Just the mere mention of the word ‘hometown’ evokes such a powerful emotional response in most people. When a person can call one specific place on the planet ‘home,’ you can be assured that person feels a special warmth, connection, and bond not only with the townspeople, but also to the unique qualities that town possesses. I am proud and blessed to call Pinetop, Arizona my home.
A common catch phrase in the White Mountains of Arizona, home to Pinetop and the neighboring towns of Lakeside and Show Low, is ‘Celebrate the Seasons.’ While many presume Arizona is an arid stretch of landscape, often they are pleasantly surprised to discover Arizona does indeed have a beautiful mountainous region which boasts a top-notch ski resort and majestic pine trees. In Pinetop, we are lucky to have four distinct seasons. Fall is a burst of color; fields are alive with a bounty of wildflowers in every color of the rainbow while the trees will change from bright yellow to a fiery red. Snow has been known to fall sometimes as early as October and even as late as April, but the winter season is a serene time of reflection. A warm and cozy fire, a cup of hot chocolate, the sun dancing off of the ice crystals in a snow bank, all make for an inviting winter. The winter run-off and breezy days usher in the spring season. Days are mild as Mother Nature decides when enough winter is enough. Elk are often seen at the roadside proudly displaying new growth to their antlers. With summer comes the influx of summer visitors, the festival schedule, and an unmistakable scent of pine that only happens when the outside temperature reaches a certain level. The spectacular monsoon season generally coincides with the Fourth of July holiday and these typical afternoon heavy rains can bring a respite from the daytime heat.
Pinetop borders the White Mountain Apache Tribal Reservation, an indigenous tribe steeped in native traditions. The Apache tribe supports numerous enterprises including an enormous logging company and a gaming facility. Visitors to the White Mountains can enjoy live entertainment and the thrill of gaming while they are visiting Pinetop. The Reservation land also has several lakes and streams from which to fish, a popular pastime for many outdoor enthusiasts. These pristine sites are home to a variety of fish including the cutthroat and rainbow trout. Fly-fishing is a notably popular sport and several local businesses offer hands-on instruction and guided tours.
If hunting is the preferred sport, Pinetop and the surrounding areas can provide the perfect backdrop for such an adventure. The elk hunt in the fall is a huge draw for the big game hunters from around the world. Many congregate in our town as they seek that elusive prize. In addition to elk, hunting enthusiasts seek to “bag” a bear or other game like deer. For many in the White Mountains, hunting is a time-honored tradition, passed from generation to generation, and generally construed as a way of life.
In addition to the plentiful hunting and fishing, many seek the beauty of Pinetop because of its miles of hiking trails. Some trails run right alongside a major highway, while others are off the beaten path, but both deliver when it comes to getting out there and just enjoying the beauty of the trail. The trail system offers both challenging courses for the seasoned hiker and a mild to moderate workout for the hiking novice. Sometimes a slower pace allows the hiker to absorb his surroundings and truly commune with nature, which only enhances the experience.
Throughout the summer months, Pinetop engages in the Festival schedule. A visitor could enjoy a multitude of events including the Bluegrass festival in late July. This event features Bluegrass musicians from all stretches of the world who convene in Pinetop to delight us with their music. Another festival favorite is the Pow in the Pines which introduces and educates locals and visitors alike in the Apache traditions. This festival showcases Indian culture through music, food, dance and rich costuming. However, perhaps the most popular festival is the Fall Festival and Run to the Pines car show. The Fall Festival is by far the largest attended festival throughout the year. Commencing with a local parade featuring high school bands, color guards, and pep squads, as well as the current reigning beauty queens and political hopefuls, the parade segues into a weeklong event ending with a fine arts show and classic car show. Here, at least 500 participants gather to dazzle guests with a fine custom classic car model or reproduction. The car show is a crowd pleaser and just gets bigger every year.
While the breathtaking scenery, numerous year-round activities and overall endowments of Pinetop are easily discernible, the author would be remiss if she didn’t focus on what makes Pinetop unique: its people. There is just a fundamental friendliness about the people in Pinetop, which extends far beyond being ‘neighborly.’ A weekly visit to the local grocery store affords many an opportunity to catch up on a week’s local events. Often, a chance encounter at the gas station is that brief conference with your child’s teacher or a minute to congratulate the team captain or spirit leader. The people, the heartbeat of Pinetop, will go to extraordinary lengths to make anyone feel welcomed and quite at home. A sudden, unexpected death in the community seems to pull us all together and centrally focus us upon the very fragile nature of life. On the other hand, a wedding or birth can bring a small community together in such an intimate way. When a young firefighter died last year, this community’s open demonstration of support epitomized this community familial concept. We all adopted her children and have made it our commitment to help raise them.
While so many Arizona hometowns can boast conceivable attributes and reasons to call their town ‘home,’ Pinetop truly imbues the hometown feel and atmosphere. The people of Pinetop are genuinely happy when others come for a visit and will make a concerted effort to help a visitor feel comfortable. Whether dining in any of the outstanding restaurants or staying in a furnished cabin, once someone catches the Pinetop fever, it’s hard to not come back for another visit. Because of our mild temperatures in the summer, Pinetop enjoys a population boom from May to September. However, we love the people who return year after year as well as those who are new to the area.
Many have asked me if I would consider moving to any of the larger metropolitan areas of the state and my answer is always the same: once you have experienced Pinetop, how could anyone ever leave? It’s comforting to live in a small community such as Pinetop, where you can trust your neighbor and can develop a strong network of friends and business or church associates. Pinetop, Arizona is a place many come to visit for a variety of reasons. My ‘visit’ to Pinetop has lasted 14 years and I am proud to call Pinetop my home.