Hiker Shares Secret, Special Trips

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Editor's note -- There are all kinds of experts making their home in the Rim Country. If there is one person who knows about almost every hike in the area, it's Dave Engleman.

When we have a question about trails and hikes, he is our "go to guy." So we asked him to contribute the following about hiking in the Rim Country for the 2006 Summer Guide.

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The Payson Packers' Table Top hike provides participants with a panoramic view of the lower portions of the Rim Country. The winding ribbon on the valley floor is the Beeline Highway.

Q - Someone told me that there is a hiking group in town called the ‘Picker' or ‘Puckers' or something like that.

A - Yes, there is. It's called the Payson Packers.

Q - Do you know anything about them?

A - You bet. We just celebrated our 25th anniversary.

R - Wow!

A - The Packers was started by a woman with just a handful of hikers, and now it has grown to more than 125 members. We make every effort to hike a different trail every week -- 52 weeks a year, rain or shine.

Q - Does the Forest Service have that many trails?

A - No, and many of their trails today are getting bad because of a shortage of money to hire seasonal trail help.

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Hikes by the Payson Packers are not limited to the area just around Payson. This is a hike in the Coconino National Forest, to Tom's Creek.

Q - So what do you do? If you don't repeat hikes, how do you do a different hike each week?

A - Well, we purchase Forest Service "topo" maps. they date back to about 1972, and I do believe that those folks who prepared them were comedians. It's amazing what you can find on them. I mean, when you look at the map and it says "Dirty Neck Canyon," how can you resist doing a hike in that area?

Other wild hikes have names like "Wolf Hole," "Hicks and Duncan," "Pole Hollow," "Pig Spring," "Snafu," "Kinder Draw," "Yellow Jacket," "Corduroy Wash," "Lucky Gully," and the "Jug Hike." Now that is a great one. You hike three miles downhill into a canyon to look for some sort of a "jug" and then hike three miles uphill, without ever finding the jug.

Probably the hardest hike we have done was a 14-miler to a seldom visited Native American ruin known as "Towel Canyon Ruins." It was a beautiful, but unusually hot March day that surprised us, and coming up out of the canyon, stumbling over andesite or basalt volcanic boulders became a real hardship."

Q - Don't you get lost going into the wilderness like that?

A - No, we never get lost. Actually you can throw away your compass. We now have a Global Positioning System (GPS) -- a neat, little of invention that has a window and some buttons on it, and you hold it in your hand and point the window to the sky. Suddenly you see in the window some lines and dots, and -- bingo -- the window shows you exactly where you are on the surface of the earth. You save that info in the system and no matter which way you go, you can always find your way back to "start." It is nice to take other readings as you hike through the wilderness, just in case you want to repeat the hike another day. It works great, assuming you tell the instrument what country and state you live in, and then hope it doesn't slip back to a spot called "Afghanistan." If it does that, you may want to have your sleeping bags until the satellites find you again.

We also do some cave exploring and go outside the Payson area to visit and hike at state and national parks and monuments. These hikes are overnighters.

Seeing all the hikes that are available may encourage you to start hiking with us. If so, contact one of our leaders: Diane at (928) 478-4567; Harry, (928) 472-8147; Dusty, (928) 468-6292; Bob, (928) 472-2239; or Dave, (928) 474-3040. There is no charge to participate and we would love to lead you through "Hells Gate" into the wilderness.

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