Four-Wheel The Outback

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To a real adventurer, there aren't many experiences more thrilling than going places and seeing things few other people know exist.

That's what you get with Payson Adventures, Inc., a two-year-old outgrowth of Rim Travel Service that offers a variety of four-wheeling excursions throughout Rim Country.

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Four-wheeling alternatives in the Rim country include going it on your own or taking advantage of one of the area's local tour companies.

The company's brochure lists three- to four-hour excursions around Payson, along the Young Trail, to Crackerjack Mine and the Verde River, to the site of the Dude Fire and the Tonto Fish Hatchery, along the Rim Trail, to the Tonto Natural Bridge, and/or to various locations around Roosevelt Lake all on relatively smooth Forest Service roads.

But there are a number of options and charter possibilities not on the company's official menu such as the three-and-a-half hour jaunt to Agate Mountain, which rises a majestic 800 feet above Houston Creek Canyon. And the Metate Canyon Tour, a true four-wheel-only trek that begins in Star Valley and proceeds up the Mayfield Canyon Trail and bounds across terrain that consistently looks flat-out impossible to pass until you see it in the rear-view mirror.

Although the truck stays on designated trails, there are no real roads, or anything that resembles a real road, even when you stand back and squint. In this part of Rim country, the thoroughfares are washes, animal trails, and, as it seems to the untrained eye, any space between trees or boulders that looks large enough for your driver to brave often at gravity-defying angles which elicit the type of human screams most commonly heard on roller coasters.

Chuck Jacobs, the former Payson fire chief who owns and operates Payson Adventures, also serves as driver and tour guide for most of the company's outings. He and fellow driver Randy Roberson are veritable encyclopedias of information that's fairly useless in town, but real handy in the wilds like how to best avoid rattlesnakes ... which types of forest vegetation, if ingested, can shut down your central nervous system ... and which direction is downtown Payson?

In other words, they are precisely the brand of tour guides you want on a wilderness adventure.

"This has just been fabulous," said Tempe resident Elaine Ferrance after a four-wheel trek to Metate Canyon. "Being cooped up in an office eight hours every day, 40 hours a week, and then to come out here in nature and just feel it, it's just wonderful. It's so revitalizing."

"I can't believe we only got eight miles (as the hummingbird flies) from town," said her husband, Art. "The whole experience is really like water-rafting like being in a boat and going places you could otherwise not get to. It's not a sit-back-and-look-at-the-view type thing. This is the first time we've ever gone four-wheeling, and now I can see why people do it."

To make reservations with Payson Adventures, Inc., call (520) 474-8808.

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