October is the time when fall arrives. The time when colors change, providing a majestic array of beauty. October was also Zane Grey’s time in Rim Country. It’s the month when Grey most often visited here, enjoying the sounds of elk and the sight of the ever-changing colors around the Rim.
Grey is the most prominent writer to be associated with Rim Country. He wrote numerous novels with Rim Country as the setting, and wrote a few nonfiction pieces about the area as well. Between 1918 and 1929 he visited here almost at least once a year. As many of his books were also turned into movies, he insisted that the movies be filmed here, providing an additional boost to the area.
The heart of Zane Grey Country is an area tucked in close to the Rim toward Tonto Creek. It is here where Zane Grey owned two pieces of land. It is also home to some of the best scenery that the region has to offer. The area is tucked between two major points of the Mogollon Rim: Myrtle Point and Promontory Butte. Numerous canyons radiate from these points, creating great spots to hunt and fish, as well as to enjoy the scenery.
The fall colors become particularly pronounced in many of these areas. Bluffs of yellow dotted with red can be seen throughout the area. It is easy to see why Zane Grey chose to come here during this time of year.
The two pieces of land that Grey came to own in the area were a small piece of the Babe Haught Homestead and most of the land patented by Sampson Elam Boles. The Haught homestead is where Grey’s famous cabin was located, tucked under the Rim. Views of the many valleys to the south are offered up and the Rim shines it all its majesty the north. A spring cut through the homestead, offering ideal planting conditions. Additionally, numerous red rock formations dot the area.
The Boles Homestead is about 3 miles southwest of the Haught homestead. Roberts Mesa, named for Jim Roberts, a participant of the Pleasant Valley War, lies between the two properties. That homestead is anchored by two meadows, the main one of which offers a splendid view of Myrtle Point. Like any good homestead in those days, it was anchored by a tremendous spring.
Grey hunted in both directions from these places, heading westward toward the Pyle place and ultimately the East Verde and eastward toward See Canyon and today’s Christopher Creek. One of the best nonfiction pieces that Grey wrote about his trips was Tales of Lonely Trails. Its Tonto Basin section covers his trips in 1918 and 1919 to the area, before he had purchased land in the area. It is clear that the country and its autumn colors made an impression on Grey.
“The forest appeared thick, grassy, gold and yellow and green and brown. Thickets and swales of oaks and aspens were gorgeous in their autumn hues. The silver spruces sent down long, graceful branches that had to be brushed aside or stooped under as we rode along.
“That basin could be likened to the ribs of a washboard: it was all hills, gorges, ridges and ravines. The hollows of this exceedingly rough country were thick with pine and oak, the ridges covered with cedar, juniper, and manzanita. The ground, where it was not rocky, was a dry, red clay. We passed Haught’s log cabin and clearing of a few acres, where I saw fat hogs and cattle. Beyond this point the trail grew more zigzag, and steeper, and shadier. As we got higher up the air grew cooler. I noted a change in the timber. The trees grew larger, and other varieties appeared. We crossed a roaring brook lined by thick, green brush, very pleasant to the eye, and bronze-gold ferns that were beautiful. We passed oaks all green and yellow, and maple trees, wonderfully colored red and cerise. Then still higher up I espied some silver spruces, most exquisite trees of the mountain forests.”
Yet Grey also experienced what all locals know and expect: the time when fall starts to change more briskly into winter. And of course Grey captures it like few can.
“We rested the following day, and on the next we packed and started back to Dude Creek. It was a cold, raw, bitter day, with a gale from the north, such a day as I could never have endured had I not become hardened. As it was I almost enjoyed wind and cold. What a transformation in the woods! The little lakes were all frozen over; pines, moss, grass were white with frost. The sear days had come. Not a leaf showed in the aspen and maple thickets. The scrub oaks were shaggy and ragged, gray as the rocks. From the rim the slopes looked steely and dark, thinned out, showing the rocks and slides.”
That is the essence of Zane Grey. He came here at one of the most magnificent times of year, the fall. Certainly, he loved the thrill of the hunt: the chases through the many canyons under the Rim and the challenge of it all. But he also loved the scenery that he enjoyed in the process and was glad to snap up a couple pieces of land in the heart of the area that he came to love so much.