Mary McMullen is passionately endorsing the first-ever "Women's Step Outside Weekend" as an exciting and rewarding program sure to pique the interest of all who participate.
"This is going to be something very special," she said. "The purpose is to learn more about outdoor recreation in a safe, fun and non-threatening atmosphere."
McMullen, the town trails and outdoor recreation coordinator, is teaming with the Arizona Game and Fish Department, Tonto Rim Sports Club and the Chandler Rod and Gun Club to host the event Aug. 30 and 31.
Although McMullen will have plenty of help during the weekend, she's no stranger to the outdoors.
She spends much of her workday carving out paths in the Payson Area Trails System (PATS), is married to an Arizona Game and Fish officer and can often be seen riding an ATV or hiking in the Tonto National Forest.
During the two days of the event, the base site will be the Houston Mesa Horse Camp located two miles north of Payson near the junction of SR 87 and Houston Mesa Road. The campsite has tables, grills, flush toilets and showers.
For the overnight stay, campers will need to bring their own sleeping bag, pillow and air mattress.
The women will also travel to the Jim Jones Shooting Range and Green Valley Park for camp activities. The weekend kicks off at 7:30 a.m., Aug. 30 and wraps up at 12:30 p.m. the following day.
During the overnight camp out, the women will be introduced to camping skills, wildlife conservation, fishing, shooting and archery.
At the Horse Camp, they will learn how to efficiently and expertly set up tents, safely hitch a trailer, build a campfire and about camp etiquette.
Among the most inviting highlights of the event will be the presence of the Chandler Rod and Gun Club who prepare all the weekend meals. McMullen promises the dishes will be lip-smacking delights.
The Valley club is known statewide for its delicious cowboy camp cooking and Dutch oven prepared meals, especially wild game.
At Green Valley Park, the women will receive expert angling instruction from Game and Fish officers and the Chandler club.
"They'll learn how to set a line, reel, where to look (for fish) and other (skills)," McMullen said.
The campers are also slated to visit the TRSC shooting range where they will fire .22 caliber rifles, learn archery skills and shoot biodegradable clay targets with shotguns.
"We've got special permission from the club for the clay targets, which they normally don't allow," McMullen said.
Also on the camp agenda are hands-on sessions in outdoor photography, wildlife conservation and natural environment education.
Programs similar to the Step Outside Weekend are held around the country including the highly popular Becoming an Outdoors Woman (BOW) in Portland, Ore.
The program coordinator there touts the weekends as great opportunities to meet others with similar interests and as chances to learn new skills or improve existing ones.
BOW offers 25 classes, including most of those the Payson event will host as well as rock climbing and canoeing.
In the Blue Ridge Mountains of North Carolina, a women's only weekend of whitewater rafting is held annually.
To participate in the local event, campers must be at least 16 years of age. The registration fee is $50, which includes all meals.
Registration may be completed at P&R offices located at Green Valley Park. The deadline is Aug. 22.
For more information, call McMullen at (928) 474-5242, ext. 358.
"I'm real interested to see what the turnout will be for this," she said. "We are hoping it will be fantastic."