Things To Do When They Close The Forest

AROUND THE RIM COUNTRY

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It's summer in the Rim country, and you know what that means -- drought.

Some parts of the forests in the Payson Ranger District are already closed, and more will probably follow -- a condition that strikes fear into the hearts of the Payson business community and the entire staff of your Rim Country Regional Chamber of Commerce. If you can't go camping, or otherwise enjoy the forest, why would you want to come to Payson in the first place?

Sam Lowe wrote a piece about Payson that appeared in the "Travel & Explore" section of the May 16 edition of The Arizona Republic. Headlined "Payson is more than a gas stop," it proceeded to depict the area as the perfect, well, gas stop.

Lowe went into excruciatingly boring detail about such things as the height above sea level of the Mogollon Rim and how Zane Grey left the area "in a huff." Two photos were included with the article, one of the Tonto Natural Bridge, and one -- get this -- of the Sam Haught cabin beside the Rim Country Museum. Hardly a compelling reason to stop and spend a few days in Payson.

I think the town is getting a bum rap as a tourist attraction, because there are plenty of things to do in the Rim country -- even when the forest is closed. And just to prove my point, I have compiled a list of them:

  • Camp on someone's lawn.

Camping is what the Rim country is all about. So when the forest is closed, just camp somewhere else. Pick a house, any house, and set up camp. Hey, it beats the Wal-Mart parking lot.

  • Suck on ice.

So it's not much different from what you do every day down in the Valley, but the good news is that it lasts longer up here in the cool, dead pines. In fact, I think a new Rim country tourism slogan is in order -- "More Suck for the Buck."

  • Count stuff.

Counting is clean, wholesome fun for the entire family, and we've got lots of unique stuff to count up here in the Rim country. For starters, tourists can count the cars on the Beeline. On a summer weekend, it's guaranteed to keep them occupied for hours.

But your serious counter dudes will soon demand a tougher challenge, and that's when we move them over to counting Payson Concrete & Materials caps. So far, they have proven sufficient for even the most prolific counter.

But now, we have a new challenge for Olympic-caliber counters -- bark beetles. "What?" you ask. "How can you count bark beetles when the forest is closed?"

Bark beetles are everywhere -- in the trees of local residents, in your hair and socks, seated next to you at the Dairy Queen enjoying a Blizzard after a hard day of forest destruction.

  • Throw money in my yard and make a wish.

What is it about wishing wells that make people fill them with coins? You could say, "There's a sucker born every minute," or you could say, "Throw your money in my yard and make a wish." I will even guarantee that your wish will be granted. However, I can't promise when.

  • Hold a Trashathon.

This is already an Olympic sport for Valley campers visiting the Rim country. Although the forest is closed, there are plenty of perfectly lovely places for you to toss your beer bottles, dirty diapers and assorted and sundry other trash. We wouldn't want to deprive you of what you enjoy most.

  • Take noise readings at The Door Stop.

It's the in thing to do in the Rim country. First prize for the individual recording the highest decibel reading -- an all-expenses paid trip for two to the beautiful Mazatzal Mountain Air Park subdivision. Here you'll be wined and dined, as long as your sound level meter consistently registers in excess of 65 decibels.

But don't use the word "elitist" while you're there. Although residents are not at all concerned about their image, there's something about that word that just sets them off.

  • Stroll through the land that time forgot.

The new Deming Heritage Park at Main Street and McLane features the history of the Rim country in 23 display cases mounted on the facade of J.W. Boardman's Mercantile Store. Only problem is, there's nothing in them yet -- even though the history has happened and the park opened recently. Which begs the question: What if they built a history park and forgot the history?

And that, visitors from the Valley, is what life in a small town is all about. Welcome to our closed little corner of the world.

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