Golds, reds and bronzes of turning leaves; clear blue skies; crisp air -- it's all here in the Rim country autumn.
Arizona Rim Country comprises five communities: Payson, Pine, Strawberry, Christopher Creek, and Star Valley. More than 600 rooms in hotels with pools and hot tubs, bed-and-breakfast retreats and rustic lodges are available.
"We're centrally located in the state," said Cheryl Holland, owner of Strawberry's Windmill Corner Inn and vice chairman of the Rim Country Regional Chamber of Commerce. Windmill Corner Inn is a cross between a bed-and-breakfast and an inn, Holland said. It features handmade quilts on all the beds and personal touches that people are accustomed to finding in bed-and-breakfast establishments, but also has the privacy found at inns.
"It's a great jumping off point for the entire Rim area," said Louis Adams, president of the chamber.
"You can establish a base camp with all the modern conveniences, including the medical care at Payson Regional Medical Center, and there are fantastic hiking opportunities less than an hour away," he said.
Adams and his wife discovered Payson while pursuing an interest in hiking.
"The town offers a quiet peacefulness," he said.
Adams still enjoys hiking and said two of the best trips are from Strawberry to Pine and coming off the Rim into Pine.
Holland said her guests most often ask for hiking information.
"We're part of the Arizona Trail System that starts at the border of Mexico and goes all the way through the state to the border with Utah," Holland said. She has heard the system is called one of the premier long-distance trails in the country.
In addition to providing her guests with hiking information, Holland likes to direct them to Potato Lake. "This time of year, it is ringed by aspens and the gold leaves are reflected in the water. It's a wonderful place for a picnic," she said.
For supplies, Holland suggests either the Strawberry or Ponderosa Markets.
"The Randall House will make a box lunch for you and we're supposed to be getting a deli soon," she said.
Holland said biking also is popular with visitors and she recommends a trip to Fossil Springs this time of year, because it is at a lower elevation and warmer.
"But sometimes even the most avid hiker will find themselves sitting on my porch and just enjoying the view, putting off the hike to another day," Holland said.
Adams said there are fantastic opportunities for everyone in the Rim country through fall and winter.
"The people are wonderful and welcoming," he said.
The marvelous variety of events that keep visitors entertained all summer long continues into the autumn and winter months.
- Oct. 23 brings the 5th Annual Rim Country Western Heritage Festival at Green Valley Park. Here you will learn how to make a saddle, hear poignant and humorous cowboy music and poetry, enjoy an Old Tyme Melodrama and much more.
- Looking ahead to Nov. 5-7, the Payson Art League will hold its Fall Fine Art and Fine Craft Show and Sale at the Tonto-Apache Community Activity Center. This popular mixed media, juried show will feature 35 of Rim country's best known artists and opens a with a wine and dessert reception on Friday (donation $5). Saturday and Sunday hours are 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., with free admission. Call (928) 472-8651 for further information.
- Vocalist and actress Gloria Loring will present "An Evening for Friends & Lovers" 7 p.m. Tuesday, Nov. 8 through the community's Tonto Community Concert Association (TCCA) series. The performance is at the Payson High School Auditorium and individual tickets are $20 per person.
- The High Country Holiday Bazaar is Nov. 13, from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. at the Community Presbyterian Church, 800 W. Main Street. Call (928) 472-7602 for more information.
- The Montana Mandolin Society will perform at 7 p.m. Thursday, Jan. 13 as part of the TCCA series at the PHS auditorium, cost is $20.
- For Valentine's Day, Monday, Feb. 14, the Matt Davenport Production "One Enchanted Evening -- Remembering Richard Rogers" will be presented at 7 p.m. as part of the TCCA series at the PHS auditorium, cost is $20.
- Pianist Alpin Hong will perform at 7 p.m. Tuesday, March 1 as part of the TCCA series at the PHS auditorium, cost is $20.
"Of all the seasons we've had, I predict this is going to be the best one of all," said Steve Solcz, who handles publicity for the TCCA. This is the group's 26th season.
Call the Rim Country Regional Chamber of Commerce at 1-800-672-9766 or (928) 474-4515 for maps, dining guides, hiking trails, lists of special events and things to do, as well as suggestions for reservations for lodging while visiting Arizona Rim Country.
For more information about the TCCA, call Eloise Jones (928) 478-4363, Marilyn Wolfe (928) 474-6115 or Steve Solcz (928) 474-6723 or log on to www.tccarim.org.