I used to dread the fall. Growing up in Southern California, all it promised was a return to school, less sunlight and cooler nights. I much preferred spring, with its promise of long, lazy summer days. Every year, I suffered from a case of self-diagnosed seasonal affective disorder or SAD.

Then, I moved to Rim Country. Immediately, I picked up two things: Photography and a love affair with fall.

Fall’s vibrant color takes my breath away. Even better, my camera captures moments of pure bliss to savor all year long.

But I’m also impatient. I couldn’t wait for fall to work its way down to 5,000 feet around Payson. So my husband and I last weekend resolved to get a sneak preview of fall at 9,000 feet by heading up to Sunrise Ski Resort in the White Mountains to grab an early season discount pass.

Each curve in the road exposed new vistas — and stress on our relationship.

“Wait! Stop here!”

“No, let’s go up there ...”

We stumbled over each other, seeking the best place for a photo.

Finally, we gave up, pulled over and started tramping around.

A typical compromise for us. Only thing we don’t share — cameras. I need to capture my own shots. Pete’s got his lenses — I’ve got mine.

Under the canopy, the back-lit leaves glowed, like stained glass shards in a cathedral of color. Bright yellow aspen branches framed vistas of bright blue sky and dark green ridgelines. On the ground, ferns littered the forest floor colored a rusty brown against the dark volcanic rocks.

I played with my polarizer, a lens that allows me to pump up or dampen the colors.

I twisted every which way, seeking to capture a moment to remember.

The leaves glowed. Soon, only sticks will remain on the trees, but I’m not worried. I’ve captured my fix on film.

And having snuck in a jaunt to 9,000 feet early on, I know I’ve got weeks ahead of me as the color change moves downhill with the onset of the first frost.

So my advice: Don’t wait for fall to come to you. Go out and greet it. The aspen and maples along the Rim should get into the spirit in the next week or two. The cottonwoods and sycamores below the Rim will follow soon after.

The aspen and maple hot spots along Forest Road 300 at 7,000 feet will go first. Next, seek the wonderful diversity along the See Canyon Trail, with an elevation of 6,000 feet. Finally, wallow in the golds and yellows along the East Verde River.

So much to look forward to and expect — the Christmas morning of color.

So I grabbed my best shot at the first dose of fall, wandering away from the road to Sunrise, toward a thick patch of aspen on a ridgeline.

I wandered into the elfish grove of aspen, the pattern of slender white trunks forming a hypnotic pattern — shadow and light endlessly repeated.

I felt like the wood elves would appear at any moment.

So I lay on my back and focused on the patches of bright blue creating a pattern against the luminous yellow of the leaves.

Lying on my back in the scattering of gold, it struck me.

I no longer dread fall. In fact, I look forward to it all year.

Call it, seasonally affective inspiration.

contact the reporter at: mnelson@payson.com

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