As saguaros and creosote bushes give way to scrub pine and stately ponderosa, my husband, Craig, and I always marvel at the ongoing beauty as we travel Highway 87.
Our destination is Payson. We never tire of the drive, and always look forward to our first glimpse of the Mogollon Rim, rising majestically above this scenic little town.
Now that winter has overtaken our state and snow blankets the high country, the Rim, with its snowy mantle, is truly a magnificent sight.
In the summer, when the desert heat gets uncomfortable down here, we pack a picnic basket and head for Payson's Green Valley Park.
There, under the cool shade of oaks, we rest and refresh ourselves, arms crossed under our heads, watching clouds cross the blue skies above us.
When the geese migrate and stay awhile at the park, they are so abundant they almost get underfoot. Once we spotted an eagle as it dove down to the lake's surface, rising with a trout in its talons.
At times, not wanting to picnic, we lunch or have dinner at the Beeline Cafe on the highway in the middle of town. What a treat it is to enjoy the homey atmosphere, where local residents boast that the upcoming elk season will produce an even bigger freezer-full of meat.
The patrons and waitresses know each other by name.
For dessert, the pies are the best we've tasted since Grandma's.
Another treat we always look forward to is shopping antique stores in both Payson and in Pine, which is just 13 miles up the highway. Pine is another small, charming town with its own flavor and sense of history.
Also, Payson is known as the "the garage sale capital of Arizona." It's not just about finding treasures. It's a social occasion, where residents enjoy visiting as much as they do selling.
Payson is a destination that we enjoy during all seasons, with a climate that is cool in the summer, mild in the winter, and an all-around fun experience.
We think nothing compares to it.
Jean Baumgardner, Mesa
Editor's note: This letter was printed as an article in the East Valley Tribune.