Going up to 6000 feet, we watched the landscape change.
We drove through two small towns. If I had to guess, the industry in this area would be logging and tourism. I'm pretty sure lots of people come up from the Phoenix area to camp in the summer to escape the heat.
And speaking of coming from the Phoenix area, I would do that next time I visit Payson. I'm told that Highway 87 is a much easier drive than the way we came. I have a tendency to get carsick on winding roads, so this is good for me to know. The drive from Cottonwood on AZ Highway 260 (which incidentally our GPS calls aah-zee 260 - took us a while to figure that one out), which eventually hooks up with Highway 87, is a bit too much for me. It was easier going back down that coming up, perhaps because I wasn't looking over the embankments.
Anyway, we went through the town of Strawberry - not much there, a few shops and probably a restaurant. The photo of the street did not turn out, unfortunately.
And then through Pine, which is a bit larger. If you are familiar with the Washington Coast, think Grayland.
We drove into Payson, and I was surprised at how big it was. I'm not sure why, but I was. There was a Super Walmart, a Big Lots, a Home Depot, Walgreens, lots of restaurants and shops, a Bashas (my favorite Arizona grocery store chain), a hospital. It was fairly good sized - a large town/small city.
We caught up with my friend Debbie at her rig at the Ox Bow Estates RV Park. This is a smaller park with some long term residents, but it appeared clean and well cared for. There were restrooms and showers and a community center, but no pool or other "resort amenities". I'm not sure big rigs would fit, but it was a nice little place out of town.
Debbie drove us around to see her favorite parts of the area, including a drive through the Houston Mesa Campground in the Tonto National Forrest. They looked like very nice campsites. I think they were all dry camping, and looked a little small for our rig, but it was lovely.
We opted to have lunch at Mazatzal Hotel and Casino We decided on Friday's Fish Fry at the Cedar Ridge Buffet. And as a bonus - we all qualified for the senior discount! Kim and I had dinner plans with his aunt and uncle so we did not have time to play at the casino. However, I did a walkabout and found many of the older reel to reel machines as well as newer video ones, and my favorite nickel and quarter keno/poker machines. I will definitely make time to try my luck next time we are in Payson!
Soon it was time to head out. I understand the cost of living is reduced in Payson as there are many retirees in the area. We decided to fill up the truck as we found diesel at $3.81 per gallon at the local Circle K/Shell station.
The drive back down the mountain to Thousand Trails Verde Valley took about 90 minutes. I waved goodbye to the trees.
Tomorrow, we are off to Old Town Cottonwood, and Jerome.