Apache County & The Rim

Apache County heading to Sierra Highlands Ranch

Jim and I were almost the owners of a 36-acre parcel in Apache County, Arizona located on the New Mexico border. The adventure began last week when I found land for sale at Sierra Highlands Ranch twenty miles northeast of the rural cowboy town of St. Johns. The area is close to a couple we know and love. We’ve been there before on their 40-acre property collecting rocks and gazing up at the stars at night with wine glasses in our hands.

The land sits on an aquifer. At 6000 feet, the temps are cool with mild winters. It is perfect for growing anything.

My reasons were clear. The ranch would be a springboard to the White Mountains, the Mogollon Rim, and our dear friends. We’d improve the land in increments (well, septic, solar power system, house) and by the time I retire in 2026, we’d either move out there full-time or keep it as our camping spot. 36 acres is nothing to sneeze at. I like the idea of owning land. When we kick the bucket, our six children would benefit. That was the rationale. Sigh.

36 acres goes a long way.

Our guide was most helpful and by the end of seven hours looking at various lots in Sierra Highland Ranch (all 36 to 40-acre parcels) we found the place that spoke to us. We turned a corner and found ourselves at the top of a meadow looking down the dead-end road. The property bordered Zuni land, so the views went on forever. The pasture gently sloped to a canyon. The surrounding hills were interesting with giant boulders and junipers. We saw a solitary Elk standing proud and as big as our car. The air was clean and blue–I felt like I walked into a Zane Grey novel. I can imagine how vivid the star constellations must be overhead at night. Ache!

Heading back home to Yavapai County, we crossed the Mogollon Rim and tried out a new lake, Lake Knoll.

As we left the ranch and headed back to our friend’s property for dinner and conversation, my heart sank. I knew we wouldn’t buy it. It was sixty minutes off the main road of route 191. Then another half hour before we were at our friend’s house. It was not an hour but two hours to the White Mountains. It would be 5 hours to Clarkdale and 6 hours to Phoenix. I knew my children would rarely visit. In short, the ranch was in BFE. I have come to understand fully how large the state of Arizona is. Space and topographical variety are outstanding. But still, I just couldn’t see us all the way out there in the middle of nowhere.

Rim Road 300 mile marker 15
Rim Road 300 Mile Marker 18
Mogollon Rim

This was one of those adventure trips where a lot went wrong. There was a short somewhere, and our little camper was without electricity and the SUV’s battery wouldn’t hold the juice. Luckily we have a portable solar panel. We drove home on Rim Road 300 and camped one night by Lake Knoll. That was nice, but the flies and bees feasted on me leaving welts all over my calves. Ruby got sick and soiled the SUV. I was glad to get back home. Adventures are adventures filled with great moments and disappointing ones. I look to the good–we found a new campsite for the future; kayaking on Lake Knoll filled my heart; we connected with our friends on a deep level.

34 Comments on “Apache County & The Rim

    • It’s great in theory–just too far away. Space is a different concept in AZ. Going 45 minutes anywhere for 50 miles is nothing. I suppose one in a city can go five miles in 45 minutes.

      Liked by 1 person

  1. “Kick the bucket” is a lovely phrase. Do Americans ever use the equally wonderful phrase “pop your clogs” as in “He popped his clogs last week”. It ought to be of Dutch origin, really I suppose.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. 36 acres is a small town here. πŸ™‚
    Living in such a remote idyll is something to do when you are young. Once you retire you have to think about the physical ability to be able to do all those things you are sure you will be doing, but won’t happen. Living so far from a doctor or a hospital is not a great plan either, and you would soon tire of driving so far to do even the most basic grocery shopping, I’m sure.
    Nice idea though. πŸ™‚ Always good to have nice ideas.
    Best wishes, Pete. x

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I’m with Pete and your husband Cindy but the dreamer I used to be thinks different. That country looked so beautiful. Maybe there will be a site closer but similar? In any event it was as you say an adventure.

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  4. Good friends of mine own land in Southern Oregon on a mountain with incredible views: and wild turkeys, deep mountain lions and bears too…it takes a day to get there and it’s more than an hour to get to a town to shop. Way too remote for my taste!

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      • Yes, they plan to build a house on the property as a retirement space – but they acknowledge it’s more remote than they’d like…they got more land but had to move further out…that’s always the tradeoff, right? I love the idea that you are looking for land to retire to – good luck!

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  5. Gorgeous country. It would be nice to have a rustic cabin out there–a get away so that you could be there when you want and leave when you want. 36 acres is a lot of land to be responsible for.

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  6. An adventure post tinged with a little bittersweetness. Too bad about the potential land stake not working out. My dad and his brother went through something similar, albeit they were looking for a property to rent out to vacationers in Scotland. He flew a couple of times to visit his brother (he and the rest of my extended family live in England) and they went and checked out a couple of different spots around Scotland, around the lakes and mountains. Gorgeous locations. Ultimately couldn’t justify the cost of maintenance on it though. So they backed off.

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    • Ah! It’s a hard decision. I feel for your Dad and Uncle. Scotland is dear to my heart. That would have been nearly impossible for me to say no if I were in their shoes! What a fine line between reckless and conquering dreams. As Teddy Roosevelt says, “…if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.”
      I wanted to grow Tempranillo grapes and sell them to the AZ vineyards. I thought it was an excellent dream. Thanks for sharing, Tom.

      Liked by 1 person

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