Arizona's best kept secret
I'm sure that by now everyone has heard of Aspen and Vail Colorado. I’m sure you’ve even heard of Stowe, Vermont, but how many have you have heard about The White Mountains in Arizona?
Most people that I talk to think that Arizona is nothing but desert. To the surprise of many, just a short drive east of Flagstaff Arizona, tucked away in the middle of nowhere, is one of Arizona's best kept secrets, and one of my favorite places to vacation. With an Elevation of 7,200 feet, the winters in the White Mountains offer some of the finest skiing and snowboarding in the Western United States.
Nestled in the middle of the Apache-Sitgreaves National Forests this hideaway is a nature fanatics and wildlife enthusiasts dream come true! This is a true, all year round outdoor recreation area, filled with tranquil splendors and a scenic canopy characterized by pine forests, forested mountains and pristine lakes.
The White Mountains is an easy area to get around in since all the areas businesses and lodging are located on the main road going through town. The population of the town is around 4,156 with only 15% of residents living there year round. Some of my family members, being part of that fifteen percent.
No matter what your outdoor interests are this town will gladly accommodate them. Although I do not Condon the sport of hunting in any way, shape or form, the area is well known for providing some of the best hunting in the state of Arizona and in the nation. The hunting list in this area is very diversified from small game such as, mourning dove, white-winged dove, Eurasian collared-dove, band-tailed pigeon, blue grouse, five types of squirrel, cottontail rabbits, ducks, geese, to and three different species of quail. If you’re out for hunting the larger game the 6x6 bull elk, spike deer, black bear, buffalo, desert bighorn sheep, elk, javelina, turkey, mountain lion, mule deer, and white-tailed deer will keep you busy.
If fishing is more your sport of choice, this area is surrounded by many lakes and 34-pound stripers,3-pound Gila trout, 5 pound, 16 inch long redear sunfish and 31-inch bass are not unheard of. If you’re an animal lover like me, you haven’t lived until you’ve seen Monster elk walking their babies across the road; deer’s playfully romping in a creek, or wild horses running beside you down the road. One of the things I love most about this area is that you don’t have to go out of the way to find wildlife. In early October it's not uncommon to witness herds of elk at the river’s edge drinking together or wild turkeys flying through the trees.
For the bird watchers in the bunch this area is filled with Red-tailed Hawks, Bald Eagles, Great Horned Owls, tons of hummingbirds, Woodpeckers, and three kinds of jays just to name a few. While you’re watching the birds make sure to bring along your camera. This part of the country has some of the most picturesque wildlife observation spots around. You never know when you will get that perfect picture of the local raccoons, striped skunks, or Mule Deer .With plenty of Ponderosa pine forest, Wetlands, meadows and lakes you can spend all day hiking and never get tired of the scenery.
Come sundown make sure and stop in at one of the local famous steak houses like my personal favorite, “The Branding Iron Steakhouse” just a short drive up the road in the town of Show Low or Charlie Clarks Steak House, which has been operating continuously for 67 years making it the oldest restaurant/Saloon on the mountain. In the late 1960s and the early 1970s when John Wayne would come to His 26 Bar Ranch in nearby Eager, Arizona he would head over to Charlie Clarks to get away from it all. He would have one of His Cowhands drive Him over to Pinetop for a few hours of Playing Cards, Shooting Pool and a Few Drinks with the Cowboys at The Pinetop Saloon where he was always treated like one of the boys! George strait has also been rumored to own property on the mountain and it's not uncommon for him to show his face around the local Wal-Mart before he heads out hunting.
After filling up on some good ol fashioned grub, make sure to head on over to the Hon-Dah Resort-Casino located just 3 miles south of Pinetop. The resort boasts many amenities such as a hotel, large casino floor, RV Park, dining, entertainment, conference center and ski & outdoor Sport rentals. The resort has been one of my favorite places to dance the night away for years now.
During the winter months the Sunrise Ski Resort is the place to be. There are cross country ski trails and a sledding and tubing area. Their 65 runs will provide an adventure for skiers or boarders of any experience level and accommodations can also be made to stay overnight at the Sunrise Lodge.
If you’re not into skiing or your visiting the mountain during the summer months make sure not to miss the yard sales and second hand stores on the mountain for those old, rare, one of a kind item that I promise you will never find anywhere else! There are many a book Authors that make the White Mountains home. One of the best things about Yard sale-ing in the area is the chance to purchase autographed books straight from the authors themselves!
One of the best times of the year to visit Pinetop/Lakeside Arizona is at the end of September for their Annual Run to the Pines Car Show. Before heading for the car show, make sure and head on over to Darbi's Cafe on the main drag for some of the best service and food around!
Whether you’re into Hiking, biking, horseback riding, hunting, fishing camping, skiing, snowmobiling, sledding, ice fishing or just walking the 180 miles of developed multi-use trails, something is bound to keep your interest! So when you’re done rubbing elbows with the rich and famous and want to escape the hustle of everyday life and be witness to a tranquility that is unsurpassed make sure and head for the grand Mountains of Arizona!