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RIM COUNTRY ADVENTURES AN INSIDER’S GUIDE TO: Hiking Fishing Biking Swimming Off-roading

Events Drives Attractions Shopping Camping

Summer 2013


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Our favorite things Those who know Rim Country best reveal its hidden treasures


Photos by Pete Aleshire/Roundup

The East Verde River (top) offers miles of pools, beaches, swimming holes and trout fishing. The Mogollon Rim (above) offers cool temperatures, 100mile views and a variety of lakes, trails and vista points.

The light’s getting long. Shadows have started to define the texture of the seamed, vanilla scented bark of the ponderosa pines that crowd the shores of Woods Canyon Lake. I cast. The lure plops, the ripples spread out across the surface — distorting the reflections of the cloudtumbled sky. I am trapped once more between the nibbles and the photons. But that’s how it goes in Rim Country: Too many choices. Overhead, a summer monsoon is gathering — working itself up to something spectacular. The stripped electrons have not quite built up sufficiently in the roiling clouds to begin the lightning display. The moment is perfect. I’m in heaven, high on the negative ions wafting up water lapping against the shore. But I’m torn — as usual. I know that the clouds are building up on the Rim — and that in about 20 minutes a killer sunset will unfold from one of the viewpoints. If I leave right now, I can catch it. But that would mean abandoning my effort to catch enough trout to have a fish fry with people adventuresome enough to be impressed by my improvisational mango sauce. I cast. Recover. Cast. The cloud reflections on the surface of the lake deepen. Out there, just beyond my cast — the trout rise — nudging the membrane between heaven and earth. Across the lake, the bald eagle I’ve been watching emerges from the trees, feathered grace and power — making a beeline toward where an osprey has just plucked a surprised trout from the lake. The eagle shrieks as it closes on the osprey, laboring to gain speed. Just before the collision, the osprey drops its trout and veers away. The eagle adjusts, brakes, drops and grabs the stunned trout from the surface. Now: Do you understand why its hard for me to pick

my favorite spot in Rim Country? I’ve traveled all over Arizona in 15 years of writing articles about every nook and cranny in this state. Thought I knew all the secret places. But then, because life is strange and cannot predict its turns — just savor the view at the top of the switchback. So with this issue, we’re hoping to share the blessings a little — a special section packed with our favorite things. I thought I’d lead off with my own personal list — the best places in Rim Country, from the point of a guy who can’t decide whether to photograph or fish, hike or sit in the creek with a bottle of wine, go mountain biking or nap on the bank. But before I reveal the places close to my heart, you have to take a little test. Please answer the following questions with complete honesty: Have you ever left an empty beer can at a campsite? Have you ever caught a fish, killed it carelessly, and left it to rot? Have you ever tossed a cigarette out a car window? Have you ever left a campfire still too warm to touch — or even thought you did without going back to check? If you’re driving past a spectacular sunset, do you keep going so you won’t get home too late? If you answered “yes” to any of those questions, please don’t read any further. Just put the paper down. Go do something else. Heck, I hear Sedona’s nice this time of year. Find a vortex. Chill. But if you’re still with me, then I’ll tell you — because you get it. Here are my favorite places in Rim Country:

EAST VERDE RIVER An all-but-unknown treasure, not counting the locals who live along its banks. The river gushes from a spring up above Washington Park, runs for 15 miles along Houston Mesa Road, crosses the highway at Flowing Springs Road, flows past East Verde Estates and on down through miles of wilderness canyon far from the road. You can fish and hike, CONTINUED ON PAGE 3



Favorite places FROM PAGE 2

SUMMER 2013 • PAGE 3

good condition for the grueling hike out, you can instead drive around to Camp Verde and reach the creek by road.


splash about at several sites along Houston Mesa and Flowing Springs Roads, just outside of Payson. The Salt River Project is now releasing 40 cubic feet per second into the stream at Washington Park, which has dramatically increased its flows and left the water clear and clean and cold. It’s a treasure: please protect it.

TONTO CREEK From Payson, head east up Highway 260 through Star Valley toward the Mogollon Rim. In about 18 miles, you’ll come to Tonto Creek. If you turn north off the highway, you’ll follow a dirt road up and along the troutstocked creek. Eventually, you’ll hit the Tonto Creek Fish Hatchery, which produces the fish that stock all of the Rim Country streams. You can take a tour of the hatchery. You can find places to park all along that road leading up to the hatchery and head down to the creek. The creek gets heavy use during summer weekends, but even then you can hike up and down the creek and find your own little swimming hole. Alternatively, you can turn off Highway 260 before you get to the hatchery road and make your way down the narrow dirt road to Bear Flat.

FOSSIL CREEK Drive through Pine and take the Fossil Creek Road turnoff that leads through Strawberry. Stick to that road after it turns to dirt and you’ll come to the trailhead. If you’re in good shape with plenty of water, take the fourmile trail 1,500 down into the canyon and spend a day in paradise. The gushing spring is laden with travertine, dissolved limestone that forms dams and drip castles — and tints the long succession of crystal-clear, turquoiseblue pools. The stream had become one of the best refuges in the world for native fish like Verde Trout, Headwater Chub and Sonoran Suckers. If you’re not in

Pick up this long, sometimes rough dirt road just outside of Payson as you head toward Pine. It’s the only dirt road turnoff from the highway dignified by a stop sign. The road leads through the woods down to the East Verde River, crosses the river, then continues along the high plateau as it winds down toward another crossing of the Verde River at Doll Baby Ranch. The road demands a high clearance vehicle — preferably with fourwheel drive. It’s treacherously muddy in the spring or after a big rain. But otherwise, it provides a scenic, relatively unvisited backroad adventure, with access to water at several points.

WILLOW SPRINGS LAKE One of a string of popular man-made lakes on top of the Rim. Other equally alluring lakes include Knoll, Bear Canyon and Woods Canyon. All lakes feature easy access and lots of stocked trout all summer long. Most have campgrounds and other developed facilities. I like Willow Springs because the fishing opportunities are more varied and its not as heavily used as Woods Canyon or some of the others. The campground at Willow Springs has 26 campsites, which fill up every weekend.

HORTON SPRINGS TRAIL The popular, but intermittently strenuous hike along Horton Creek offers one of the best hikes in Rim Country. You start at Horton Campground alongside Tonto Creek, hike up to the gushing spring that feeds Horton Creek, then return to Horton Creek Campground on the longer, drier Derrick Trail. All told, that loop covers almost 10 miles and should take all day to accomplish. Along the way, you’ll gain and lose about 1,000 feet in elevation.

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Hiking: Easy ambles, arduous adventures Hit the trail to watch the sun set while sitting with legs dangling over the edge of the world. From the very young to the very old, everyone in the family can enjoy this trail, even from a wheelchair or a mountain bike.

Rim Country offers cool hikes for every inclination



Wanna take a hike during your summer visit to the Rim Country but just not sure where? Try some of these options — from the strenuous to the social, the Rim Country has a hike for everyone in the family.

HIKES IN TOWN: THE PAYSON WALKERS For the more social types, meeting up with the Payson Walkers offers a chance to see new neighborhoods in Payson and meet local folks. The group started last year by Mary Mastin who joined a similar group when she stayed in Whitefish, Montana. “I didn’t know anyone, but I met a lot of people through the group,” she said. The walkers in Whitefish not only introduced Mastin to locals, she learned the community. The Payson walking group meets every morning at 9 a.m. and walks for about an hour, leaving the rest of the day available for other adventures. The walking group has a calendar with start locations and neighborhoods to walk. To request a copy or to find out more information, please contact Mary Mastin at (928) 4686842 or email her at

WALK AROUND A LAKE On a really hot day, the perimeter of Woods Canyon Lake up on the Rim offers a leisurely stroll around a beautiful lake and a chance to dip toes in the water to cool off at any time. The lake usually remains open throughout the summer season despite forest closures. To get there from Payson, take Highway 260 east for 30 miles, turn left on FR 300 and follow the signs. Enjoy watching the antics of local critters from birds in the air to fishermen in boats. Osprey and bald eagles glide and dip in their never-ending search for a meal. Ducks crowd the water’s edge looking for a handout. As the sun dips below the horizon, the fish feed a tantalizing few feet from the shore, frustrating fishermen when they refuse to take the bait — but it’s still worth a try because the fisher-

Photos by Pete Aleshire/Roundup

The trail to Fossil Creek (top) offers a challenging trek to paradise. On the other hand, trails along Forest Road 300 offer an easy trek with spectacular views (above).

men are always out in force. The whole hike takes a couple of hours and offers many tempting spots to stop, spread a blanket and have a bite to eat under the pines.

WANDER THE RIM If breathtaking views and an easy stroll are the agenda, then pull over at any viewing spot overlooking the Rim after turning onto Forest Road 300 at the Woods Canyon turnoff, and venture down the paved Rim Trail. The trail recently expanded from an infusion of stimulus money creating a ribbon of black asphalt that winds through the forest overlooking the Mogollon Rim for a couple of miles.

Horton Creek Trail can be a four-mile trek or a slow walk by a stunning creek. Fed by a spring under the Rim at the junction of the Highline Trail and the top of Horton Creek Trail, the meandering jaunt has the unique quality of being shaded by trees for most of the length of the trail. At times, the trail opens up to beautiful meadows, at others it hugs the creek so closely a hiker can peer over the sheer cliffs carved by raging, swollen waters from winter storms or monsoon rains. So gentle is the rise at the bottom of the trail, families with toddlers often wander taking numerous breaks by the creek to allow the little ones a chance to splash about. At the top of the trail, a respectable switchback helps the hiker break a sweat to fully appreciate the cool and refreshing waters of Horton Creek. So pure is the water, no filtration is necessary, just fill up containers straight from the spring source that gushes out from the base of the Mogollon Rim. Camping is allowed and often weekend warriors set up steps away from the trail. If a hiker wanders back to their car at dusk, lanterns at campsites glow through the trees leading the late hiker home. To find the trailhead, take Highway 260 east of Payson and turn onto the road to the Tonto Creek Fish Hatchery. At the bridge next to the RV park, leave a vehicle in the parking lot. The trail is across the street and up a hill.

AN ALL-DAY ADVENTURE If anyone plans on hiking the Grand Canyon rim to rim, spend every weekend for a month hiking the Fossil Creek Trail. With a 1,200-foot elevation change over a four-mile length trail, going up and down to the creek in a day is more than a hike — it’s an adventure. The arid trail is hot and exposed. Getting down early on a hot, summer day is the best answer. Heading up in the cool of the evening will help a hiker avoid heat exhaustion — the number one reason the Tonto Rim Search and CONTINUED ON PAGE 5



SUMMER 2013 • PAGE 5


Rescue and Mounted Posse groups rescue Fossil Creek hikers. But the adventure is well worth the risk. Fossil Creek Canyon is a magical world of moss and tress, a pristine riparian area chock full of birds and other wildlife. It’s an easy place to spend a day and a hike that will definitely feel like an accomplishment. To reach the trailhead – drive down Fossil Creek Road in Strawberry that juts off from Highway 87 north and Highway 260 west. Continue down the paved road until it turns into a rutted, bumpy, dirt road. Signs direct hikers to the trailhead that has his and hers outhouses.


A NATURAL WONDER Tonto Natural Bridge State Park offers one of the region’s most interesting hikes. Many people visit the world’s largest travertine bridge without ever descending the short, steep trail to the cavernous opening dissolved in a giant wall of travertine. The real delight lies in making your way through the cool, damp cavern and out the other side. A short walk along Pine Creek passed by pools, sycamores, ash, oak, walnut, cottonwoods, alders — all bustling with birds. The scramble along the creek bank after a pleasant interlude comes back to a trail that switches back up to the top of the canyon as it passes by a steadily dripping spring that has decorated the cliff face with ferns. To get there — take Highway 87 north of Payson for 11 miles and turn left at the Tonto Natural Bridge turnoff.

Pete Aleshire/Roundup

Deep pools, grottos and slides over huge boulders make the hike along Tonto Creek at Bear Flats unlike many others.



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If a bit of scrambling does not cause a case of nerves, consider hiking along the edge of Tonto Creek down by the tiny housing development of Bear Flats. Be warned, however, even the road to get to the parking lot will force a car to pull out the stops. Bumpy, rutted, steep and twisty the Bear Flat road drops quickly into the steep canyon carved out by the rushing waters of Tonto Creek. Fishermen most often come this stretch of waterway to cast about for stocked trout. A wisp of a trail clings to the edge of the creek, often getting lost in a pile of boulders a hiker may choose to weave in and out of or climb over. The views are stunning and the variations in the stream topography never cease to amaze. Deep pools, slides over huge boulders, grottos under bowers of trees make for a hike unlike many others. Tonto Creek slices through the aptly named Hellsgate Wilderness. Those who have decided to canyoneer farther beyond the parking lot at Bear Flats report experiencing landscapes so harrowing, signs posted nearby clearly state, “Warning – Be aware if an emergency happens, you will not be rescued.” But for a different sort of day hike and a beautiful spot to stop and have a rejuvenating rest, try hiking Bear Flats. To get there — take Highway 260 east past Star Valley. Near Christopher Creek, look for the road to Bear Flats off to the right. Follow the signs to the parking lot.


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Rim Country offers some of the most challenging single-track trails in the state — but also easy rolls that maximize the scenery — like the Rim View Trail (above).

Rim Country trails mix challenges with scenery, creekside and cliffside BY ALEXIS BECHMAN ROUNDUP STAFF REPORTER

“I think I may have missed the turnoff,” local bike shop owner Mick Wolf said nonchalantly as I wearily pushed my bike to the top of the rocky hill where other riders waited. We had covered several miles on a trail in the Carr Lake Loop system. I had already dismounted several times to straggle up a hill the rest of the group seemed not to notice. Sensing my dread, fellow slowpoke and co-worker Michele announced a snack stop. We rested and I reflected on where it had all started. Days earlier, Wolf had agreed to take the Roundup staff on a fun, afternoon mountain biking outing on the Mogollon Rim, known for hosting a variety of trail difficulties. From the easy to the extreme — sometimes on the same trail — the Rim promises adventure and something else. In fact, it is the best thing about riding in Rim Country: the views. Each trail manages to take your breath away and not just from all the uphill peddling, but how almost all wind around to a vista. The view banishing the bumps and bruises. We had started at noon after parking our vehicles just off the Rim and following the Meadow Trail toward Woods Canyon Lake. We veered west on the General Crook Trail before reaching the lake. The trail, marked with orange and cream Y-shaped chevrons, indicating the preferred and original travel routes of General George Crook respectively. Crook pioneered the trail, which would become the third major road built in southern Arizona, shuttling supplies to

Fort Apache. The trail is the perfect ride for a beginner to intermediate rider; easy to follow, smooth and mostly single-track. As we reached the Carr Lake Trail system, Wolf’s children, who had led most of the journey, left us to play with their mother. This left us unbridled to tackle a series of loops. Wolf assured us it would be no harder or longer than the miles just covered. Turns out, trailing a toddler is way different from keeping up with a Wolf, the descendant of one of Payson’s pioneers, Arizona Charlie Meadows, whose family died in an Indian raid and who helped launch the World’s Oldest Continuous Rodeo. Those sticks and pebbles morphed into boulders and logs. My lungs burned as I pedaled violently to keep up. Others in our group had no trouble keeping pace with Wolf and his dog Taco. I hung back with Michele, walking our bikes up the hills and over obstacles. Finally, Wolf announced cheerfully — “Ah, there’s the trail we should have taken.” Hope renewed, we rode on several more miles back toward the parking lot, the last mile finally reminding me why I had wanted to come. From the Mogollon campground, a newly paved path hugs the Rim back to Forest Road 300 and the Rim Trail (Trail 622). Turning onto that path was like walking off Mt. Everest onto an ice skating rink. My tires glided over the concrete effortlessly. We weaved and whooped around the corners and came upon one of the best views from the Rim. We stopped in stunned silence and hung onto the moment. We rode our bikes back slowly, taking in the final moments until we reached the parking lot and put away our torture devices. Besides the 200-mile view from on top of the Mogollon Rim out across into the world’s largest ponderosa pine for-

est, other overlooks at the end of first-class mountain bike trails include, the vista overlooking the rugged Highline Trail and the beautiful jumble of boulders in Granite Dells from the Houston Loop in Payson. Each deserves its own panoramic postcard. Luckily, you don’t have to be an expert rider to witness these sights. Trails spread out across terrains suitable for every level of expertise. From the rocky trails found around Payson to the trails on along the Rim, which meander through grassy meadows and hug lakeshores. For more information, stop by the Rim Country Chamber of Commerce Visitor’s Center, 100 W. Main St., or Bicycle Adventurers next to the Sawmill movie theaters, at 201 W. Main Street, Suite B. The bicycle and outdoor store carries maps, supplies and offers bike repairs. Owner Mick Wolf rides weekly and can point out the area’s best trails. He also offers a weekly group ride every Wednesday.

Top five trails 1. CABIN LOOP Payson draws summer crowds thanks to the cool temperatures and forests found on the Mogollon Rim, which also feature numerous trails at 7,000 feet. A favorite among riders is the Cabin Loop, which incorporates the Arizona, Fred Haught, Houston Brothers, Barbershop and U-Bar trails. The challenging Cabin Loop is remote, requiring an hour drive from Payson. Head north from Payson on Highway 87 to the Forest Road 300 turnoff. Head 12 miles east on the dirt road to the Arizona Trailhead. Park and head north to the loop. For the more adventurous riders, park at the bottom of the Rim at Washington Park and hike your bike up the Arizona Trail to the Cabin Loop. CONTINUED ON PAGE 7



SUMMER 2013 • PAGE 7

Mountain biking trails abound 2. RIM LAKES Also on top of the Rim, 40 minutes east of Payson, is the Rim Lakes Recreation Area. The area around the Rim Lakes offers the mellowest riding in the Rim Country. The Carr Lake Trail system is located in the area and is a series of interconnected trails that riders can take in any direction. Rides go from short and easy to 30plus miles that incorporate all levels of riding. Depending on the route, you can include a stop at one of the lakes, where there are campsites, connecting trails and fishing. Other popular trails in the Rim Lakes area include the General Crook, Vista, Drew, Military Sinkhole, Willow Springs Lake and the Woods Canyon Lake trails.

3. 260 HIGHLINE TRAIL Below the Rim, 20 miles east of Payson, is Rim Country’s quintessential mountain biking trail — the 260 Highline Trail. The 260 Trail is fun, technical and challenging single-track. Riders can go out-n-back on it or make a loop using Highway 260. For more challenge, loop the trail up and down the Rim using the Military Sinkhole, Rim Vista, General Crook and Drew Trails. Another popular trail below the Rim and east of Payson is the Horton Trail.

4. TRAIL 200 The terrain and topography around Payson is diverse and the trails are


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5. HOUSTON AND HOUSTON LOOP TRAILS Just north of Payson, the Houston Loop is a great ride for intermediate to advanced riders with challenging hills, rocks and speedy curves. The 3.5-mile loop starts several miles into the Houston Trail and is deeply rutted and eroded. Reach the trailhead by heading north out of Payson to the Houston Mesa Road turnoff. Head east one mile to the trailhead.


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challenging, to say the least. The Payson Area Trails System includes a few easy and intermediate trails, but the best in-town trails are the Houston Mesa loop, the Granite Dells loops and the Peach Orchard loop. Trail 200 is a new trail built by local riders that you will not find in any guidebook. Located in the Granite Dells area, it offers challenging single-track. Head down East Phoenix Street into an unfinished subdivision and look for a trail to the south.

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PAGE 8 • SUMMER 2013


Some photographers have favorite places that offer them opportunities other locations may not. But from my perspective, great images present themselves when you least expect it. Occasionally, one captures that moment. Green Valley Park offers itself to those who ply its places. Witness this Great Blue Heron, conducting his wild business in public. Knowing the Mogollon Rim, in all its seasons, has its rewards. Ponderosa Powder, offers a testament to a moment that is fleeting but memorable. I have passed that same spot many times since, but never seen the image offered again. The Beeline Cruise-In may transport some to a cherished time in their personal history, and Airport Road can be a window into that time, for it has the curves, the hills and the views one cannot capture anywhere else. The Sunflower Fire, as seen from Airport Road, brings a potential tragedy close to home and provides a perspective on what is important in a person’s life. Arizona also boasts many lakes, but few have the appeal of Willow Lake with its two long, parallel, fingers stretching out until they turn suddenly into marsh. Therein lies opportunity. Peaceful images of tranquility wait for capture. Having wandered down the streams of my childhood hunting frogs, turtles and attempting to capture fish barehanded, I still have a love of rushing water crashing over rocks with its bubbly flow and soothing sound. Tonto Creek has no equal in this realm.





SUMMER 2013 • PAGE 9


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Swimming holes The Fossil Creek equation: Blisters + Waterfalls = Paradise BY PETE ALESHIRE ROUNDUP EDITOR

Pausing on a precarious point of balance in the midst of the swirl of Fossil Creek, I listened for the deeper rush of the waterfall I’d been promised. The day shimmered all around me — the smear of white clouds in the aching sky, the first flush of yellow and gold in the sycamores and willows, the tremble of the still-green cottonwoods, the rustle of ash and alder. But the most remarkable tint of all gleamed in the surreal aqua-blue-greenturquoise waters of Fossil Creek. The water had emerged from a great spring some miles upstream, saturated with travertine leached from the deep layers of limestone through. Now the dissolved limestone was giving up its carbon dioxide and precipitating out of the water to make mineral deposits on the rock at my sandaled feet. I flexed my right foot experimentally, to determine whether the bump on the strap had yet started a blister. Hmm. No. Wait. Maybe. Darn. No matter — we’re nearly there. The stream rushed past, offering tempting swimming holes around every turn — deep pools flickering with fish with water so clear you could see 10 feet to the bottom. The spring waters that feed the creek deposit 13 tons of travertine on the rocks and roots along the streambed daily according to one estimate — making drip-castle deposits on the rock and building meandering check dams that made stretches of the stream look like hills covered with intricately terraced Chinese rice paddies. Hiking up that thread of a trail with my shorts and my strapped-on water sandals, I felt good — like the hero of a Bruce Springsteen song. Glory days, brother. Glory days. I could have come down the steep Fossil Creek trail, with its grueling 1,500-foot elevation change. But I instead drove to Camp Verde and accessed the creek from that side — saving myself for the plunge pools. The effort to restore Fossil Creek had so far proved wildly successful. Biologists had removed most of the native fish, then poisoned out the non-natives like the swarms of sunfish. As a final, added benefit — the stream so far harbors no non-native bullfrogs or even crayfish — both great scourges of riparian areas. As a result, Fossil Creek remains blissfully free of most of the introduced species that have driven native fish and amphibians to the brink of extinction along most Arizona streams. That may account for the booming chub population — now an estimated 15,000 — along with the return of the endangered Chiricahua leopard frog and a host of other native species. Now within earshot of the waterfall, I hurried forward. Sure enough, the waterfall spilled over a 30-foot cliff. The turquoise water swirled around the rim of a deep pool and a shimmering yellow tree set itself against the deep blue sky.

Pete Aleshire photo

The surreal aqua-blue-green-turquoise waters of Fossil Creek offer tempting swimming holes around every turn, with deep pools flickering with fish and water so clear you can see 10 feet to the bottom.

I spent a perfect hour sitting beside the waterfall, diving so deep in the swirling pool at its base that it hurt my ears and even climbing to the rock outcrop from which you can cannonball the pool from a height of 20 feet. And because I have never known when to quit, I decided to push on above the falls, where the canyon narrowed and the trees grew thicker. The trail flickered in and out of existence in the underbrush. The closer we moved to the beckoning spring, the more marshy areas we encountered, thanks to the effects of those 13 tons of travertine laid down every day. The water rushing past my feet now probably fell as rain atop the Mogollon Rim thousands of years ago. To reach me, the water had to make its inexorable way down

through thousands of feet of fractured limestone. That limestone had its own ancient lineage, since it’s composed of the skeletons of marine creatures who’d sunk to the bottom of some long-vanished inland sea. The patient water followed fractures and fault lines, dissolving the calcium carbonate in the limestone as it moved. Eventually, it followed a fracture to the surface, emerging as the spring that feeds Fossil Creek. Here in the narrower canyon closer to the spring, the stream seemed much more creative and diligent about building drip castles and check dams. I pushed on late into the afternoon, stumbling out of the undergrowth finally to find a nested series of ponds, stored up behind a cascade of travertine check dams. But I had to turn back short of the

springs, as the daylight dwindled. Besides, the blister caused by the strap of my water sandal was now making its own, insistent demands. So I sat on the narrow rim of the meandering travertine dam and decided that Fossil Creek now qualified as my favorite place in Arizona. There, on the spillover of paradise, a deep-green Chiricahua leopard frog took fright at my meditations and made a great leap into the middle of the pond, as the shadows of the chub criss-crossed beneath. Fossil Creek set to work coating my blister with travertine as I sat in perfect bliss, grateful that I have still never learned when to stop. Facilities: No camping or fires along the creek, but great for day use. CONTINUED ON PAGE 11



SUMMER 2013 • PAGE 11

Swimming holes FROM PAGE 10

Access: From Payson, take Highway 87 to Pine and turn on Fossil Creek Road. Continue past all homes to a dirt road. The turn off to the trailhead lies to the right off of the dirt road. Parking is limited, so arrive early. The descent takes about two hours, come prepared for the trek with plenty of water, hats, lots of snacks and time. For those who do not wish to hike down, drivers may access Fossil Creek Road from Camp Verde, off Interstate 17.

TONTO CREEK Tonto Creek boasts great trout fishing in a succession of beautiful ponds that are stocked all summer. This easily accessible stretch of river perfectly combines water and scenery — but you’ll have to overlook the crowds. The lower reaches of Tonto Creek in the Hellsgate wilderness area offer an unforgettable stint of canyoneering. The river returns to civilization, often nearly exhausted, at Gisela, where it waits at the end of Forest Road 417 off Highway 87. Tonto Creek continues into Roosevelt Lake. Facilities: USFS campground streamside along FR 289 and at the FR 269/260 junction, with another along Christopher Creek at FR 260. The historic Kohl’s Ranch rents cabins. Access: From Payson, follow AZ 260 15 miles.

EAST VERDE: WATER WHEEL This little-known treasure just outside of Payson offers one of the best all-around

Pete Aleshire photo

Tonto Creek qualifies as one of the best swimming holes in Rim Country.

swimming holes in Arizona. The East Verde River emerges from a spring at the base of the Mogollon Rim and flows down past Payson and to the Verde River. Houston Mesa Road and Flowing Springs Road offer ample access. Water Wheel offers the best single swimming hole, complete with a deep pool and 50-foot waterfall. A fire closed the area most people used to get access, but you search for parking after the bridge and first crossing and hike up to the stream. Facilities: Several campgrounds near

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the stream. Access: Take Highway 87 north from Payson toward Pine and Strawberry. Just outside of Payson, take Houston Mesa Road. Water Wheel lies between the first, bridged crossing and the second crossing, where the stream flows across the road.

OTHER CREEKS Haigler Creek lies at the end of a dirt road, but gets a heavy stocking of trout every week. A popular hiking trail winds through the forest alongside the creek. To

reach Haigler, turn off Highway 260 on the unpaved Forest Road 291, go three miles, then turn right onto Forest Road 200. You’ll come to a trailhead in another five miles. From there, it’s a quarter-mile walk to the creek. Christopher Creek sometimes all but dries up in a drought, but the Arizona Game and Fish Department stocks its small pools and riffles for most of the summer. To gain access, take the turnoff for Christopher Creek from Highway 260, then turn north onto Forest Road 284 toward See Canyon. You’ll find a campground and small pools full of wary fish, shaded by poplars and spruce. Horton Creek lies just one mile from Highway 260, just off the Tonto Creek Hatchery Road. Park at the Horton Trailhead and take the beautiful, two-mile hike through the trees to Horton Creek, which twists and turns through slots in the limestone beneath a forest canopy. The creek sometimes goes dry in its lower reaches, but push on upstream toward the spring to regain the splash of water and work the small pools for wary, wild brown trout. Canyon Creek offers soothing rewards for the adventurous, since it lies well off the highway. Head up onto the Rim on Highway 260 and just past the Young turnoff look for Forest Road 288. Go south to Forest Road 33 and turn east. Continue until you hit Forest Road 34 and turn left. That road soon crosses the creek. Park there and work upstream or downstream to enjoy the small pools.


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SUMMER 2013 • PAGE 13


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PAGE 14 • SUMMER 2013



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SUMMER 2013 • PAGE 15


With the 32nd Annual Pine-Strawberry Arts and Crafts Festival and the 22nd Annual Strawberry Festival in the rear view mirror, Rim Country visitors can peer down the road at the 4th of July and Labor Day Festivals. Sandwiched in between is an Old Time Fiddlers Jam Session. Both festivals traditionally draw hundreds of bargain hunters eager to escape the searing desert heat in favor of cooler mountain temperatures. The 4th of July festivities will be held July 6 and 7 and the Labor Day celebration on Aug. 31 and Sept. 1. The Fiddlers Jam session is 1 to 2 p.m. July 17 in the Pine Community Center Cultural Hall, which old timers will remember is the former Pine School gymnasium. Both of the upcoming festivals are popular attractions that normally draw upwards of 75 crafts booths featuring stained glass, pottery, woven baskets, greeting cards, jewelry, wood sculptures and just about any other unique item visitors might be hankering for. Browsing the booths is popular among high country visitors, some of whom return home with armfuls of unique purchases. Vendors at the festivals must meet Guild standards for quality and originality and all items must be hand crafted. Also on hand at the festivals are food ven-

dors serving up a variety of lip smacking fair food delights including hot dogs, Philly cheese sandwiches, caramel apples, corn dogs, snow cones, funnel cakes and just about anything one would want to eat on a stick. Also popular is the scrumptious Navajo Tacos served by the Senior Center. Most festivals also hold several raffles including the very popular DPS quilters who raffle off homemade quilts. The holiday events, which are both family friendly also feature entertainment and sometimes classic car and tractor shows. Admission to the festivals and the jam session is free. It’s not unusual for festival visitors to take the opportunity to visit the town museum, where artifacts dating back to the 1800s when Mormon pioneers first settled the two small communities of Pine and Strawberry are displayed. Another popular draw in the museum is a video presentation on the life and times of the early pioneers. Some visitors also travel about 6 miles northwest to the one-room Strawberry Schoolhouse. The school, now on the National Register of Historic Places, was originally built in 1885 of hand-hewn pine log. It has since been fully restored and outfitted with period desks, chalkboards and schoolbooks. A visitor on Memorial Day, Dan Rankin, of Mesa, said visiting the schoolhouse was like taking a step back in time.

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MORE TO DO For those unfamiliar with the tiny mountain hamlet of Pine, it is located in the heart of Arizona just below the Rim at an elevation of 5,500 feet and only 15 miles north of Payson on Highway 87. The popularity of Pine is often attributed to its moderate climate, rural setting, low

crime rate and easy access to the Valley of the Sun. The area also draws crowds of hikers, mountain bikers and horseback riders eager to explore the majestic national forests that surround Pine. Other popular recreational attractions in the area include hunting, fishing and offroad travel. The nearest fishing hot spot, Blue Ridge Reservoir, is located less than 30 miles north of Pine off the Beeline Highway. Many an angler has enjoyed mouth-watering panfried trout and bass taken from the lake. For those who enjoy hiking and sightseeing, Pine Canyon Trail offers spectacular views of the beautiful canyon, Pine Creek and the basin below. The best way to hike the trail is to begin at the upper trailhead above Strawberry near FR 6038 and descend the Rim to the Pine Trailhead just south of the town near the Beeline Highway. Rim country mountain bikers frequently take advantage of the many old logging roads that criss-cross the area. Many of the trails, which are great for exploring but often dead end, can be accessed off the Control Road located just south of Payson. For those simply wanting a glimpse of Mother Nature’s bounty, the area is home to herds of trophy sized elk, white tail and mule deer and javelina. Bear, turkey and mountain lions also live in the forests nearby.

PAGE 16 • SUMMER 2013



Camping Mogollon Rim offers room with a view BY ALEXIS BECHMAN ROUNDUP STAFF REPORTER

Just as you would probably never get through all of Zane Grey’s Western novels, you could not check out Rim Country’s entire library of campsites. And like your favorite book, you’ll probably return to your favorite site repeatedly anyways, finding new details in the character of the land. The best thing about camping in Rim Country is the wide variety of sites to check out. For the anglers, there are sites nestled just off the banks of lakes; panoramic sites from the Mogollon Rim for photographers; quiet spots tucked back into the woods and bustling campgrounds for those with a social aptitude. Personally, I like a site with a view. While a campsite nestled in the woods offers peace and solitude no doubt, perching your tent on the edge of a 2,000-foot escarpment is truly out of sight. Forest Road 9350, with 50 free campsites, and Forest Road 171, with 20, offer the most stunning panoramic views of the forest. There is just something about waking up to a 200-mile view that puts your life in perspective. But if you arrive late and find all of these spots taken, there are hundreds of other

Alexis Bechman photo

Waking up to a stunning, panoramic 200-mile view for the forest puts your life in perspective.

sites to choose from. But remember, the maximum stay at most is 14 days.

access to drinking water; fee. • Mogollon Campground — 26 sites; fee.

SITES … with a view

… in the woods

• Forest Road 9350 and Forest Road 171 — Numbered sites off both roads, most with a fire ring and picnic table. From Payson, head east on Highway 260 to Forest Road 300. Head east past the Mogollon Rim Visitor Center to reach FR 171 and west on FR 300 for FR 9350; free. • Rim Campground — 26 campsites with

• Forest Road 195 — 20 dispersed sites, no facilities; free. • Forest Road 237 — 20 dispersed sites, no facilities; free. • Forest Road 9354 — 50 dispersed sites, no facilities, free. • Sharp Creek Campground — 23 miles northeast of Payson, 1/2 mile east of Christopher Creek, fee.

• South of Highway 260, camping is allowed along Forest Roads 171, 181, 9512E and 79. Watch for signs describing where you can camp.

… near water • Sink Hole Campground — 26 sites, boat ramp access to Willow Springs Lake; fee. • Aspen Campground — 136 sites, near Woods Canyon Lake; fee. • Spillway Campground — 26 sites, CONTINUED ON PAGE 17


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SUMMER 2013 • PAGE 17

Camping FROM PAGE 16

near Woods Canyon Lake; fee. • Forest Roads 84, 89 and 9018 — free dispersed camping sites near Bear Canyon Lake. • Flowing Springs — several miles north of town off Flowing Springs Road. Free dispersed camping, vault toilets. • Knoll Lake Campground — 30 sites, boat ramp; $14 a night. • Christopher Creek Campground — 21 miles east of Payson on Highway 260; 43 campsites with tables, fire pits, grills, handicapped accessible toilet and vault toilets; drinking water and trash collection; fee. Creek runs through the campground.

… with easy access • Crook Campground — 26 sites off Forest Road 300; fee. • Canyon Point Campground — 117 sites, fee. • Houston Mesa Campground — two miles north of Payson off Houston Mesa Road. Picnic tables, restrooms and showers; fee. • Payson Campground; this in-town developed campground at 808 E. Highway 260 has a pool and is open year-round; fee. • Ponderosa Campground — 15 miles east of Payson off Highway 260. 61 units with tables, grills, drinking water, vault toilets, nature trail and amphitheater. Open year-round. Hosts available, fee. • Christopher Creek — 28 units with tables, grills, drinking water, vault toilets and lantern holders; fee. For more information, visit or

Pete Aleshire photo

Arizona Rim Country offers some of the best streamside campsites in the state.

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PAGE 18 • SUMMER 2013



Fishing Carrying the trappings of fishing and a threepound brain make for a heavy load indeed BY PETE ALESHIRE ROUNDUP EDITOR

If I was a fish — I’d definitely want me to catch me. Here I am, standing on a floodpolished boulder below Bear Flat on Tonto Creek, casting my nymph like some kinda natural born fishing fool. I got my floppy, ventilated hat. I got my ever-so-cool polarized sun glasses. I got my cute-as-a Hare’s Ear nymph. I got my squishy, water shoes. I got my multi-pocket fishing vest. I got my parachute cloth shirt. I got my surgical clamp hook removal thingy. And I got my wolfish rooting section — splashing around downstream scaring all the wild brown trout up my way. Truth be told, I’m surprised those peabrained paragons of piscinity don’t jump right out of this deep swirl of a pool into my ever-so-stylish fish net dangling with such allure from my neck. But they’re not. But I got a three-pound brain, noodling constantly in the roomy comfort of my cranium. I got car keys too — and a beat up old Jeep that starts up when I want it to more often than not. And it delivered me here to Bear Flat down a twisty little dirt road just before Kohl’s Ranch and the fish hatchery turnoff. Now, here’s how crafty I got, with my big, old, three-pound brain: Game and Fish stocks the heck out of upper Tonto Creek — which draws schools of fishermen. So despite the summer scurry, I figured I’d come to Bear Flat to be more or less alone. Forest Road 405 to Bear Flat fetches up against a beautiful little campground. Here, you can hop on the Bear Flat Trail that leads on into the 37,000-acre Hellsgate Wilderness. You can hike about five miles to the wilderness boundary and turn around, or plunge on down into Hellsgate — a jagged trail that ranks second only to Fossil Creek when it comes to generating entertainment for the search and rescue folks all summer long. I climb out of my Jeep, unleash Lobo, grab my fishing gear and clomp on off down the trail, mouthing my ritual prayer that the Jeep will still start upon my return. I have in mind a whole series of deep pools downstream from Bear Flat, as spring- and floodfed Tonto Creek gnaws through granite and limestone in its desperation to reach distant Roosevelt Lake. The upper reaches of Tonto Creek flow reliably with the outpouring of a 1,300-gallon-per-minute series of springs above the fish hatchery. But when it comes to floods, Tonto Creek can rely on water draining off nearly 1,000 square miles beneath the edge of the Mogollon Rim. Rainfall ranges from 38 inches annually at its upper reaches — to more like 14 inches down at Punkin Center. The flow of this stubborn little creek goes through dramatic gyrations. Back in 1978, stream gauges recorded a record 469,000

Pete Aleshire photos

The lakes atop the Mogollon Rim are stocked with rainbow trout throughout the summer by the Arizona Game and Fish Department.

acre-feet — enough water to supply all Payson’s needs for about 234 years. But in 1971, the creek carried just 1,245 acre-feet, according to the Arizona Water Atlas — a roughly nine-month supply for Payson. Mostly, the creek cuts down through bedded layers of limestone deposited on longvanished sea bottoms — or sandstone layers left behind by long-vanished deserts. As the fitful creek chews through those layers, it sometimes comes across veins of granite — hard and unyielding molten rock that forced its way into fractures in the deep-buried sedimentary rocks. When the creek encounters these veins of hard rock, it creates sluices and waterfalls and pools. Such sculpted water features delight the eye — and the trout. So I’m working the stream with deft expertise — taking full advantage of my threepound brain to imagine where all the fish are hiding. Of course, I’m not catching anything. So I’ve got lots of time to watch the clouds cavort. Maybe even untutored trout are smarter than I figured. Read recently a study suggesting fish can count up to four. I’m not talking about that study by Dr. Seuss (One fish, two fish, red fish, blue fish) ... I’m talking about the experiment in the journal Cognition, which showed that fish can quickly count and compare the number of fish in other groups — up to about five. After that, they apparently just figure it’s a bunch of fish. Near as I can tell, the experiment relied on allowing mosquitofish to react to a threat by darting toward groups of fish in tanks on either side. They reliably headed for the larger group of fish. Not sure this accounts for why they’re not biting my

Editor and fishing aficionado wannabe Pete Aleshire struggled to ascertain why the trout in Tonto Creek weren’t biting, while his dog Lobo used his two-pound brain to figure out a dip in a Rim Country stream is a great way to cool off on a hot summer day.

cunning nymph, but one must seek one’s comfort where one can. Downstream, Lobo’s having a fine old time — plunging into the creek, swimming across the pools, giving himself a big old shake on the other side. He’s looking up at me, grinning like an idiot. He’s probably been amusing the fish by telling people jokes, thinking himself so clever with his two-pound brain. Besides, it’s getting late — which means the light’s getting good. Time to exchange

my fishing pole for my camera. With piscines, my record’s mixed, but I’m 100 percent when it comes to capturing photons. You gotta go with what works. It don’t take a three-pound brain to figure that one out.

MOGOLLON RIM LAKES Note: Due to high fire danger, Stage 1 campfire restrictions are in effect on the CONTINUED ON PAGE 19



SUMMER 2013 • PAGE 19

Fishing FROM PAGE 18

Apache-Sitgreaves National Forests and will remain in effect until further notice. These restrictions include campfires and charcoal allowed in designated developed campgrounds only; smoking allowed only within enclosed vehicles, buildings or in developed campgrounds; and pressurized gas stoves, lanterns and heaters that can be turned off are allowed. Also be aware that a red flag warning is different than fire restrictions and can be issued on any day with strong winds because of the heightened fire danger. All fires, except for pressurized gas stoves, lanterns and heaters that can be turned off, are prohibited on a red flag day. Bear Canyon Lake: Fishing is fair to good. The lake will be stocked this week with 749 rainbow trout. The lake is full. Black Canyon Lake: Fishing is fair to good. The lake was heavily stocked in midMay. Anglers are reporting high catch rates mostly of stockers, but also a few larger, carry-over fish. The water level is 6.6 feet below spill, so the boat ramp is still usable. Chevelon Lake: Fishing is good for boat anglers using lures and fair for shore anglers. The lake is full, but no longer spilling. Willow Springs Lake: Fishing is good. The lake will be stocked this week with 3,038 rainbow trout. The lake is full, but not spilling. Woods Canyon Lake: Fishing is good. The store is open, and boat rentals are available. Blue Ridge: Road is open and SRP has begun to draw the lake down for necessary repairs to the dam and associated piping. Will not be stocked this year due to plans to drain the lake for repairs to the dam. There are unlimited bag and possession limits until April 1, 2014. Knoll Lake: The road is open. Lake is full. Stocked with trout last week.

ROOSEVELT LAKE Lake elevation is 2,109 feet, 54 percent full). James Goughnour of Rim Country Custom Rods submitted this report: Good morning, Rim Country anglers. The water level in Roosevelt Lake remained steady this past week and currently stands at 54 percent full. Tonto Creek is flowing at 40 percent of its normal rate while the Salt

Tom Brossart file photo

Bass fishing at Roosevelt Lake was recently reported to be excellent by experienced anglers. The top-water bite has remained strong from early morning to mid morning for the past few weeks.

River is at 60 percent of its normal rate for this time of year. The water temperature is increasing and shallow water will now begin reach 80 degrees during the afternoon. The water clarity degraded this week with the algae growing and was called stained. The water has a green tint so baits that are a green or a bullfrog color were reported better than white color baits. Bass fishing was called excellent again this past week by local experienced anglers. The warmer water temperature, which is in the mid 70s in the morning and increasing to the low 80s in the afternoon, is moving bass into a summer pattern. Lots of anglers are wondering where all the fish they caught last month have gone. This


transition is very typical for this time of year. Now the top-water bite we’ve been talking about the past few weeks remained strong this past week early in the morning. A Rio Rico top-water bait was reported very successful by several anglers from early morning until mid morning. Zara spooks, Reaction Innovation Vixen and shallow running jerk baits such as Lucky Craft Pointers were catching good numbers. As the sun gets higher, bass will seek deeper water and cover or structure to protect them. Try a weightless Senko, dropshot, Texas rig or Carolina rig in 15 to 25 feet of water. I had the opportunity to fish Roosevelt Lake yesterday and caught a

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new personal record for me, a 10-poundplus bass caught using a Reaction Innovation paddle tail swimbait in a bullfrog color. The bass had recently spawned and was caught on 15 feet water on a major point like the one you see at Chub Bay (little hint there). The crappie fishing improved this past week. The nighttime bite is still reported better than during the daylight but large crappie schools can be found during the daylight in 25 to 30 feet water and always in the brush. Trolling with a John Deere or black, blue and chartreuse color 2-inch grub tail was reported successful. For the nighttime crappie anglers, lights will be more effective this coming week as we move away from the full moon.

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PAGE 20 • SUMMER 2013



Shopping Rim Country’s got just about everything, even quirky shopping opportunities We asked writers for the Payson Roundup to offer a selection of their favorite places to spend money — but still come out with a deal. Please don’t take this list as comprehensive — and we know we’ve left out lots of great, offbeat, unique shops. We just wanted to give you a sense of the range of stores — and the odd little nooks and crannies in which the locals delight.

TERESA McQUERREY Ah, the thrill of the bargain hunt. Here are a few suggestions: • Beall’s Outlet (305 S. Beeline, Payson): Find a little bit of everything — clothes, shoes, accessories, home décor and linens, stuff for the kitchen and funky stationery. The outlet-priced products come from all over, with added discounts for all but invisible flaws. The clothing, shoes and accessories are easy to navigate, but sorting through the home décor items takes more time. • Granny’s Attic Antiques (800 E. Highway 260, Payson): A bargain hunter’s dream, packed to the rafters with all antiques and collectibles. You can spend hours just browsing. • Moose Mountain Gifts & Antiques (6624 W. Hardscrabble Mesa Road, Pine): Another store stocked with a head-spinning assortment of wonders. • Tymeless Antiques & Treasures (the address is 3716 N. Prince Dr., Pine) The name says it all. Check out this unique shop across the street from the Pine Strawberry Fire Department at 6198 W. Hardscrabble Mesa Road.

ALEXIS BECHMAN • Senior Center Thrift Shop (514 W. Main St.): Who knew shopping in an old post office could be so fun? The Payson Senior Center Thrift Shop has been delivering fun and inexpensive finds for two decades. It brims with clothing, furniture, sporting goods and house wares. Director Joanna Conlin said the shop started 20 years as the center’s primary fund-raising tool. With government funding cut more each year, the Senior Center relies on the thrift store to help fund the Meals on Wheels and ridership programs. • Herb Stop (4004 N. Highway 87, Pine): Founded in 1992, the Herb Stop is the place to find unique tea blends, aromatherapy, homeopathic remedies, tinctures and spices. Founded by Leilah Breitler, an herbalist, in a 300-square-foot store, the Herb Stop has expanded into a larger location in Pine where products are manufactured and sold. In 2002, herbalist Natalie Hajdu joined Breitler and they continue to grow the store with an “emphasis placed on providing the public with the highest quality herbal products,” according to their Web site. The store’s blog, at, offers healthy recipes and

Andy Towle photos

Shopping in Rim Country has something for everyone, whether it’s at Granny’s Attic Antiques (above) or the Payson Senior Center Thrift Store (below), the friendly people in Payson and the surrounding communities can help you find just what you’re looking for.

health information. • Paper and Metal Scrappers (201 W. Main St., Suite C, Sawmill Crossing): This is the kind of store a woman like me can do damage in. With displays full of colorful paper, ribbons, trinkets, bling and everything else needed to trick out a scrapbook; it is easy to get carried away. Owner Barbara Wilembrecht says she offers merchandise for the scrapbooker, rubberstamper, card maker and mixed media artist. She also teaches customers how to use all that swag. “We offer classes and workshops featuring fourteen different teachers for all levels of paper crafters,” according to the store’s Web site. “Our signature style is a funky, vintage look that appeals to all.”

MICHELE NELSON Shopping, something done every week and often a drudgery, but in Payson I turn it into an event. Two local stores fill my needs not only for supplies, but for connection and information. • Back to Basics Health Food: This store on Highway 87 has been specializing in fresh food, herbs and vitamins for 20 years. Owners Gary and Cheri Cole have populated the store with bright, enthusiastic employees that have a passion for health food. As a regular, I always get a “Hello” and a “How are you?” Tara will walk anyone through the maze of vitamins, herbs, homeopathic and essential oils to find the right combination. When I sought relief for indigestion, she introduce me to a German

Chocolate-flavored deglycyrrhizinated licorice (DGL). The fresh fruit juice bar located inside the store carries wheat grass shots and will whip up a protein shake or imaginatively combined juiced concoction of fruits and veggies — a welcome pick-me-up anytime. • Payson Feed and Pet Supply: My motto is, “Garbage in — garbage out.” I believe this applies to our furry friends as well as

us. This feed store offers supplies for everything from ranch animals to home companions. Opened in 1998, the store carries premium pet foods, fish tanks, horse panels, stock tanks, buckets, wild bird feed, litter, horseshoes, saddles, tack, crickets and much more. Shopping in Payson — always and adventure with the friendly people of the community.



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SUMMER 2013 • PAGE 21

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PAGE 22 • SUMMER 2013


Tonto Natural Bridge A cool way to spend a hot summer day BY ALEXIS BECHMAN ROUNDUP STAFF REPORTER

Hiking under the Tonto Natural Bridge is like walking the plank; a slippery, boulder-riddled path with deep pools on either side that keeps you on your toes lest you end up on your rear. If you can muster the courage to hike through the 183-foot-tall travertine tunnel, you’ll find one of the coolest spots to beat the summer heat. While the temperatures rise above the bridge in the 160acre Tonto Natural Bridge State Park, a waterfall off the south side of the arch acts as both a mister and air conditioner, keeping temperatures down. There are two trails leading into this oasis, Pine Creek and the Gowan Trail. The Pine Creek Trail is the longer of the two at a half-mile and considered the more strenuous. After a quick descent, the creek trail follows the usually dry creek bed, approaching the arch from the north. Hikers who are not adept rock hoppers will probably find themselves a little soaked from slipping and sliding into the shallow creek off the mossy boulders. The Gowan Trail (named after the documented discoverer of the bridge) is the most popular route to the bottom of the bridge. While only 2,200 feet long, it has the steepest gradient into the canyon. The trail leads to an observation deck in the creek bottom where you can take in the 400-footlong bridge, considered the largest natural travertine bridge in the world. There is another trail in the park north of the bridge that is only 300 feet long and that ends at a delightful waterfall cave. Above the bridge, visitors will find a historic lodge with a gift shop and small museum. Just west of the lodge, is a large park area which has picnic tables, barbecues and shaded ramadas.

IF YOU GO Tonto Natural Bridge State Park is located 12 miles north of Payson off the Beeline Highway. The park is open seven days a week from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. Last entry is at 5 p.m. Admission is $5 per adult and $2 for children. Call (928) 476Tucked away in a tiny valley surrounded by a forest of pine trees, Tonto Natural Bridge has been in the making for thousands of years. 4202 for more information.

Pete Aleshire photo



SUMMER 2013 • PAGE 23

Tonto National Monument Ruins yield fresh clues to ancient mystery BY PETE ALESHIRE ROUNDUP EDITOR

Just down the highway from Payson, the brooding ruins of Tonto National Monument offer visitors a glimpse of a vanished world. Scientists sorting through the ruins and 8,000-year-old campsites protected by the monument have shed light on the complex roots of one of history’s great missing person’s cases — the abrupt abandonment of stone cities across the Southwest in the 1400s. The 1,100-acre, 100-year-old national monument about 50 miles from Payson preserves not only 600-year-old cliff dwellings, but places where 8,000 years ago humans hunted Ice Age animals through the valley below. After spending most of its long history curating artifacts and keeping visitors from destroying the ruins, the park now has two archaeologists on staff and deep questions to explore. Most surprising, researchers have discovered 3,000- to 8,000-year-old spear points and other artifacts at a site on the poppy- and brittlebush-graced slopes overlooking Roosevelt Lake. Drawn by a spring that still lurks beneath the surface, ancient hunters regularly occupied the site over the course of millennia. Moreover, researchers have uncovered a fascinating link between this new, ancient site and the Payson area. Many of the beautifully crafted spear points and the rock chips left from the manufacturing process can be traced chemically to a type of dacite found in the Payson area — which indicates that these game hunters 8,000 years ago either traveled through the Pine and Payson area or traded with people living there for rocks suitable for fashioning spear points. The discovery of the ancient site is just one of 75 sites now discovered in the monument, which draws between 60,000 and 80,000 visitors annually. After a bad year for attendance last year, the spring flowers and the rising lake levels have produced a bounty of visitors this year. Mostly, the park offers a chance to ponder the fate of the Salado, who occupied the Tonto Basin and the upper reaches of the Salt River between about A.D. 1100 and about A.D. 1450. The Salt River’s meandering course through the Tonto Basin formed the heartland of the Salado, who ultimately built great settlements every couple of miles along the river marked by walled compounds and giant platform mounds — major dwellings built on top of handmade mounds. The Salado occupied a vital crossroads and built sophisticated irrigation works to channel water from the drought and floodprone Salt onto fields planted with corn, beans, squash — and cotton. They created intricate textiles and a distinctive type of pottery with a vivid abstract design that spread throughout the Southwest — causing all sorts of subsequent headaches and puzzles for archaeologists. The ruins yielded turquoise, bronze bells, parrot feathers, shells and other signs that the Salado participated in thriving

Tom Brossart file photo

In the summer, the Tonto National Monument is open daily from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. The Lower Cliff Dwelling trail closes to uphill travel at 4 p.m.

trade networks that included the densely settled civilizations of Mexico, coastal California, New Mexico and Colorado. By the same token, the beautiful Salado pottery spread throughout the region. Usually, the pottery showed up in burials or other contexts in which it seemed to play a role in ceremonies. In one intriguing link, the massive settlement of Casas Grandes in northern Mexico included virtual warehouses of Salado pottery, suggesting that in that region the distinctive design might have become a hot trading item. Archaeologists still fiercely debate whether the Salado just occupied the Tonto Basin and the associated highlands or whether they spread out as widely as their pottery. Some archaeologists argue that the Salado developed a distinct culture and religion at this crossroads between north and south, and then spawned a religious movement or cult that spread along with the distinctive pottery style. After centuries of occupation along the river, the Salado began building impressive but remote cliff dwellings in the surrounding highlands — including the two major sets of ruins protected by the monument. Some archaeologists argue that the Salado faced attacks from neighboring groups or invaders. The Salado were probably founded originally by people moving into the area from the Hohokam heartland in the Phoenix area — but archaeologists don’t know whether the Salado eventually came into conflict with the Hohokam. They might have also clashed with the mountain people to the north, identified generally as the Mogollon. The Mogollon generally occupied areas like Payson, taking advantage of the variety of recourses at different elevations. Moreover, the Salado towns also incorporated many elements that link them to the complex civilizations to the north, the

Ancestral Puebloean or Anasazi, who built the great stone fortresses like Mesa Verde in Colorado.

BLENDING OF CIVILIZATIONS This blending of elements for the other civilizations, the long occupation and the complex relationship between the people living along the river and the people in the uplands, make the study of the Salado vital in understanding the larger trends in the Southwest. In addition, the ongoing studies in the monument connect directly to one of the most ambitious archaeological projects in history. Most of the layered Salado ruins lay down along the river. The construction of Roosevelt Dam in 1906 to provide water and flood control for the Valley submerged most of those ruins. But a decade ago in the process of raising the height of the dam to provide flood control and additional water storage, the water uses funded an unprecedented series of studies of the ruins along the river — exposed when SRP lowered the lake level first to work on the dam, then as a result of the drought. Researchers gathered a massive amount of information on the settlement patterns, artifacts, farming, growth patterns and other aspects of the Salado civilization. The research raised fascinating new questions about the spread of Salado pottery and ideas and the relationship between the river people and the highlands people. For instance, a detailed analysis showed that the people living in the uplands at places like the monument were economically self-sufficient and not mere satellites of the irrigation-based towns of the core area. Researchers noted that the construction of the cliff dwellings in the monument coincided with a period in which people who had been living in smaller, scattered communi-

Researchers discovered 3,000- to 8,000-yearold spear points and other artifacts on the poppy- and brittlebush-graced slopes overlooking Roosevelt Lake.

ties concentrated into a smaller number of large settlements. There, they built impressive houses and public spaces on top of giant platform mounts, suggesting either the development of an elite group that could command the labor of many people or perhaps the rise of a religion that would have the same effect. The discovery that people were building the great towns along the river at the same time they were building virtual fortresses in the uplands remains intriguing and largely unexplained. Perhaps they were both reacting to external threats — or perhaps drought or over use of resources required larger and larger communal efforts to survive.

PAGE 24 • SUMMER 2013



Rodeo Doin’s a Payson tradition for 129 years and still going strong BY TERESA MCQUERREY ROUNDUP STAFF REPORTER

In the early days the Payson Rodeo — now (and sometimes then) called the August Doin’s — was a reunion of sorts. More often than not the ranching families were related in one way or another and the rodeo gave families and longtime friends a chance to catch up and have some fun in their hardscrabble, frequent hand-to-mouth lives. It was also a chance for the young people to perhaps begin or continue a courtship — especially at the always-popular dances that were held following the competition among the cowboys and cowgirls. They weren’t cardholders in any professional association back then, just hard-working men and women who ran cattle and horses throughout the Rim Country. The Payson Rodeo was started in 1884 and designed, in a fashion, after the famous Wild West shows. In fact, one of the founders, Arizona Charlie Meadows, worked in the shows at one point. The competitors tried to best one another with their riding, roping, steer wrestling and calf-branding skills. There were often horse races as well, along with some rather gruesome (by today’s standards) contests — racing a horse and bending down from the saddle to pull a buried chicken out of the dirt. Times change. Professional standards and athletes are the stuff of today’s rodeos. But they still provide a good bit of fun for contestants, observers and hosts alike. The 2013 World’s Oldest Continuous Rodeo will be held at the Payson Event Center, on the southwest side of town, Thursday, Aug. 15 through Sunday, Aug. 18. The festivities

Dennis Fendler file photo

The 129th World’s Oldest Continuous Rodeo will be held the third weekend in August at the Payson Event Center.

open with barrel racing, team roping and more for the Cactus Series of Women’s Professional Rodeo at 7 p.m., Thursday, Aug. 15. Admission is a can of food for the area food

banks. The first formal performance of the rodeo is at 7 p.m., Friday, Aug. 16. This show is the Tough Enough to Wear Pink event, where funds will be contributed to breast cancer research and breast cancer support groups for every contestant and audience member wearing pink. The popular Rodeo Parade is at 9 a.m., Saturday, Aug. 17 on Historic Main Street in Payson. The entrants will start at Green Valley Park and proceed east on Main Street to Sawmill Crossing. The parade, “Rodeo: A Payson Tradition” is being sponsored by the Kiwanis of Zane Grey Country this year. Clowns, rodeo queens and their courts, the Payson High School band, local floats, teams and many other great entries from all over Arizona are expected. Come early with the whole family, and bring comfortable chairs. You may read additional information and download parade entry forms, etc. at the Web site: (just open the forms tab). If you have any questions, please contact the Kiwanis at: or write to: Kiwanis Club of Zane Grey Country, P.O. Box 2507, Payson, AZ 85547. Another performance of the rodeo follows the parade at 1 p.m., Saturday, Aug. 17, with an evening performance, paying tribute to active-duty, retired and deceased military personnel, is at 7 p.m. and features the U.S. Marine Corps Mounted Honor Guard. The final performance is at 1 p.m., Sunday, Aug. 18. Admission to each of the regular rodeo performances is $18 for adults, 13 to 64; $16 for seniors, 65 and older; $10 for children, 8 to 12; with those 7 and younger admitted for free. Reserved seating tickets are available for $22 per person. Active-duty military personnel will also be admitted at no charge. To learn more about the 2013 World’s Oldest Continuous Rodeo in Payson, go online to

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SUMMER 2013 • PAGE 25


PAGE 26 • SUMMER 2013


Backroad Drives History, wildlife, thrills, scenery:

Just another Saturday outing BY PETE ALESHIRE ROUNDUP EDITOR

The Mogollon Rim offers some of the most stirring views on the planet — which makes Forest Road 300 my favorite scenic drive in Rim Country. It’s not just 100-mile vistas. It’s not just the billows of clouds that break against this more than 200-mile-long chain of cliffs. It’s not just the bloody history enacted along this historic supply route in the Apache Wars. For me — at least — it’s the stunning revelation of the violent history of a tempestuous earth — and a primer in the small changes that produce dramatic variations in the intricate net of life. It even offers clues as to how all living things might end. This line of cliffs marks the edge of the vastly uplifted Colorado Plateau. The sheer, layered cliffs are made from sand dunes and sea bottoms laid down, buried, compressed and then uplifted once more into sunlight and storm. The Mogollon Rim sharply divides the Sonoran Desert from the world’s largest ponderosa pine forest. It affects the climate of the region, forcing the release of snow and rain from passing storms — and in the process — making Phoenix possible by filling up a chain of reservoirs. The Rim forms one of the most dramatic ecological divides in the country. It even bears mute witness to at least two terrible events that wiped out most living species on the planet. Moreover, this jagged line of cliffs uplifted some 20 million years ago by the same shifts that created the Rocky Mountains offers a wonderfully diverse array of recreational options for visitors. Start the story some 300 million years ago with the formation of the Kaibab Limestone found near the base of the Rim. This limestone formed in the bottom of a vast inland sea, well before the first dinosaurs

emerged. Composed mostly of the skeletons of tiny sea creatures that drifted to form thickening layers over the millennium, this sea bottom layer extends to the Grand Canyon and north into Utah. Movements of crustal plates that rearranged whole continents, driven by stirrings deep in the semimolten layers of Earth’s mantle, eventually uplifted that one-time sea bottom, converting it into a vast interior desert on a scale to dwarf the modern Sahara or Gobi. New shifts in the earth, some 250 million years ago, then buried the vast, cross-bedded sand dunes of that desert. The pressure and heat of the overlying rock layers fused those ancient sand dunes, creating thick layers now dubbed Coconino Sandstone. This buff, pale rock layer forms the bulk of the cliff face along the Rim, in addition to the upper layers of Sedona and great expanses of southern Utah. Pressured upward from below by some still mysterious shift, the great block of crust that includes the Rocky Mountains and Northern Arizona next began an inexorable uplift between 80 million and 50 million years ago, creating a region known as the Mogollon Highlands. Rivers then flowed north, depositing thousands of feet of sediment stripped from the rising mountains in interior basins. But the Earth can never quite decide. So between 35 and 20 million years ago, these titanic forces shifted once again, spurring a vast outpouring of lava — which put a cap of hard, resistant rock on top of the softer layers of sandstone and limestone. All of that finally set the stage for the emergence of the modern topography of Arizona and the CONTINUED ON PAGE 27

Photos by Pete Aleshire/Roundup

Forest Road 300 offers both 100-mile vistas (top) and access to intimate details of the landscape, like these aspen trunks reflected in a pond.



SUMMER 2013 • PAGE 27


Colorado Plateau, starting about 20 million years ago. Great blocks of earth resumed their uplift, this time, tilted to drain to the south. The layer of lava rock slowed erosion where it formed a cap, resulting in the dramatic march of cliffs, as the softer sedimentary rock went tumbling down the newly formed Salt and Verde Rivers and as the ancestral Colorado River chewed back north until it captured rivers once north-flowing rivers. This created the intricate topography of the Grand Canyon. The process created the dramatic, 7,000-foot-high plateau atop the Rim, with its meadows, rainfall, snow cover, streams, great rolling forests and views to forever. It also created some of the most rugged, beautiful and inaccessible canyons in the country, draining the bounty of that rain and snow off the Rim to the 1,000-foot elevation of Phoenix. Hikers have long marveled at some of those canyons, like West Clear Creek, Black River Canyon, Fossil Creek, Tonto Creek, the East Verde River, Pine, Sycamore, Oak Creek, Wet Beaver, Greenback, Salome, Sawmill, San Carlos and the immense gash of the Salt River Canyon — with world-class whitewater rafting during the spring thaw and the summer monsoons. The Mogollon Rim also bears mute witness to the violence and unpredictability of life. Coded into the layers of its sedimentary rocks lurk the evidence of two almost unimaginable catastrophes — geological eye blinks in which perhaps 90 percent of the land-based species abruptly vanished. One of those events marked the end of the dinosaurs — which cleared the way for the current age of the mammals. Ironically, the other mass extinction event layered into the face of the Mogollon Rim essentially cleared the way for the dinosaurs — by snuffing out perhaps 95 percent of all living species on both land and sea. Scientists think that the already declining dinosaurs were done in by the strike of a gigantic meteor, which probably left the gigantic, telltale crater now buried in the mud off the coast of the Yucatan. Most scientists believe that impact shrouded the planet in a bone-chilling layer of smoke that lasted for years — plunging the whole Earth into a “nuclear winter” that wiped out every land-based species weighing more than 55 pounds. One thin layer of rock in the face of the Mogollon Rim contains the iridium-rich, melted droplets of stone and fractured “shocked quartz” deposited all over the planet as a result of that impact some 65 million years ago. The slow, 40-mile rattle along a dirt road even most passenger cars can handle provides a lesson in life — for you can stand on a cliff edge anywhere along the way with the wind rising up from the depths and see all the way from the birth of mountains to the end of all things.

Our favorite dirt road drives FOREST ROAD 300 This historic route hugs the edge of the Mogollon Rim for 40 miles of well-graded dirt road. Passenger cars can make it if driven carefully, high-clearance vehicles preferred. Start where Highway 260 tops out on the Rim. You can go right along the Rim above the White Mountain Apache Reservation about 30 miles to Highway 60 outside of Show Low. Or you can go left past Woods Canyon, Bear Canyon, Knoll Lake and others, stopping at the frequent, breathtaking overlooks. After a scenic, half-day drive you return to the pavement at Highway 87 above Pine.

CRACKER JACK ROAD This well-graded dirt road provides access to the lower reaches of the East Verde River, with lots of swimming holes and pristine camping areas in one of the few intact, cottonwood-willow habitats left in the state. Get on about four miles west of Payson at a dirt road turnoff on the west side of the road (look for the stop sign). The road threads through the woods for about five miles before it crosses the East Verde River. It stays close to the river for awhile, before climbing up onto the highlands above the river gorge. It takes about two or three hours to cover the roughly 40 miles to another crossing of the East Verde. You can’t cross here when flows are high after rains. High-clearance vehicle recommended.

CONTROL ROAD This excellent, dirt and gravel road runs along the base of the Mogollon Rim, connecting Highways 260 near Tonto Village with Highway 87 near Pine. Several remote communities scattered along the route. The road provides access to a great swath of territory and to the Highline Trail, a 50-mile route that meanders from spring to stream along the base of the Rim. You can drive the whole route or go halfway and return to Payson on Houston Mesa Road along the East Verde River.

HOUSTON MESA ROAD You can get on this excellent, all-weather

Some of the region’s most scenic drives include Cracker Jack Road (top), which hugs the East Verde River and FR 300 which rambles past Willow Springs Lake (above).

dirt and gravel road right outside of Payson. The road speeds past Beaver Valley before it reaches the East Verde River. It then hugs the river for the next 15 miles, with easy access to swimming holes and stocked fishing holes. If you’ve got steady nerves and fourwheel drive, you can continue onto the Control Road in Whispering Pines then find the easy-to-miss turnoff of Forest Road 199. This road starts off well enough, but deteriorates as you continue until you’re bouncing along over intimidating rocks alongside the East Verde River, where it’s a lovely little trout stream. If you cling to the road long enough, you’ll wind up on Upper East Verde Road, which leads into Washington Park. Nearby, you’ll find a trailhead for a trail that leads on up to the top of the Mogollon Rim.

COLCORD ROAD (FR 289) This meandering, mostly good, sometimes rough, dirt road turns off Highway 260 just before the climb up onto the Rim east of Kohl’s Ranch. The road winds through the forest for miles, treading past several remote

little subdivisions. You can stay on Colcord and wind on climbing up the Rim and connecting to the road to Young, where ranchers and sheepherders staged the bloody Pleasant Valley Wars. Or you can connect to Forest Road 200 and head for Haigler Creek, one of the undiscovered gems of Rim Country. Although stocked regularly with trout, the long dirt road access discourages the anglers who clog Tonto Creek. The creek also has a number of native fish and a population of wild brown trout.

PAGE 28 • SUMMER 2013



Max Foster/Roundup

Renting a boat for trout fishing on Woods Canyon Lake is the stuff of this grandson’s dreams.

A day with the grandkids Trip to a high country lake helps children appreciate nature and life without electronics BY MAX FOSTER ROUNDUP STAFF REPORTER

With eight grandchildren, six of whom live in the Valley, my wife, Kay, and I find ourselves in the summer months hosting one or more of the heat-weary children who arrive primed and ready for a fishing trip to a high country lake. Before we leave on any outing, we insist the grandchildren leave at home all their electronic gadgets and games which can include Nintendos, Wiis, iPods, Play Stations, X-Boxes, Androids and MP3 players that seem to dominate our technology driven so-

ciety. Once those are put up, we set out for our favorite destination — Woods Canyon Lake — because it has a store, boat rentals, wellequipped campgrounds, trails and is regularly stocked with trout. Also the canyon-bound lake is easily accessible by driving 30 miles east of Payson on Highway 260 into the Apache-Sitgreaves National Forest. To reach the lake from SR 260, turn left onto FR 300 (the Rim Road) then north onto FR 105 and proceed about a mile to the lake. Located at the lake is a country store with boat rentals (electric only) and just about everything needed for a successful camping, fishing or hiking trip. For our grandchildren, renting a boat for trout fishing is the stuff of youthful dreams. Most of our grandchildren have become decent anglers, or at least their doting grandmother and grandfather tell them so. A favorite technique when fishing from a boat is trolling a gold KastMaster lure or

Super Duper over 10 feet when it’s hot in the summer. Sometimes, the children use Power Bait and worms, especially when fishing from shore. Over the years, the grandchildren have tested about every other bait available including salmon eggs, Z-Rays, peacock ladies, wooly worms, small nymphs in black, brown or green. If we are lucky enough to be at the lake just after it’s been stocked, the children have enjoyed great success, especially on one trip when a 12-incher was caught on the first cast. Most fish we’ve caught are in the 12-15 inch range, but occasionally we hook larger ones. In the spring and fall, our strategy is to fish for browns with spinners or lures that imitate crayfish patterns. If the grandchildren are eager for a respite from fishing, we turn to the Woods Canyon Lake Trail, which is an easy 5.5mile walk around the lake. Since it is mostly flat with few hills, it’s

the perfect hike for the younger grandchildren. If an overnight stay is in order, the grandchildren’s favorite spot is Aspen Campground along FR 105. It is just 1/2 mile from the lake and although it has 136 sites, they are nicely spaced so we don’t feel crowded. Often the grandchildren bring their bikes to ride through the campgrounds searching for wildlife. After one trip, a grandson returned excitedly telling us he had spotted a bald eagle. Other campers that day also say they saw the eagle near the Rocky Point day use area. Somewhat sadly, each trip to Woods Canyon must come to an end. But in leaving, we depart with a new set of precious memories of quality time well spent with our grandchildren. The kids, I believe, leave with a new appreciation for family, the outdoors and life without electronics.



SUMMER 2013 • PAGE 29

Off-roading Arizona Rim Country offers riders a myriad of trails, routes and byways to explore BY MAX FOSTER ROUNDUP STAFF REPORTER

Membership in the Rim Country Riders ATV/UTV club can afford off-road enthusiasts the opportunity to explore backcountry roads, make new friends and — believe it or not — improve physical fitness. A study done over several years by the Young University Faculty of Health showed a two- to three-hour ATV trip strengthened skeletal muscle and “required real and serious physical exertion.” Also, study results showed ATV driving increased riders’ incorporation of oxygen from 3.5 to 6 times higher than at rest. But most importantly, researchers found emotional highs from rides improve quality of life and reduced stress. Which means, joining a club such as Rim Country Riders can be a boon to an individual’s health. The Rim Country Riders 2013 season kicked off May 18 with a Welcome Back Ride and Lunch and continued May 31-June 2 with the Payson Mountain High ATV Rides. Activities will continue until Oct. 19, 2013 when members take a respite for the winter season. Highlights of the summer include the Tonto Bridge Ride and Membership Drive (July 6), “Dave’s Rough Rim Ride” (July 20), Doll Baby Ranch Ride (Aug. 10) and the Second Annual Scavenger Hunt (Aug. 18). On Aug. 31, the members will ride to Young and in September enter the Justice McNeeley Poker Run near Pine. The biggie on the schedule is the 10th Annual Outlaw Jamboree, Sept 3 to 7 in Eagar. On Oct. 5, the group will ride from the Mazatzal Casino to Gisela and back. In addition to the fun rides, the organization hosts training and safety seminars and does maintenance of OHV trails in the area. The goal of RCR is to work hand in hand with personnel from the Tonto and Coconino national forests and Arizona Game and Fish Department to promote the creation of authorized OHV trails in the Rim Country. The annual membership fee for a family is $30. Individual memberships are $25. To join or for more information, e-mail Applications for membership are available at Big 5 Sporting Goods, Rim Country Power Sports, Four Seasons Motor Sports and the Ponderosa Market in Pine. For more information, call Linda at (928) 476-2626.

THE TRAILS For ATV riders who prefer to explore and ride alone, the Four Peaks to Roosevelt Lake journey is both exciting and scenic. It begins on the Four Peaks Road (FR 143) south of Payson off Highway 87 and continues to SR 188 where riders can eventually return to Payson via the Beeline. Drive time can be as short as four hours or as long as six, depending on the number of stops. The route is very scenic, although the 1996 Lone Fire burned thousands of acres around the peaks. On FR 143 after the Ballentine Trail, 4x4s are required because erosion has damaged trails. The trail is open year-round, but can close in heavy snows. One word of caution — the area has a high concentration of black bears, so visitors should take precautions, especially with food storage. For adrenaline-crazed riders, the journey into Metate Canyon will test a driver’s resolve and the wilderness worthiness of the four-wheel drive vehicle they’re straddling. The route begins in Star Valley and extends onto the Mayfield Canyon Trail before winding through the ponderosa pine forests to Metate Canyon. Along the way, rest stops can be enjoyed at what once was a Native American village, and another at a decrepit cabin that is rumored to have been the home of a miner decades ago.

Max Foster photo

But be prepared, often the route becomes only a wash, wild animal trail or simply an area between trees wide enough to steer your ATV through. Less adventurous riders might want to explore the many Forest Service roads and old logging roads that connect to Chevelon Loop Drive atop the Rim. The drive can be accessed off FR 300, which is touted to be one of the most scenic drives in the state. From FR 300, riders should proceed north on FR 115 past the O’Haco Fire Lookout Tower to the junction with FR 225. The 60-mile loop eventually returns to FR 300. For local ATV owners, one of the most popular spots to ride is the Hayfield Draw/Bryant Park OHV area located eight miles west of Camp Verde and south of Highway 260. The 80-acre open area is limited to ATVs and trail bikes, and there is access to more than 100 miles of designated routes. Another popular area is the Long Draw route, found on the Mogollon Rim northeast of Payson. Located in the Black Mesa Ranger District, it consists of a 30-mile loop trail beginning near Chevelon Crossing at the Long Draw North Trailhead. The route extends to the Long Draw South Trailhead near Chevelon Lake. Both trailheads have toilets and campsite facilities developed through Arizona State OHV Recreation Fund grants. Along the route, there are many opportunities for side trips on shared use, Forest Service trails. In the cold of winter, snowmobilers use the area frequently. An exciting ride to enjoy during the cooler temperatures of fall and winter is the Rolls OHV area located east of the Beeline Highway and south of the Four Peaks Road in the Tonto National Forest. The 27,000-acre area features trails that can be enjoyed year-round, but vehicle travel is allowed only on existing routes. To the south, near Roosevelt Lake, there are many forest roads to explore, including FR 49 and FR 1080 that take you on a circular loop around Deer Hill and into Cottonwood Canyon. Along the route, riders will find pleasure in grandiose views of Four Peaks, the Mazatzal and Sierra Ancha wilderness areas and of Roosevelt Lake. Along the trail, foliage includes towering cottonwood trees, saguaro, cholla, jojoba and oak.

Other popular ATV excursions are trips to Crackerjack Mine and the Verde River, along the Young Trail and through the Dude Fire area.

A NEW BREED The popularly of four-wheeling can be attributed to the variety of high-tech ATVs now available to the public and the myriad of trails, routes and byways riders have to choose from. Today’s state-of-the-art ATVs — with price tags that can now exceed $15,000 — feature powerful 800 cc electronic fuel-injected engines, on-demand all-wheel drives, automatic transmissions, radial tires, independent rear suspensions and comfortable ergonomics for easy riding. There’s little doubt, today’s machines are vastly superior to the original three-wheelers manufactured by Honda in the 1970s. Longtime riders will remember those ATVs — commonly called “Big Red” which sold for about $600 — as being underpowered, recreation-only vehicles with balloon tires that were easily flattened, and a chassis shaped like an isosceles triangle. After being introduced to America from Japan, popularity soared when sportsmen found the vehicles to be useful for exploring remote areas where larger four-wheel drive trucks and Jeeps couldn’t reach.

SOME PRECAUTIONS Before venturing into the backcountry for an ATV outing, remember to be prepared for the unexpected. To ensure a safe trip, always tell someone where you are traveling and when you’ll return. Also, don’t go alone, and pack at least one gallon of water per person per day. Always wear eye protection, gloves, a long-sleeved shirt, long pants and boots. State motor vehicle laws apply on many FS roads, which means your vehicle must be registered and the rider must be licensed. In other words, being “street legal” is the best option before setting out to explore the countryside. Newcomers should take advantage of an ATV rider course. For information on ATV opportunities, call the Payson Ranger District, (928) 474-7900; or the Tonto National Forest office, (602) 225-5200. The Rim Country Regional Chamber of Commerce also has ATV recreation guides.

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Calendar of Summer Events features a community breakfast starting around 7 a.m. and a popular Navajo Taco lunch. There is no admission, but proceeds from booth rentals benefit community services in the Pine and Strawberry area. For booth space application, contact Gail Jones by phone at (928) 978-0469 or by e-mail at

JUNE Saturday, June 22, 8 a.m. to noon — Payson Farmers Market, 816 S. Beeline Highway, behind Chili’s. Fresh produce, organic coffee and teas, jam, chipotles, canned vegetables, free range beef, tamales, hummus, fresh bread, meatballs, fudge, honey, pecans, local art, live music, pony rides and much more. The farmers market is held every Saturday through September — same time and location.

Saturday, July 6, 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. — Free concert in the park with John Carpino and The Hot Cappuccinos, another popular local group, which plays a wide variety of music. Tuesday, July 9 — Deadline for early registration discounts for 2013 Fire on the Rim Mountain Bike Race, Pine. Go to for details. Saturday, July 13, 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. – Free concert in the park with Big Daddy D & The Dynamites, featuring blues.

Saturday, June 22, 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. — Free concert in the park with Breaking Point, featuring top 40, jazz, blues and country. Concerts are in amphitheater area of Green Valley Park — from Highway 87 (Beeline), turn west at the light on Historic Main Street and follow the road to the rock building (Julia Randall Elementary School), turn north, park and walk to amphitheater area. Vendors open at 6 p.m. Bring lawn chairs or a blanket to enjoy music under the stars. Friday, June 26 — Deadline for early bird discount on Arizona Press Women’s Writers’ Retreat at the Merritt Lodge, near Payson, July 27-28. Enjoy an overnight stay that includes four meals for a discounted rate of $95 if reservations are made by June 26. For details, contact Carol Osman Brown via e-mail: or call (928) 468-9269. You also can contact Gail Hearne at (928) 472-7132. Saturday, June 29, 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. — Free concert in the park with Junction 87, a popular, local band playing country favorites with a rock edge.

Monday, July 15 — Deadline to register a team for the 2013 ASA Girls Fast Pitch End of Summer Madness Tournament, to be played starting at 9 a.m., Saturday, July 27 and Sunday, July 28 at Rumsey Park. The cost is $400 per team. Call Payson Parks, (928) 474-5242, extension 358, for details and to register. Saturday, July 20, 8 a.m. — Payson Area Trails System Hike, Houston Trail, to metates; two miles, easy terrain; meet at Houston Mesa Trailhead, a mile east of Highway 87 on Houston Mesa Road; wear appropriate clothing, including hiking boots or closed-toe, sturdy shoes and bring water.

JULY Thursday, July 4 — All-day Fourth of July Celebration at Green Valley Park — from Highway 87 (Beeline), turn west at the light on Historic Main Street and follow the road to the rock building (Julia Randall Elementary School), turn north to reach the park.

8 a.m. — Patriotic ceremony with a flag-raising and recitation of the Declaration of Independence at the Veterans Memorial, Green Valley Park. 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. — Fun and games at Green Valley Park, including sack races, egg toss, a community tug-ofwar and the 4th Annual Payson Arizona Foot Races. 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. — Free concert with Nashville recording artist Candyce & The Raizen Kane Band at Green Valley Park amphitheater. 9 p.m. — Fireworks over the lake at Green Valley Park. Parking space is limited, so a shuttle will run from Payson High School to Green Valley Park. To get to the high school, from Highway 87 (Beeline) at the Highway 260 intersection, turn west on Longhorn Road, then turn left on McLane Road, the PHS parking lot is on the left. Saturday, July 6 and Sunday July 7, 8 a.m. — Pine Strawberry Arts & Crafts Guild Fourth of July Arts and Crafts Festival, Pine/Strawberry Community Center 15 miles north of Payson on Highway 87 in Pine. Approximately 80 vendors bring a variety of arts and crafts, goodies and more to share with savvy shoppers. The festival is from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., Saturday and from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m., Sunday and generally

Saturday, July 20, 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. — Free concert in the park with Southern Flight Band, featuring country, rock and blues. Saturday, July 27, 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. — Free concert in the park with John Scott Band, a popular local group, which plays blues. Monday, July 29 — Deadline to register for Trail GPS (102) class, to be held at 9 a.m., Saturday, Aug. 10 at Parks Office in Green Valley Park. Participants should be familiar with their GPS device, or have taken GPS 101 class. Bring GPS unit, owner’s manual and computer connector cable. Cost is $10.

More Events on page 31



SUMMER 2013 • PAGE 31

AUGUST Saturday, Aug. 10 and Sunday, Aug. 11 — 3rd Annual Mountain Daze at Pine Strawberry Community Center. Enjoy a pancake breakfast by Knights of Columbus at 7 a.m. The festivities are from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday and from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Sunday. There will be a Kids Kraft Korner, music by DJ Craig, antique cars and tractors, craft festival, food vendors, door prize drawing (no purchase to win), and a drawing for a kayak. Tickets can be purchased in local stores and at the PSBC information booth during other festivals. Saturday, Aug. 10, doors open at 6 p.m. — The Highwaymen, at tribute to Waylon, Cash & Nelson, Mazatzal Hotel & Casino, 1/2 mile southeast of Payson on Highway 87; $15 in advance and $20 at the door, call (1) 800-777-PLAY. This 90minute country music tribute show is full of upbeat, honky-tonk hits like “Ring of Fire,” “Dukes of Hazard” and “On the Road Again.” Monday, Aug. 12 to Saturday, Aug. 17 — Arizona State University Sun Devils return to Camp Tontozona in preparation for the 2013 football season. Call the Rim Country Regional Chamber of Commerce, (928) 4744515, for details.

Thursday, Aug. 15, gates open at 5 p.m., performance at 7 p.m. – Cactus Series Women’s Professional Rodeo Barrel Racing, Payson Event Center, 1/2 mile southwest of town on Highway 87; admission is a can of food for area food banks. Friday, Aug. 16, gates open at 5 p.m., performance at 7 p.m. — 129th Annual World’s Oldest Continuous Rodeo opens at Payson Event Center, 1/2 mile southwest of town on Highway 87, with a Tough Enough to Wear Pink show — for every contestant and audience member wearing pink, funds will be contributed to breast cancer research and breast cancer support groups; 9 p.m., rodeo dance at event center follows rodeo with free admission with rodeo tickets. Tickets are $10 to $18, go the for details. Saturday, Aug. 17, 8 a.m. — Payson Area Trails System Hike, Peach Orchard North; 4-1/2 miles, easy to moderate terrain; meet at Peach Orchard Trailhead off of Country Club Drive and Peach Orchard Road, across from Payson Golf Course; wear appropriate clothing, including hiking boots or closed-toe, sturdy shoes and bring water.

Saturday, Aug. 17, 9 a.m. — Annual Rodeo Parade on Historic Main Street, from Green Valley Park to Sawmill Crossing; come early with the whole family, and bring comfortable chairs. You may read additional information and download parade entry forms, etc. at the Web site (just open the forms tab). If you have any questions, please contact the Kiwanis at: or write to: Kiwanis Club of Zane Grey Country, P.O. Box 2507, Payson, AZ 85547. Saturday, Aug. 17, gates open at 11 a.m., performance at 1 p.m. — 129th Annual World’s Oldest Continuous Rodeo at Payson Event Center. Tickets are $10 to $18, go the for details. Saturday, Aug. 17, gates open at 5 p.m., performance at 7 p.m. — 129th Annual World’s Oldest Continuous Rodeo at Payson Event Center, will celebrate patriots and feature the U.S. Marine Corps Mounted Honor Guard. A dance follows the rodeo at the event center at 9 p.m., free admission with rodeo ticket. Tickets are $10 to $18, go the for details. Sunday, Aug. 18, gates open at 11 a.m., performance at 1 p.m. — 129th Annual World’s Oldest Continuous Rodeo at Payson Event Center — Family Day. Tickets are $10 to $18, go the for details. Friday, Aug. 23, Saturday, Aug. 24 and Sunday, Aug. 25 — 2013 Payson Kickin’ in the Pines Soccer Challenge at Payson’s Rumsey Park and Camp Tontozona; the area’s first soccer tournament; cost is $300 per team; for details and directions, contact the Payson Parks Office,

(928) 474-5242, extension 358. Saturday, Aug. 31 and Sunday Sept. 1, 8 a.m. — Pine Strawberry Arts & Crafts Guild Labor Day Arts and Crafts Festival, Pine/Strawberry Community Center 15 miles north of Payson on Highway 87 in Pine. Approximately 80 vendors bring a variety of arts and crafts, goodies and more to share with savvy shoppers. The festival is from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., Saturday and from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m., Sunday and generally features a community breakfast starting around 7 a.m. and a popular Navajo Taco lunch. There is no admission, but proceeds from booth rental benefit community services in the Pine and Strawberry area. For a booth space application, contact Gail Jones by phone at (928) 9780469 or by e-mail at

SEPTEMBER Friday, Sept. 13 through Sunday, Sept. 15 — Fire on the Rim Mountain Bike Race in Pine; campsites open at noon, Friday, Sept. 13, with the beer garden opening at 4 p.m. and a spaghetti dinner for participants at 6 p.m.; ride 15-, 30or 45-mile races Saturday, Sept. 14; break in the new bike trail in Pine Sunday, Sept. 15. Go online to for details and directions.

Saturday, Sept. 21, 8 a.m. — Payson Area Trails System Hike, Cypress and Boulders North, 4 miles, easy to moderate terrain; meet at end of Phoenix Street at Boulders Trail access; wear appropriate clothing, including hiking boots or closedtoe, sturdy shoes and bring water.

PAGE 32 • SUMMER 2013


Scenic Vistas & Highways


Rim Country Adventures 2013  
Rim Country Adventures 2013  

Payson Roundup's Summer Guide 'Rim Country Adventures' 2013