Every Tuesday a group of people gather just south of the Sears store between the hours of 6 a.m. and 8 a.m.
They have hiking packs. Some have hiking sticks. There are men and women. They stand around for 15 minutes or so and then they are gone.
All that remains is a large group of cars. The group appears every week -- winter and summer, spring and fall.
Are there that many Forest Service hiking trails within an hour's drive from Payson, you ask? Of course, the answer is "no."
Faithful readers of the Payson Roundup may glance at the "Organizations" section of the paper and see, once a month, a list of hikes for the Payson Packers hiking club Group "A." Every month, the list appears and every month there is a different hike.
That's 52 different hikes a year. Some people are just natural hikers. They have a great sense of direction or watch the sun's location. They never get lost.
Today that has changed. Let's observe the beginning of a hike. The notice in the paper simply says "Kinder Draw."
Taking the Beeline Highway north, the Packers' cars turn right onto Coconino Forest Road 141 located just south of Clints Well.
Driving the well-maintained road, someone yells, "here is a good place to park." They do that, and exit the cars. Men and women are putting on their packs.
Someone says, "We are near Jones Crossing, let's go that way." But wait.
If you were observing them you will see two, three or four hikers standing still, in the sunlight, holding some small colorful gadget about the size of a small digital camera.
Aha! Man's newest and famous invention, the GPS. That is short for Global Positioning System. That little system selects some small man-invented satellites circling the earth.
The GPS pulls in those satellites and tells the hiker exactly where he is on the face of the earth. The GPS owner locks that position into the instrument and doing so, they will always know exactly where they started their hike and a straight-line direction to the starting point.
The hike leader, however, is one step ahead of the group. Using Forest Service maps, the leader installs into his GPS "waypoints" taken from the map where the group can make turns and in the case of this hike, into drainages or meadows or ponds, or even established trails.
The "Kinder Draw" turned out to be a great and scenic hike of 7 miles. Starting from the car, they hiked down the 141 road to a place called Jones Crossing.
Crossing that bridge over East Clear Creek, they left the road and hiked about three miles downstream in a usually dry creek.
The GPS showed the draw or drainage the leader had lifted from the map, showing East Clear Creek, and at the point the hikers wanted to turn left. There, the leader looked at his GPS to see the location of their starting point.
The GPS showed him that the group could make a great loop hike, and so they moved up the draw. Soon, they reached a scenic point out of the waterbed where there were some large rocks where they could stop and have a break to snack and rest.
Then it was time to move on. They continued up the draw a mile or two, climbed out of it on a steep hill and, looking at their GPS, they found the direction back to their cars.
Here, decisions are made as to which way to go, to either lengthen or shorten the hike.
The group decided to bushwhack through the forest, taking in all the scenery, and stumbled across an established hiking trail that led in the direction they wanted to go.
It proved to be a beautiful hike. The trail led to a small summer home area and a road that took them back to the starting point of the hike.
This is not to say that an experienced hiker with a good sense of direction could have done the same thing without the GPS, however, the GPS does help settle the minds of those without the skill of direction.
It was a great hike. All of them are. But the GPS has opened new possibilities.
That is why, if observers of the Roundup Organizations column notice so many different Payson Packers hikes -- 52 different ones a year -- they know how that is done.
That is why you see so many different hikes listed -- hikes with weird names like Turkey Tank, Nash Point, Table Top, Dirty Neck, Worm Hole, Quaking Aspen, Stage Coach, Cracker Jack, 2 Cabin, Boone Moore, Pole Hollow, Black Mountain, Sheep Springs, Oxbow, Jesse James Island, Upside Down Lollypop, Wolf Hole, Pig Spring and Jug-A-Lug to name a few...and its all fun.
Go take a hike, and happy trails.