For many families, the time between Christmas and New Year's is for visiting family, and often this means traveling out of state.
If you have been watching the national weather, Arizona is the place to be. It's hard to beat sunny days and 55 to 65 degrees at 5,000 feet or the mid-70s in Tonto Basin. These are perfect conditions to enjoy the outdoors in central Arizona.
Hiking our numerous trails is a great way to enjoy the scenery, as well as get some valuable exercise with all the holiday meals and treats. The trails under the Rim at this time of year are far less frequented and allow for family and friends to get a good look at the picturesque Mogollon Rim. Short half-day hikes when the sun has warmed the air, are perfect on the Highline, Horton or Fossil Creek trails.
Other trails to try at the lower elevations, which present a more desert environment, would be the Barnhardt or Deer Creek trails. They are a bit more popular in the winter months. Make sure you are wearing good hiking shoes and always take plenty of water.
If your visitors are Arizonans and have urban fishing licenses, then Green Valley Lake would be a special in-town destination. It is stocked twice per month with catchable rainbow trout, in the 10-12 inch range. Green Valley Lake will be stocked next week with more than 300 pounds of fish.
The park's winter residents of ducks and geese certainly add to the entertainment as they fly the lake area. You won't want to miss showing your friends and relatives Green Valley Lake, Payson's jewel.
Another destination is the Tonto Fish Hatchery, nestled under the Mogollon Rim 17 miles east of town on Highway 260. This state-of-the-art hatchery rears trout from the fry stage until they are released as catchables into our streams and lakes for the spring and summer fishing seasons. The big hit with my friends and family is feeding the giant trout that are on display in the lower pools at the hatchery. As you walk around viewing the operation, take time to scan the horizon and the majestic Mogollon Rim with its 1,000-foot cliffs. This is another half-day trip that truly shows off our Rim Country.
Every family has its special time at Christmas and there are usually a couple of days after the 25th when time allows for our family's annual clay pigeon shooting contest. The Sopeland and Pirch guys get together and get those shotgun barrels hot trying to outdo one another blasting away at clay birds. Needless to say, the boys in some real friendly, but competitive, shooting challenge the two dads.
As your friends and family visit for the holidays, make sure you allow them to take in the Rim Country with all of its splendor, and remember the reason for the season.