Winter is a special time in the Rim country.
It's cool. It's quiet. And the gentle evolution from verdant green to shades of autumn to winter white make the simple act of enjoying the scenery an event in itself.
But there's plenty of other fall and winter-type recreation opportunities to keep even the most active person involved.
Cross country skiing at Forest Lakes
Forest Lakes Touring Center offers 360 sets of ski rentals (including skis, boots, poles and bindings), 32 miles of groomed trails in the Apache-Sitgreaves National Forest, lessons and tours.
Owner Tim Grier, who has been operating the facility for 27 years, offers a $16 day package that includes equipment rental and trail pass.
"Cross country skiing is great for beginners," Grier said. "There's a saying -- ‘If you can walk, you can ski.' It's pretty true. You can go at your own pace and shuffle along."
A major advantage for the novice cross country skier is advances in equipment.
"It used to be a lot of work 27 years ago when they had heavy wooden skis and you used to have to plow through the snow yourself," Grier said. "Now, we groom trails with snow cats so you're not busting through snow. Equipment is a fraction of the weight it used to be."
Grier laughs at people who compare cross country skiing to what it was a quarter century ago.
"We didn't have VCRs or microwaves back then, and cross country skiing has progressed just like everything else," he said. "With light equipment, manicured trails and no-wax skis, it has become a very user-friendly sport."
Grier also has seven cabins right on the ski trails which rent for $78 to $95 per night on weekends and less during the week. Reservations are highly recommended.
Other lodging facilities are available in the vicinity, including Forest Lakes Lodge.
"A lot of people just come up to play in the snow," Grier said. "We're at 7,800 feet of elevation, so a lot of people come up to throw snowballs, make snowmen -- just all types of winter play. The terrain is flat so it's not real great for sledding."
Forest Lakes Touring Center, located 36.2 miles northeast of Payson on Highway 260 in Forest Lakes, is open Wednesday through Sunday from 8 a.m. to 5:30 p.m.
For more information, call (928) 535-4047.
Sledding at Cinch Hook
Sledding and tubing opportunities exist throughout the Rim country, weather permitting of course, but one of the favorite spots is Cinch Hook Snow Play Area.
The 10-acre gravel pit just north of Strawberry will be open on weekends when sufficient snow is on the ground to make it safe.
"We need at least a foot-and-a-half to open that area. It usually opens around mid-January," Jeannie Gilbertson, information officer for the Mogollon Ranger District, said. "There are also some side roads between the 260 and 87 junctions around Clint's Well," the spokesperson said. "ADOT usually clears a little area off the road where people can park and there's lots of little hills to play in the snow."
The Christopher Creek area also offers some sledding and tubing opportunities, local resident Marlene Hagen said.
"The snow is just wonderful, especially over towards Tonto Creek," she said.
Both the Payson Ranger Station and the Blue Ridge Ranger Station caution people not to venture into restricted or remote areas.
"You can't go where it says ‘No Parking' or ‘No Entrance,'" Gilbertson said. "Otherwise you can go just about anywhere."
For more information or an update on snow conditions, call the Payson Ranger Station at (928) 474-7900 or the Blue Ridge Ranger Station at (928) 527-3670.
One of the more traditional ways to enjoy the Rim country is on the back of a horse. If you didn't bring your own, Kohl's Stables, behind Kohl's Ranch Lodge, is open year-round for your riding pleasure.
Rides leave every hour from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., and one-, two- and three-hour
trail rides are available. Rides begin at $25. For more information, call (928) 468-0064.
Kohl's Ranch is located 18 miles northeast of Payson on Highway 260.
Payson Parks and Recreation
From the ever-popular Trunk-or-Treat event to barrel racing and pole bending competitions, Payson Parks and Recreation is offering a full schedule of fall and winter activities that includes something for everyone.
For more information, call (928) 474-5241, ext. 7.
FALL YOUTH ACTIVITIES
Youth Basketball divisions include seventh- and eighth-graders who play from Sept. 22 to Oct. 10, second- through fourth-graders from Nov. 24 to Dec. 12, and fifth- and sixth-graders from Dec. 29 to Jan. 16. Registration fee is $20 per child and includes a T-shirt, minimum of 10 games, and season-ending pizza party.
Fundamental football and team skills are taught in flag football. For boys and girls 8-14, the league runs for approximately four weeks beginning in early October. Cost is $20 per child.
FALL ADULT ACTIVITIES
Adult Coed Volleyball
Both competitive and recreation divisions are available, with a four-team minimum for each. Entry fee is $175 per team and includes an end-of-season tournament. Games begin in October.
Women's and Men's Volleyball
Both competitive and recreation divisions are available, with a four-team minimum for each. Entry fee is $175 per team and includes an end-of-season tournament. Registration is Nov. 3-21, with play beginning in early December and ending in early February. There will be a holiday break.
FALL SPECIAL EVENTS
Riding Into Fall
Barrel racing and pole bending competitions continue through October on Wednesday evenings at the Payson Event Center. The two events alternate each Wednesday, with time-only barrels following barrels competition. Registration is at 5:30 p.m. with the action starting at 6:30 p.m. Cost is $5 per run in competitive events and $3 for time-only.
Trunk or Treat
Payson Parks and Recreation provides the candy for costumed volunteers to distribute from their vehicles at this annual kid-pleaser. This year's Trunk or Treat will take place from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. Friday, Oct. 31, in the parks and recreating parking lot at Green Valley Park. Prizes will be awarded for best costumes and car decorations. Music, raffles and games are also part of the fun.
Turkey Trot 5K Fitness Walk-Run
A pleasant 3.1-mile fitness walk-run, this event begins and finishes at Green
Valley Park amphitheater. The starter's gun sounds at 10 a.m. sharp on Saturday, Nov. 22. Entry fee is $15 per person in advance or $20 per person after 5 p.m. Nov. 21. All pre-registered participants receive a souvenir race shirt. Overall winners receive turkeys.
Payson area youngsters can place letters to Santa in a special mailbox at the Parks and Recreation Office, 1000 W. Country Club Drive, from Nov. 17 through Dec. 12. All letters will be sent directly to the North Pole and Santa himself will reply to each with a personalized letter.
Main Street/APS Electric Light Parade
Get into the holiday spirit with an old-fashioned community Christmas celebration on Dec. 6. Festivities begin at 3:30 p.m. when Santa visits children at Julia Randall Elementary School's historic Rock Building. Children can have their pictures taken with Santa, play games, win prizes and devour hot dogs, hot chocolate and cookies, compliments of the Knights of Columbus.
At 6 p.m., Santa will review the lighted floats in the third annual Main Street/APS Electric Light Parade. Food vendors, featuring such delicacies as Krispy Kreme doughnuts, See's candies, cinnamon rolls, cookies, chili and hot dogs, along with seasonal beverages like hot chocolate and cider, will line the parade route, which runs this year from Green Valley Park to Sawmill Crossing.
Rim Country Western Heritage Festival
Western-themed demonstrations, an open microphone for cowboy poets, book-signings by western authors, a children's minifest and an old-fashioned western melodrama highlight this year's fourth annual festival from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Saturday, Oct. 25, in and around Green Valley Park. For more information, contact Donna Garrity at (928) 474-5102.
Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum Trip
One of Arizona's premier attractions, the museum features several hundred species of wildlife and exhibits. With two miles of paths on 21 acres, you'll want to bring comfortable shoes. The bus leaves the Payson Parks and Recreation office, located at Green Valley Park, at 7:30 a.m. Nov. 4. Cost is $23 per person, which includes round trip motorcoach and museum entrance fee.
Fishing at Green Valley Park
Green Valley's lakes are stocked with trout from October through May. All Arizona Game and Fish regulations are in effect.
WINTER YOUTH ACTIVITIES
Youth Tumbling Clinic
Three sessions will be offered for children in grades K-5 from Feb. 16 to March 5.
A second camp will be held from March 22 to April 7.
Registration is $25 per child.
Youth Wrestling Clinic
For children in grades 2-6, this camp runs from Feb. 17 to March 4. Registration is $25 per child.
This youth basketball division for children in fifth and sixth grades begins Jan. 16, 2004.
Registration fee is $20 per child and includes a T-shirt, minimum of 10 games, and season-ending pizza party.
Divisions will be for children 12 and under and 10 and under, with games played from late March through mid-May.
Registration fee of $20 includes a T-shirt and team pizza party.
WINTER ADULT ACTIVITIES
Two divisions feature coed and men's teams. Entry fee is $375 per team and includes a double elimination tournament at the end of the season.
Games begin in mid-February.
Old Tucson Trip
Following a guided tour of this western movie-making facility, you'll enjoy lunch and then some free time to explore the town and its shops on your own.
Trip takes place March 3, and $48 per person cost includes round trip bus, park admission and lunch.