Bucking broncs. Whooping cowboys.
Roaring spitfires. Whirling helicopters.
All manner of hoopla, on a perfect spring weekend.
So it would be easy enough to miss the big event of the weekend — a quiet, little ribbon cutting in front of a brand new ramada in Pine.
At first glance, you’ll notice nothing all that remarkable about the roomy shade structure for all the community events to come — just a raftered, open building made of logs and beams. Nothing special.
Of course, that’s just the point.
Those aren’t real logs — although they look the part.
They’re pressed logs, made from a new, high-tech process that turns spindly little pines into impressive-looking beams and timbers — just as strong as a big old tree and treated in the process of manufacture so they’re nearly immune to insects and water damage.
Such wood products may just save the forest — and each of the Rim Country communities, all menaced by the very forest that makes them such magical places in which to live.
As we’ve observed so often in this space, each fire season the Rim Country must dash down another dangerous gauntlet — hoping once more to duck a fatal blow. A once fire-resistant forest with 100 trees per acre has been transformed by mismanagement into a tinderbox with 1,000 trees per acre. But hand-thinning overgrown forests costs $1,000 per acre — a ruinous cost.
So the only real hope is the reinvention of the timber industry to make money on those small trees. Given dependable, long-term contracts, high-tech mills and a market for a new generation of wood products, that industry can restore the forest at little net cost to taxpayers.
That’s why the dedication of the ramada in Pine might turn out to be the most important thing that happened in Rim Country last weekend — much as we love the rodeo and those wonderful vintage airplanes.
So we’re indebted to Gila County Supervisor Tommie Martin’s clear and vital focus on this issue — and to the many volunteers in Pine who raised the money for the new structure and volunteered their time to put it up.
So go have a sit and think in the Pine ramada and spend some time studying those beams.
Sometimes the big ideas are like that — quiet as the deep forest.
Edging past a tight spot
Ever been in a tight spot canyoneering? You know that feeling: You set out in shorts and sneakers on a perfect August day, and head down an alluring little side canyon. You climb down a little rock wall, you slide down a spillover, you trust to the weather and your nerve. But it’s a beautiful day — What could go wrong?
Then comes the monsoon: The water turns chocolate brown and the rocks rolling along the swollen streambed make a scary grinding sound. So you turn and hurry back up the canyon — inching up past the slippery spots you came down so blithely in the balmy promise of morning.
That’s kind of what it’s like now as Rim Country edges back into the tourist season — after a long, bleak winter. No doubt, we got way down into the slot canyon. Stores have closed, treasured restaurants are shuttered, the town’s reserves are gone, the layoffs left sad scars and builders seem like an endangered species.
Still, the clouds have thinned. We’ve had a couple of good weekends — thanks to some great local events. We’re heading back into the season, without having lost any motel rooms. We’ve had decent turnout for a couple of new events. The Civil War was never so fun, muscle cars never so shiny, bronc riders never so handsome and spitfires never so sexy. Moreover, we’ve now got the Sawdust Festival coming up.
And, hey: Tonto Natural Bridge State Park will reopen just in time for Memorial Day. Hopefully, many of the 1,000 people who have stopped in at the Payson visitor center asking for directions will head back up and stay a spell.
And by the way — they’re double-stocking Tonto Creek and the East Verde this week — so grab your pole and enjoy the fishing before the crowds (we hope) arrive.
So, maybe we’re past the worst spot.
Lord willing and the creek don’t rise, we just need to white knuckle our way up a couple more of those spillovers and maybe we’ll see the way out of the canyon.
Just don’t look down. Grab the next handhold. Mind your feet. We’ll get out of here yet.