Fun In The Sun Includes Cooking And Hiking

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For outdoor enthusiasts starving for exploration, the Payson Parks and Recreation Department has cooked quite the feast.

Or, for those yearning to cook their own, attend a Dutch oven cooking class from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m., Saturday, July 12 at Rumsey Park.

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Payson is Arizona's gateway to the great outdoors. Hikers don't even have to leave town to find great trails to traverse.

For $30 per person, up to 16 people can learn to cook camp-style from the reigning Dutch oven aficionados, said Mary McMullen, Payson's outdoor recreation coordinator.

"That's a really neat class," she said. "You name it, they can do it in a Dutch oven." People form groups, then cook. One makes dessert, another an entrée, one a yeast bread.

And at the end, they eat. Ovens are provided.

On Aug. 16, learn how to use GPS to make waypoints, find specific locations of interest, and make tracks. The class meets from 8 a.m. to 11 a.m. at the Payson Area Trails System (PATS) Boulders Loop Trail Trailhead, at the east end of Granite Dells Road. Register from July 7 to Aug. 1 for $10.

On Aug. 30 and 31, the first-ever Women's Step Outside Weekend offers women the opportunity to learn about camping, wildlife preservation and archery.

Biodegradable clay pigeons will serve as targets at the Jim Jones Shooting Range Saturday afternoon. Women can shoot with a rifle or bow and arrow.

Sunday morning features a hike at Tonto Natural Bridge with naturalist Randy Babb from Arizona Game and Fish.

"I think it's going to be wonderful," McMullen said.

The overnight excursion, with camping at Houston Mesa Horse Camp, costs $50 and includes meals.

In keeping with the parks department's goal of planning one hike each month, there will be hikes in July and August.

The 2.6-mile excursion on July 19, labeled "moderate" (for intensity and skill level), traverses the American Gulch Trail South. Enjoy views of the Mazatzal Mountains and the Rim.

Meet at 8:30 a.m. at the trailhead, which you can find 3.6 miles west from Highway 87 on Main Street.

On Aug. 23, hike the five-mile Round Valley Trail, listed as moderate, though the parks department warns of loose rocks and occasional steep slopes. The hike starts at 8:30 a.m. Meet at the South Phoenix trail access, 1.5 miles east on Phoenix Street from Highway 87 on the south side of the road.

PATS will eventually form a network of more than 40 miles of trails that will cater to joggers, riders, bikers, hikers, tourists and town residents seeking a dose of the wild in an otherwise civilized life.

While budget cutbacks have some concerned that Payson's recreation department will need to cut its offerings, McMullen said the impact shouldn't be significant.

"We're trying to do programming that has minimal costs that still provides the residents of Payson with a wide variety of recreational activities."

To learn more about the Payson Area Trails System and the many recreational programs available through the Payson parks department, call (928) 474-5242, ext. 7. Extended information is also available online at www.paysonparks.com, including registration materials for upcoming programs.

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