The seasons follow their cycles in the sleepy mountain hamlet of Christopher Creek.
Fall has its festival with an antique car show. Winter brings the hope of rain and snow. Come spring, hummingbirds help pollinate the many apple trees, planted years ago in the community, while robins sing in the branches. In summer, the population grows by at least two-thirds with seasonal residents.
"Property values have really gone up because of the bypass," said Debbie Aschbrenner, longtime Christopher Creek resident and owner of Tall Pines Market in the little town.
"It has made this a little village. I think curiosity brings people into town. Now we see elk just hanging out in our neighborhoods or whole families crossing the road."
Residents in the "village" of Christopher Creek and the neighboring communities stay connected through numerous activities throughout the year. During the summer many members of the communities participate in an annual melodrama presented at the Christopher Creek branch of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
Almost everyone participates in decorating for Halloween and giving the community children a hayride to collect treats. Christmas brings another big community celebration. Then there is the end-of-summer party and weekly pool games, along with regular domino competitions.
Aschbrenner said 2005 has been the best year she has had in her store.
The project to widen state Highway 260 continues east, but the portion of the divided highway near Kohl's Ranch and Lodge and the bypass around the forest hamlet of Christopher Creek is all but done according to Tom Goodman, resident engineer for Arizona Department of Transportation in Payson.
During March the roadside saw landscaping, seeding and clean-up. The project will culminate with elk fencing later in the spring of 2006.
On the site of what was once an old mobile home park on the north side of the road as it curves though Christopher Creek, developer Aaren Warren has cleared the land for Creekside Mountain fractional interest homes.
Farther east, off the main road on Hunter Creek Road, are the Wooden Nickel Cabins, also in the process of being converted to fractional interest homes.
Through the Summer Home Recreational program, in 2005 the parcels of land, known as Thompson Draw 1, 2 and 3, were deeded by the Forest Service to private land owners. SHR is a government program created in the 1950s to make recreational land more accessible to the public.
In this instance it was a "value for value" land exchange.
"Those lands in Thompson Draw are a lot more valuable than the lands we picked up," said Walter Thole, recreation and lands officer at the Payson Ranger Station. Thole estimated that the Forest Service picked up three to five acres for each acre of Thompson Draw.