Take a Trip, Never Leave the Farm Chapter One

We thought it was kind of handy, Take a trip and never leave the farm! Jim Stafford.

Describes how I feel about all the hiking adventures available in the Phoenix Parks. My goal has been to discover more opportunities and hikes available right here in the city, so I started last week with Deem Hills and this past week I decided to explore the Sonoran Preserve and the three trail heads available.

Usually I am out hiking with my lovely wife Carolyn but our days off have not matched up very well, so I’m hanging out around home just doing some city hikes. I’ve discovered that Phoenix has great urban trails and a fantastic park system.

Day One Hike got off to a late start due to agreeing to take my mother to an appointment. She lets me know around noon that she canceled her 1 appointment and rescheduled the following morning so having little time to hike, I rushed out to the Desert Hills Trailhead and started on my journey around 2:00. w6puqhxzrkctksbefvfjdwI took off on the Sidewinder Trail believing that I was going to do a seven mile loop trail back to the trailhead. It was beautiful outside and the trail didn’t have much traffic and I sure enjoyed the solitude in the desert even though the city is just around the corners. Some up and down areas that challenged me over the course of the hike. Plenty of desert views and you could see Four Peaks, Black Mountain and other points of interest while on the trail. qt96w3lzreevoec6thq1eqSome 2 hours later, I see the parking lot ahead and I notice that this isn’t the parking lot I started from but it is the Apache Wash Trailhead. I’m thinking, “seriously, I now have to take the Ocotillo Trail six miles back to my car?” So off I went finishing just as the sun went down and hiking over 13 miles. Glad I had plenty of water and some snacks and a headlamp even though I did not need the lamp but glad I was prepared. I was tired and headed on home but proud of the fact that I had managed to do 13+ miles in an afternoon. fullsizeoutput_6f2Good news, on this long hike I saw no cigarette butts, just a couple discarded or dropped tissues, few dog turds, one playing music on a speaker, and a few broken bike parts. The hike was by my standards moderate with some good elevation gains and losses but all gradual and none extreme. When your ups and down get an elevation gain of 1700 plus feet, I think I got a decent workout. It was a nice challenge and most of the mountain bikers were considerate but there were a few who believed the trail was only for them. You know them when you see them. There are ways to take a loop that gets you back to your original trailhead but I missed that memo. The trail would also be suitable for running. Next up, more hikes in the Preserve.


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Re”Deem”ing Hikes In The Hills

Deem Hills that is. I made a commitment that I would hike in local Phoenix park areas that to be honest, I didn’t know they existed. Phoenix Parks Department has done a marvelous job in preserving and creating an urban setting that is conducive to hiking and biking. I am amazed at the number of trails that exist and are really worth exploring. I for one, seem to get caught up in wanting to hike in many of the far off places without exploring my own backyard so the past several days I set out to hike every trail in Deem Hills Park. Am I ever glad I did.

Day One started off with a good omen as I drove down the 51 and saw this vehicle bearing my last name “Fruth” driving next to me. fullsizeoutput_6efDon’t see my name very often in Arizona so I took that as a good sign. I went to the west entrance off of Happy Valley Road and 51st Avenue. The park is very nice with restroom facilities, soccer field, dog park and plenty of parking.

It was a cloudy overcast day that turned into a rainy day while out on the trails but I was prepared and actually looking forward to hiking in the rain it the desert. There is something magical about hiking in the rain in the desert. I set out on the Circumference Trail which is advertised as a little bit less then six miles. I meandered on to the Basalt Trail and the Palisade Trail and back on the Circumference Trail to my car. I was entertaining the thought of hiking all the trails including the Ridgeline but with the rain getting heavier I finished up for the day and headed home.

My GPS told me that I had a total elevation gain of 1461 feet. I traveled a total of eight miles and loved every minute of it. fullsizeoutput_6eeI came across about 10 others so I had plenty of solitude and time to myself and my thoughts on life. There is much to be said about being alone on trails for several hours.

Day two, starts off with my own tasty version of some “bulletproof” coffee to fuel my inner hunger cravings and my goals for the day. fullsizeoutput_6daI drove the 20+ miles and the weather was completely different. Sunny, few clouds and once again few hikers on the trails. This time I took the Circumference Trail from the 39th Avenue side to the Palisade Trail and then to the Ridgeline Trail. From the Ridgeline, back to the Basalt, on to the Palisade and this time down to the Water Tank Road back to the car. A little over five miles and I finished what I started. What a glorious hike. The views were incredible.

Here I am in the city but yet alone in the desert.  This time my GPS App tells me that I had total elevation gains of 999 feet. fullsizeoutput_6dbInteresting. The  yellow is starting to come out on the plants and the birds were out in force. Just beautiful to soak up the sunshine on my five mile journey.

I knocked off this park, so on to my next city hiking adventure. Sometimes we can find what we need just down the road.

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Back On The Wagon Trail

With several days off and some nice weather forecasted, Carolyn and I jumped in the car and headed to Sedona after I got off of work. Being a Thursday, traffic was not too bad and we arrived at the Hilton Sedona Resort at Bell Rock in the Village of Oak Creek just in time to check in and walk down to the ending of happy hour at the Cucina Rustica. (Love my Hilton Benefits) Place was packed but they found us a seat so we could get a couple bargains.

Being that the night was young we finished up and walked up the road to PJ’s Village Pub a local gathering place in the village that serves up one of our favorite craft beers, the 928 Local, a farmhouse ale from Wanderlust Brewing Company. PJ’s was packed and an elderly lady directed us to her table so we would have a place to sit. It just happened to be a local’s 50th birthday party so the place was rocking and rolling. The DJ was amazing and really worked up the crowd and we jointed in the dancing and festivities. (Sort of crashed the party.)

Back to the Hilton after an early evening, we slept in, got a great breakfast (Hilton Honors Gold Member benefit) and had one of our usual servers Patti take care of us. We aren’t quit regulars but we’ve spent quite a few nights and always good to see the same faces. Carolyn and I debated about postponing our scheduled hike and taking it easy but we decided that after falling off the wagon, it was time to get back on the wagon. ie the Munds Wagon Trail #78. fullsizeoutput_6d5

What a beautiful day for hike. Mid 50’s, sunny, off-season in Sedona, just perfect conditions. Munds Wagon Trail follows along Schnebly Hill Road. One of the complaints about the trail is that during the busy times, there is a lot of noise from all of the jeep tours that roll up the road. We were in luck as there was little activity on the road due to off season. Passed only a few people on the trail and we loved the quiet time together as we hiked the almost four mile trail. The trail gains about 1100 feet in elevation but it is gradual and the trail was hard-packed from the recent moisture. We saw snow in the shaded areas but no wildlife. The trail passes Merry-go Round (Carousel) Rock and many have probably seen pictures of this area as it is very popular for wedding photography due to the spectacular views down into Sedona. Munds Trail ends at Schnebly Hill road and the beginning of Schnebly Hill Trail. (that’s for another day)

Carolyn and stopped often to enjoy the views, take some photos, and just take in the red rock experiences again.

The last time we had hiked the trail was about 10 years ago and it was great to revisit. The trail is moderate and has few rocks to stumble over. For me it was a five star adventure. Along the trail you pass Hangover Trail (probably a joke in there) and Cow Pies Trail that loop together and is close to about a nine mile hike start to finish.


Hangover Cow Pies Loop

Carolyn and I decided to tackle that on our next Sedona outing, weather permitting, if we can get out and get going earlier in the morning.

Our total hike time was about 3.5 hours and that time included plenty of stops along the way. Perfect time of year to be out and about in the Red Rocks. No vortex this time but one can sure feel the energy flow no matter where you are in the Red Rocks.

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Beautiful Day

It was a beautiful day
Don’t let it get away
Beautiful day
Touch me
Take me to that other place
Reach me
I know I’m not a hopeless case
What you don’t have you don’t need it now
What you don’t know you can feel it somehow
What you don’t have you don’t need it now
Don’t need it now
It was a beautiful day
by U2
Quick update on my journey in life. Carolyn works for Southwest Airlines and I do a part-time retirement gig for Hilton and we have been enjoying the hookup. So a new year, a new day, and it was a beautiful day.
Some time early in the week, I had mentioned that we should go to San Diego and escape some of the wintery colder weather in Arizona. Carolyn responded that sure lets jump on a plane and go but only if we hike Mt. Woodson a place that harbors the infamous “potato chip rock”. I get the hotel and Carolyn lists us on the flight. Traveling light with backpacks that contain backpacks for water plus one change of clothes and deodorant, etc. We have got this down pretty well.
I’m always a bit hesitant flying standby but Carolyn has us listed on a plane that actually has some vacant seats (7:00 am departure). The first hurdle is done and we arrive in San Diego at about the same time as we left. Our next adventure is to ride public transportation (the bus) to Poway, CA and our hotel where we can keep our stuff and head on over to the hike. After a couple minor missteps, we catch the first bus and head to downtown San Diego, make our bus connection and we arrive at the Karlan Doubletree around 9:30. Brian checks up and he is about as pleasant a young man you could ever have. We get our room, eat breakfast, call Lyft and take our eight mile drive.
We are on the trail by about 10:45 and with the schools being on break, we expect some crowds around the summit and potato chip. From Lake Poway we hike around 4 miles with a total elevation gain of about 2100 feet so it is challenging. The scenery is fantastic as you can see all the way to the Pacific, into downtown San Diego, and looking north, you can see some snowcapped mountain which just might be San Jacinto Peak. The very top has many antennas for radio, etc but you just have to get over that. It would be sort of like South Mountain in Phoenix that has multiple antennas at the top.

The crowds aren’t to bad but of course there are 30 to 50 folks hanging out to get their photo taken on the potato chip. I have to get my photos and it is a bit intimidating to get to the chip as you have to jump out to it. Carolyn opts out.

We have made to “Potato Chip” but we still have a short walk to the summit. So up we go to the top of Mount Woodson. No crowd here as everybody is hanging out for that perfect photo op. Nice and quiet with views everywhere.

As we have conquered the summit before 1:00 pm, and considering we started in Phoenix, I’m thinking we have done a whole lot for a day but the whole afternoon awaits. As we descend to the Mt. Woodson trailhead we make a decision to hike the long way back by continuing on the Lake Poway trail that circles the reservoir and adds two more miles to our hiking adventure.

On to our next Lyft and this time we get a retiree from Scottsdale to drive us to a well deserved small close by brewery: Abnormal Beer Company. Very appropriate for me being an abnormal individual. This is all part of the Cork and Craft which a very cool setting for beer and wine. You know the place must be good when the head brewer once worked at Green Flash. I go with the Mocha Stout and Carolyn snags their the Abnormal Blonde Ale. By the way their poutine was very good and it filled us up.

Next brewery stop on our way back to the hotel is Second Chance Beer Company. From their site it states, “Every day is a second chance, so get out there and seize yours. Build the world you want. Strive for greatness and forge your own path. Possibilities are endless. Start your journey and come raise a pint with us.” That my friends, that fits me perfectly and is the perfect spot to end our day’s adventure. The place is crowed, the bartender is friendly and informative and the locals include a school teacher that I got to visit with.

What a day, but we still have to get home. We start out our day with a walk to Costco. Why not? I love Costco and we find a couple clothing buys to bring back home. Once again we take public transportation (the bus senior fare $1.25 and Carolyn’s fare of 2.50). Sure saved us a whole bunch of money. So to make up for our saving money, we hit several happy hours. First up Barleymash. Great happy hour with a great bourbon and whiskey list and most are half off during happy hour. So I tried the Woodford Reserve Double Oaked Bourbon and it did not disappoint. Smooth, smooth, easy sipping bourbon. The quail wings were fantastic and they even bought us beer. Server was outstanding, friendly, and what a pleasant surprise with a free beer. Our last stop before the airport has started to become a tradition for us. Ironside Fish and Oyster is a favorite as we pick up some oysters for a buck each during their happy hour and their clam chowder is so good. Bartender was great and gave us some more hiking ideas for when we return. From Ironside, we walked about a mile and a half, got on our flight with no problem and were home and in bed by 11:30.

Not a bad start for a new year with a new adventure. It really was a Beautiful Day.


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Running Down A Dream: NYC Marathon Adventure Begins

Yeah runnin’ down a dream
That never would come to me
Workin’ on a mystery, goin’ wherever it leads
Runnin’ down a dream

Tom Petty

Carolyn and I have been on a mission to enjoy life to its fullest and have had some memorable experiences along the way. Our latest adventure would become one of our all-time favorite trips as we had an adventure for the ages. Our journeys usually include a little craft beer and this one will be no different. Mix in Carolyn’s relatives, a marathon plus a presidential election and it becomes an epic adventure. I have tried to include links to places and events so you can see what we were experiencing. So it begins.

Carolyn has been running down her dream to participate in the NYC Marathon and after several previous year setbacks due to other events, this was to be her year. Carolyn had qualified for the NYC Marathon by running the Tucson Marathon several years ago in a phenomenal time of around 3:28 and some change.

It was Thursday evening, and me being me finally got my stuff packed up and ready to go. Would you expect anything other then that from me? (Carolyn had packed and been ready for several weeks) We had our boarding passes and were ready to go but first a stop at Sky Harbor Terminal 4 Four Peaks Brewery. Why not? 8th Street Ale for me and a SunBru for Carolyn. Thursday night football was on so it was fun hanging out just chilling.

Time to fly, except our American Airlines flight is delayed from 10 pm until 11 pm. Most may know that Carolyn works for Southwest Airlines so why would we fly on American? Very simple answer, we used our accumulated miles to fly for free with a guaranteed ticket. It’s a beautiful thing to fly for free.

Finally we board only to sit in the plane for another hour until we finally take off. I drift in and out of consciousness as we make our way to JFK Airport. Upon arrival, we are something like two hours late and we pick up our Uber for 35 bucks and head the 25 miles to the world famous Roosevelt Hotel. Oh my, the trip only takes us an hour and 40 minutes. Uber requires no tip, but in this case I’m throwing cash to our driver since it was no fault of his that our plane’s lateness threw us into a massive traffic jam that resembled the world’s largest parking lot.


Carolyn getting her racing packet.


Carolyn with her racing number.

Upon arrival, we check in and rest. I’m in full on dream mode when Carolyn wakes me for the start of our day in Manhattan. Since it is a beautiful day to be outdoors, we head on over to a Starbucks for some caffeine aka coffee walk the 1.5 miles to Javits Center to pick up Carolyn’s racing packet and hang out at the pre-race place.  Javits is fascinating, and there are participants and volunteers everywhere. We talk with many including a young lady from Tempe, AZ who was working in marketing in NYC. She recognized that ASU logo on my sweatshirt so I was glad I wore it. There were many exhibits and opportunities to spend money on a variety of merchandise plus some fantastic free samples to munch on. It really was something to behold. Our journey was moving along at a phenomenally.


Heartland Brewery, Empire State Building

On our walk back to the Roosevelt, we stopped along the way in search of New York brews. This included a Brooklyn Lager at the Grand Central Oyster Bar, a favorite bar in one of my favorite shows Mad Men, and a dinner at TGI Fridays in Times Square. Fridays? Well lets just say I had a gift card that was about three years old that I could never use in AZ so why not? Finally a stop at Heartland Brewery for an award winning oatmeal stout in the Empire State Building.  Carolyn is of course going for the lighter stuff. Many years ago, Carolyn and I had a drink in a TGI Fridays that was located in the Empire State Building. I’m thinking that Heartland Brewery took its spot so it was sort of deja vu drinking.

Time for a walk back to the Roosevelt and one of New York’s finest craft brews, The Coney Island Mermaid Pilsner. This was soon to become Carolyn’s favorite New York craft beer. Carolyn still has a marathon to run so it is time to rest up as we are fading fast.

It was only Friday, but Sunday’s a coming.

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Counting Stars: Everything That Kills Me Makes Me Feel Alive

Lately, I’ve been, I’ve been losing sleep
Dreaming about the things that we could be
But baby, I’ve been, I’ve been praying hard
Said no more counting dollars
We’ll be counting stars
Yeah we’ll be counting stars
I see this life, like a swinging vine
Swing my heart across the line
And in my face is flashing signs
Seek it out and ye’ shall find
I feel the love and I feel it burn
Down this river, every turn
Hope is our four-letter word
Make that money, watch it burn
One Republic
Those lyrics speak to me frequently and are on on my mind as once again, Carolyn and I hit the road for our annual hike into the Grand Canyon for another life time adventure. It was our overnight trip for breakfast at Phantom Ranch.
Thursday evening of Labor Day weekend, and I’m way ahead of schedule compared to previous years as I packed and was ready to go as soon as work was done. That’s just not me but I’m learning. We arrive in Flagstaff and once again it is rainy but we decide on Smashburger. You know when you have the BOGO offer, who could possibly refuse. Plus it is sort of traditional now that we stop there, then grab a Dunkin Donuts coffee and head out.
But a detour is called for. We go to Williams first so can see up close and in person the newly located Grand Canyon Brewing Company. It is really something else. Now I’m not into grabbing a beer, yet, since we still have a long journey in front of us but the bartender insists that I sample anything I want so I will know what I want when we return. Great customer service. Let me tell you, they have a seasonal brown ale bourbon barrel based that it is fabulous. The coffee bean stout is pretty tasty as well. But small samples and off we go to the Canyon.
We arrive at the Canyon with plenty of time to spare and it is cold and rainy. The ground is wet, we are shivering but we are ready to head down into another spiritual sojourn in the depths of the canyon. Our start is earlier but it is wet and I’m just a bit nervous. The only light is our headlamps and I’m always concerned about slipping or turning an ankle you know old age related worries. (Everything that kills me makes me feel alive.) The sky miraculously clears and with no moon all we see are stars.
Not a soul on the trail but us. I’m anxious but I continue my trek. We see deer peering at us from the brush at Indian Gardens but not a person to be seen. As we were heading into Indian Gardens, Carolyn suddenly stops and there is an owl sitting beside the trail not more then 10 yards in front of us, watching us. We stand and watch for about 10 minutes and it finally flies off. In the native world, owls are not necessarily a positive vibe. My anxiety levels increase knowing that we have now had some supernatural encounter with this mystical bird.
What a lonely journey down, down, down into the deep dark depths of the Canyon. It is so dark that you can only really hear the Colorado River but seeing is out of the question. We finally encounter humans as we head to the bridge. Crossing the bridge in the darkness is beyond eery. We arrive at Phantom Ranch around 3:50 a.m. so we can rest on the benches by the creek until it is time for breakfast. They alway ring a bell to let you know that it is time to eat and after all we have paid good money for these breakfast reservations and I look up and see nothing but stars. It is beautiful and I dose off with visions of bacon running through my brain.
I wake with a start, and I look at my watch. It is 5:10 and I wake Carolyn and let her know we are late. No bells have rung and we walk in and everybody is eating away and there are our two seats waiting for us. I am so happy that I woke or we might have missed out on those fabulous pancakes, thick crispy bacon strips, scrambled eggs, and coffee that is just great. We indulge ourselves and enjoy conversing with those around us. Clearly they think we are nutty to hike overnight for breakfast only to turn back around and head up. Great group of people who had mostly hiked down the previous day, spent the night, and were now trying to figure out if they could get out of the Canyon. Duct tape was being used on various blisters and it was a sight for sore eyes and worth the trip.
I have decided that this year I am not going to overeat. So only five pancakes and nine pieces of bacon. And this year I did not line my pockets with leftover bacon strips. I have matured. (meaning my wife said no Tim) After all last year I ate 10 pieces and took a few more for the trip back up.
It is 6:00 and time to roll on out of here. The sun is coming up and we have got a long way to go. Carolyn reminds me that we will have some craft beer waiting up on top if we make it. So off we go, and we are doing ok. We pass multiple hikers and yet we get passed by hikers. By the time we reach Indian Gardens, the score card reads 8 passed and 10 passed us. We are losing but joy is straight ahead, all those who passed us minus three are laid out by the water faucet. We smoke ’em and never see them again as we continue our assault on the craziest climb. We pass and we pass hiker after hiker and our score card reaches 30 kills to 5 who killed us. We clear the top in 4:58. Not bad for an old man with his athletic wife.
I’ve made it! We get to the car and Carolyn pops the trunk and by golly Fat Tire collaboration beers are waiting on ice. We have only been up for about 30 consecutive hours and 9.5 hours of hiking 20 miles with elevation drops of 4,400 feet and another 4,400 hundred feet elevation increase. I’m beyond tired but feeling a high that needs no artificial or natural supplements.
We are living the dream and continue on for our traditional Grand Canyon brew while sitting on the porch at the world famous El Tovar hotel. The lyrics to one of my favorite songs are rolling through my head:
Old, but I’m not that old
Young, but I’m not that bold
And I don’t think the world is sold
On just doing what we’re told
I-I-I-I feel something so right
Doing the wrong thing
I-I-I-I feel something so wrong
Doing the right thing
I couldn’t lie, couldn’t lie, couldn’t lie
Everything that kills me makes me feel alive
Lately, I’ve been, I’ve been losing sleep
Dreaming about the things that we could be
But baby, I’ve been, I’ve been praying hard
Said no more counting dollars
We’ll be counting stars
I’m trying my best to move beyond counting dollars and instead counting stars. After all Old, but I’m not that old knowing that everything that kills me makes me feel alive and I’m alive.
We get to spend several nights at the Maswik Lodge and we even drive to Williams on Saturday for happy hour at the Grand Canyon Brewing Company. Can you imagine two dollar drafts on a Saturday from 2 to 6? Incredible.
Our time at the Canyon is always special. But I’m thinking just maybe, Carolyn can take me on a dinner date at Phantom and then hike after dinner to the top. Hiking down at night was a bit rougher on me this year and I’m thinking it might be safer for ankles hiking up at night. Just a thought.
Jordyn put together the following video with some of our photos. We didn’t take many this time but (I am praying hard, say no more counting dollars, we’ll be counting stars.) Just saying!
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Field of Screams

On Friday, August 19, 2016 the Payson Roundup sports section published an article written by Keith Morris concerning the condition of Payson High School Longhorn Field. Field of Screams by Keith Morris


Morris hammers home the point that the field might not be a good one. Morris writes, “And just two weeks into practice this season, five players were slowed by knee or ankle injuries as a result of the poor field conditions.” If that is accurate then I would think some parents might be upset.

It must be pointed out though, that the field is probably no worse then previous years and it might even be better then some years. At last Friday’s game, the field was in better condition then many times I have been on it. There are fields across the state that are as bad or worse then Payson’s.  The field is as playable as it has ever been but it does need help. The article may be a bit embellished but it did what it was supposed to do and that was draw attention to a problem that has long been overlooked. The title might be appropriate for not only the condition of the field but just maybe people should be screaming about why it was never fixed as promised 10 years ago.

It has to be disheartening for Coach Swartwood and his football players to play year in and year out on a field that has limited grass throughout the middle. People can argue all they want but varsity football at high school is the biggest draw in rural communities. Friday night football draws more people then most events.  Even the band must beware of dirt patches if they are playing on the field. The stadium no longer has a working snack bar or restroom facilities on the Home side.  Payson Longhorn student athletes have been short-changed by not having a turfed field that was voted on and passed by the community in November 2006.

I first arrived in Payson in 1980 and I can assure you that some 36 years later, the football field has not improved but really isn’t any worse than it was 30+ years ago. I will point out that in the history of the field, nobody has been on the field for more games then me. I first officiated football on the field in approximately 1982. Youth football has played there as long as I can remember and I have officiated games on Longhorn field for 30+ years. I also coached on the field in the early 80’s and early 90’s. I officiated  middle school and  high school football games starting in 1992 and have worked many a freshman, junior varsity, and varsity game on the field. I’m guessing that I have been on the field for over 200 games during this span and probably many more then that.

As long as I can remember Longhorn Field has had its issues. The grass always gave out in the middle of the field and brown patches would appear everywhere and would soon turn to muddy patches when the rains came. By the end of October, there tends to be more brown (mud and dirt) then green. I can remember Coach Terry Nodlinski  placing new turf on the middle of the field in the 80’s and I don’t think that worked out so well. The sprinkler system had always been inadequate since it was first installed as many areas of the field would not receive adequate amounts of water during the growing season but that seems to have been remedied. But a total fix was a coming, or so we all thought.

In 2006, Payson Unified School District decided to hold a bond election for 33 million dollars and an advisory committee was formed. According to the Payson Roundup, the advisory committee membership included Craig Swartwood, Rory Huff, Steve Drury, Cari Day, and Kristi Ford. This group helped determine priorities for the bond that included building a new Julia Randall School and incorporating the old rock building into new school district offices and a board room. Part of the recommended 33 million dollar bond that was the inclusion of field turf that was to be placed on all high school athletic fields. This was in the bond language that was overwhemingly passed that November with a 73+% yes vote. School Board Explains Proposed School Bond Including Money for Turf Fields

I can remember the excitement at the high school for the prospect of having  “real” fields to practice and compete on. But things changed, and the 2009 school board composed of Rory Huff, Barbara Underwood, Matt Van Camp, Vickie Holmes, and Richard Meyer pulled the plug on having fields to be proud of by voting to eliminate the designated funding in March of 2009. Mr. Meyer had made it very clear that he was not about athletic programs and coaches and his influence may have persuaded others that the district didn’t need to spend the money that the voters had approved for turf. His dislike for Coach Josh Anderson had been quite apparent and I remember after Coach Anderson had resigned to take the head coach position at Dakota State, Mr. Meyer stating at a public meeting in the auditorium that “we” were not going to hire somebody who could be a coach but rather we were to only think about academics in the hiring process. We all know that the school suffered as a result of that thinking. I don’t even remember who we hired in a last ditch effort but it was a disaster. All of that thinking probably played a part in pulling the community backed funding for turfed fields.

When deciding against the turf, school board member Van Camp was quoted, “It’d be a waste of taxpayers’ money to put in fake grass.” (yes this is the same person who thought the town should use tax money to give employees a paid day off for their birthday instead of recognizing the national MLK Day as a holiday.)  School Board votes in 2009 to Eliminate Turf on Athletic Fields When the Roundup published the article there were those in the community that got quite upset that the funding had been pulled and some even wrote letters to the editor complaining of the pulled funding. (Any voted on bond money must be used for facilities, grounds, buildings, etc but cannot be used for salaries, adding staff, and so on.)

The Payson Roundup in their attempt to be “fair” allowed School Board Member, Barb Underwood to pen her opinion on why the funding was pulled. In the op-ed she writes, “I also feel a responsibility to the student athletes. I believe that with proper maintenance, and maybe keeping the football team off of the baseball field, the fields can be safe, playable, and something that we can all be proud of.”

“Many steps have already been taken to improve the fields and I believe we will continue to see improvements.” It is all right here and easy to read in the link that I have provided. Mrs. Underwood Responds to Criticism  (March 2010) Something we can all be proud of? In reading Mr. Morris’ article, I am thinking that many might not feel that way. Proper maintenance? How about short-sighted decision making?

The field issue was preventable and if people are at risk then the 2009 school board should be the ones held responsible. Remember Frontier Elementary School had been designated 1.5 million from the 2006 School bond for noise reduction and facility improvements.  Now mind you one of the tidbits you may not know is that the school board under the direction of Superintendent Casey O’brien used part of the “left over” bond money to provide added repairs at Frontier Elementary School and even installed a new playground and fixed up the parking lot. This all came about in 2010 and in 2011 the board closed the school and eventually sold the school for pennies on the dollar. As Mr. Van Camp, alluded to about the fake grass, that was probably a waste of taxpayer dollars.

My heart goes out to Coach Swartwood and his players. They should have and could have and would have been playing on an outstanding field. Instead the community voted upon funding was taken away by a short-sighted school board and I’m sure those board members do not want to be reminded of a their egregious error. I was talking with a person that helps out the high school baseball team and he was telling me that the gophers have returned to the baseball field. If the fields had been turfed as promised, there would not be a gopher issue.

One of the unintended consequences that came about from the decision of the PUSD school board was Payson would not be considered a site to host high school playoff games. I talked with an AIA in 2010 and his remark to me was that Payson blew it. His comments to me suggested that Payson would have been an attractive site to host playoffs since it is centrally located only if the powers to be had put in a turf field. The playoff games occur every November and we all know that traffic and visitors to Payson drops off during the Fall and this would have brought folks to Payson to spend their money while attending playoff games.

Reading in Morris’s article, we find out that the school district wants to use $50,000 to rip up the field between the hash marks and re-turf that area. (spring 2017) In the meantime, you continue to throw dirt on the grassless spots to make the field more level . Maybe an analogy  is appropriate so here goes on how I view the problem.

A deteriorating street gets pot holes so they fill up the pot holes with some kind of mix that may last until the next downpour. The road crew keeps doing this until they decide that the entire area isn’t doing so well and the next step is to rip that up and lay down a section of black top as a solution. So you have the old road, with this large 30 foot by 15 foot patched section. It seems to help temporarily but it never seems to work as a permanent solution. It is like throwing good money away since the road still is uneven and still needs replacement.

Are there other solutions? I think so. The town of Payson recently installed quite possibly the best field in all of Northern Arizona at Rumsey Park. It is a fabulous field and I think that there are few fields better then the one at Rumsey.

Why not use the $20,000 given to PHS for field improvement by the Tonto Apache Tribe, and move all bleachers to Rumsey Park and play games on the best field in Northern Arizona? If it supposedly costs $50,000 to fix the middle of the field, which in my opinion isn’t going to work for long, why not combine efforts with the Town of Payson and play on this great field?

Are there logistics problems? Yes. There are no locker rooms, limited public restrooms, etc at Rumsey Park but if the town is planning on their own bond to build a community center and other recreational amenities, why not build something with dressing room areas that can be used for major sporting events. Since there are no public restrooms or snack bar facilities on the home side of Longhorn Field why not build them at Rumsey. The biggest hurdle would be transporting the teams and providing some sort of changing areas. I get that but it would be better then throwing $50k down the tubes on a field that needs a total rehab and only a temporary solution. The school district would have to pay some for added maintenance since turf does need maintenance and the schools probably use the fields as much as anyone does.

Another possibility would be for PHS to contract with ASU and Camp Tontozona. They have a beautiful field and maybe they could put bleachers around their main field and what a venue. Ok, far-fetched but at least ASU and Payson would have a real connection. (Another one of my just saying thoughts.)

I’m a dreamer but you got to dream big and sometimes go against the wind to accomplish things. But one thing I do know for sure is that come this year’s Payson school board election, we have the opportunity to elect an intelligent young man, who graduated from Payson High School, has a finance background and was the valedictorian of Grand Canyon University, Mr. Shane Keith. He is the best candidate and one who understands finance and is not bought and paid for by those currently in power.  (That will be for another blog as we get closer to election day.)

In the meantime, you all can feel good knowing that Longhorn Field is no better or no worse then it has been for the past 10+ years. In reality it might be just a tad better then prior years. The grass that has grown is as green as I have ever seen it. With that being said, it is long overdue to get that field turfed or combine efforts with the town so nobody has to play events on the “field of screams.”



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