
"We started construction in March 2001 and finished in June last year," Sue said.
The family, with Mike's background in building, constructed the large, country-style home, camping out in the process.
"We obtained our occupancy permit right after we finished building, but we were all too exhausted to start the business right away," she said.
"We all wanted to get out of Phoenix," Karen said of the reason for coming to Strawberry.
The main house has three guest rooms, all with their own baths; a kitchen large enough for guests to gather as meals are being prepared; a breakfast room and a dining room; a gathering room; a deck and covered porch, plus private wings where the family members live.
A secondary building, where Mike has his workshop and the garage used to be, is being converted to a game room where they will have a big screen television, bar and more for their guests. There are no televisions in the public parts of the main house.
"It's a work in progress," Mike said.
The house was constructed with the intention of opening a bed and breakfast. It was something Mike and Karen had thought about for awhile.
"I went to a class in Glendale on small home-businesses," Karen said.
Sue said she has always enjoyed having company. In her traveling days she had the opportunity to stay at bed and breakfast homes in Great Britain and felt it made the experience much more worthwhile.
Only a few things at Up the Creek Bed & Breakfast have been fashioned after Sue's visit to Great Britain though.
"We try to do it the way we'd entertain friends and family," she said.
"It's an opportunity for us to meet other people," Karen said.
"We've learned a lot from those who have come to visit," Sue said.
Most of the guests have come to the family by word-of-mouth.
"It is a business, but we haven't approached it like that, but as if it were entertaining," Karen said.
So far, the most company -- besides family -- to visit Up the Creek B&B has been eight guests.
The most popular breakfast they prepare their guests is a breakfast bake with sausage, eggs, cheese, tomatoes, green peppers and onions, served with fresh-squeezed juice from oranges grown by one of the daughters of the family in the Phoenix area.
Business is not as brisk as they would like it to be -- they have two bookings in July and one in August. Often people make reservations closer to the time they want to visit, plus they have taken a few referrals from Windmill Corner when those accommodations in Strawberry have been filled.
"We've had a lot of referrals from Realtors and a couple of people who have stayed with us actually bought homes," Sue said.
"People come up to relax and enjoy the quiet and just visit," she said. "You forget there are peaceful, quiet places when you live in a city."
Mike said he likes to see people enjoy the moonless nights from the deck, "You forget what a star-filled sky looks like living in the city."
Karen likes to see their guests enjoy the silence.
"It's quiet all year-round," Sue said.
One of the more unique aspects of Up the Creek B&B is guests can bring their horses for a visit, too. The property has a corral which guests can use. Until the forest is re-opened though, there is only the property and Fossil Creek Road on which to ride.
The family is originally from Rochester, N.Y. Karen and Mike came to Arizona in 1975 and Sue followed in 1985.
To find out more about Up the Creek Bed & Breakfast, visit the website upthecreekbedandbreakfast.com. For reservations, call (928) 476-6571. Prices range from $95 to $160 a night and the inn is open throughout the year.