The communities of the Mogollon Rim are full of outdoor escapes to suit most anyone, whether they are bound north, southeast or east from Payson.
Pine, Strawberry, Christopher Creek and Tonto Basin are towns with opportunities to meander down quaint streets and visit historic landmarks of area pioneers. Antique shops, gift stores and art galleries to peruse abound. You can enjoy a meal and perhaps live music at a local restaurant and forget -- for awhile -- the pace of the city in a rustic lodge or hike and camp in the woods.
Promenade through Pine
The little hamlets of Pine and Strawberry have grown since Mormon pioneers settled them in the 1800s.
Now they are home to year-round residents and people with summer homes who enjoy the Rim Country elevations.
In Pine, art and antiques, ice-cream and fudge, sandwiches and full meals can all be found within walking distance of each other along with historic sites such as the relocated and restored one-room library Isabelle Hunt founded.
Antiques and gift items can be found at either end of Pine. Moose Mountain and Tymeless Treasures are located just a bit off the highway at the south end of town on Hardscrabble Road, or check out the rotisserie chickens and subs at the Cool Pines Deli. On the Beeline there are more than a dozen places to roam. Down the Beeline you'll find Myra's Gallery, Cozy Corner Crafts, Sweet Charity, Pine Station Antiques and Trains, The Herb Stop and Pine Country Antiques on the west side. Blue's Gallery, Our House Specialty Gifts and the Randall House on the east side of the highway.
Treats on your promenade include ice cream flown in from Hawaii at the Gingerbread House, fudge made fresh at Pine Creek Fudge, and honey busily created by local bees at the Honey Stand. The little Pine Village Bakery inside Ponderosa Market features bread and Danish, while pizza is available at Uncle Tom's Qwik Stop.
The Randall House serves up fresh baked goodies. The pies, cakes and sweet treats are the first things you will see and smell upon entering the restaurant.
If you like your Mexican food with karaoke, then you can get your fix of both at Pine Verde Mexican Restaurant on Friday nights.
Check the schedule at Sidewinder's for live music to go with your cold brew on Sunday afternoons.The Rimside Grill will be hosting live MUSIC on the patio every night.
For more information, call (928) 476-3349, Wednesday through Sunday.
Stroll through Strawberry
The oldest schoolhouse in the state is located a few miles drive up the Beeline (Highway 87) in the town of Strawberry.
Admission to the 111 year old Strawberry Schoolhouse, which is a registered historic site, is free.
Schoolbooks from the early 1900s await the eyes and minds of visitors to the fully restored one room school.
It is open from mid-May through mid-September, located three miles west of Highway 87 on Fossil Creek Road.
Giuseppe's is the place to go for fine Italian food in Strawberry while the Strawberry Lodge offers traditional hearty fare or you can wet your whistle at The Sportsman's Chalet.
Just outside of Strawberry on Black Bear Road the Mogollon Steakhouse is serving up steaks and live music.
In need of a place to retire for the evening now that your belly and shopping bag is full or just want to soak in the local scene of tranquil pines? Accommodations are available in both communities.
Strawberry Lodge, Cabins on Strawberry Hill, Pine Haven Bed and Breakfast, Windmill Corner Inn, Pine Creek Cabins and Up the Creek Bed and Breakfast are about the area, as well as an impressive array of antiques and artifacts.
Find calm in Christopher Creek
Follow the ribbon on Highway 260 east as it cuts a swath through the sheltering pines. At mile marker 272 on the north side of the highway is the turn-off for Christopher Creek.
Deer, elk, raccoons, wild turkeys and 250 species of bird dwell in the forest surrounding spring-fed Christopher Creek.
According to locals, elks walking through the center of town are a frequent sight.
One of the locals' favorite hikes is the six-mile round trip portion of the Highline Trail. Forest Road 284 starts across the street from Tall Pines Market. A 1-1/2 mile drive down 284 will lead hikers to the start of the trailhead.
"The path is well marked and is quite beautiful where it crosses the water," Debbie Ashbrenner said.
The horse in front of Tall Pines is a photo opportunity for parents with small children.
Inside the market is just about everything a weekend camper could want -- ice-cold beverages, steaks, fresh fruit and a host of canned goods, munchies and gifts.
There are grills (make sure there are no fire restrictions) to roast your hot dogs and burgers.
An assortment of bait and tackle is available for those who can outsmart fish in the creek or prefer the lake fishing in nearby Woods Canyon, Willow Springs and Knoll lakes.
Enjoy your leisure time with a real bed as opposed to a tent?
Christopher Creek's many rental cabins have made it a destination get-away from city life.
The Village at Christopher Creek offers a stocked trout pond for its guest to fish in; the gurgle of the town's namesake creek can often be heard from the porch of Christopher Creek Cabins.
Also in town are Creekside Cabins and Grey Hackle Lodge. A little deeper off the beaten path are Wooden Nickel Cabins, Mountain Meadows Cabins and Tonto Creek Hideaway.
Links to recreational opportunities may be found at www.christophercreekarizona.com.
Right steppin' in Rye
In the tiny community of Rye, 9 miles south of Payson, you can test your skills on Saturdays at Tonto Rim Sportsman's Club and archery and firearms range, or stop by the Yard Sale Shop for some unique "junque."
But arguably, the hub of Rye (and the larger nearby community of Gisela) is the Rye Bar and Grill on Highway 87.
It is open seven days a week, with live entertainment and dancing on weekends, along with western dance lessons on Thursday evenings.
Tying on the bait in Tonto Basin
The bass are cruising the new cover in Roosevelt Lake.
Located just a few miles from the bait shops and plentiful RV hook-ups in Tonto Basin, the 75 percent-full lake offers summer anglers "the best fishing in Arizona," said Bill Kile.
Kile is a local resident who moved to the Tonto Basin area for family and fishing.
Roosevelt is really a bass fisherman's lake, he said, but crappie, "arguably the best fish to eat," along with catfish and bluegills, are also taking the bait.
The Tackle Box, The Butcher Hook and Highway 188 Tackle Shop all carry tackle, bait and gear.
The Butcher Hook is also a restaurant and bar.
"The big fish of spring was a 13-pound, large-mouth bass caught by Terry Wilbanks," said Dennis Pirch, proprietor of The Tackle Box.
"The bass fishing is excellent right now," he added.
Roosevelt is also home to water and jet skiers and swimmers. In the heat of summer, the surface temperature of the water is around 80 degrees. There are pleasant coves to swim in all around the lake.
For four-wheeling, hiking, wild flowers and birding, the Tonto Basin area is also the place.
The Chamber of Commerce office, at Rattlesnake Lane and Highway 188, is open from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday. For more information, call (928) 479-2839.