WD Ranch – Payson, AZ

 

At about ten degrees cooler than Phoenix, Payson, AZ is only about an hour and a half north of the city. “Arizona’s Cool Mountain Town” is part of Arizona’s Rim Country, so named due to the overwhelming presence of the Mogollon Rim. Largely preserved as a natural forest, the Rim has an abundance of natural flora and fauna to discover. Also in abundance are hiking/biking trails, campgrounds and lakes. Before heading out to search for crystals on Diamond Point, relax in the Verde Hot Springs or take a horseback ride through the tall forest pines, the town of Payson offers many less strenuous activities. While in town, you can take a leisurely stroll down Payson’s Historic Main Street, attend one of the city’s many rodeos, catch a flick at the state-of-the-art Sawmill theaters or revisit history at the 130 year old Payson Pioneer Cemetery which comes alive with wildflowers during springtime. Whatever your pleasure, you can probably find it in Payson or its neighbors Christopher Creek, Strawberry and Pine.

 

If a stuffy motel isn’t quite your style but a quick getaway to Payson is on your mind,  WD Ranch is an alternative to a front desk and an ice machine down the hall. Swapping a view of the parking lot for pine trees, WD Ranch is nestled into the Arizona pines on acres of land about four miles outside of Payson’s city limits. The non-smoking cabin has room for family or friends with two bedrooms and a loft. Relax with a cup of coffee on a snowy morning  or with some cocoa during the cool summer nights on one of the three patios overlooking the property. “As comfortable as Grandma’s house”, WD Ranch also has a fully equipped kitchen.

 

Our own Anita ventured up north and got out of the heat for the weekend.

“Since we needed to travel to Payson for a weekend evening wedding….we went on a quest to find a rental house ‘out in the woods’……and we found the perfect one!

WD Ranch is located just before you reach Payson (about 1 ½ hrs from our home in Mesa).  Early Saturday morning, we took the Bush Highway route out past the Salt River Recreation area……a great scenic way to avoid the busier highway if you are not pressed for time.  We stopped off for an unhurried breakfast at the Saguaro Lake Restaurant – which included a pretty view from above the lake and boaters.

The WD Ranch is off the highway about 3.5 miles – some of it a dirt road – but well graded.  The house is surrounded on three sides by the Tonto National Forest.  Very affordable – even for a family of up to six people.  There are two bedrooms and a loft with a bed for the kids – one bath.  There is a very functional kitchen with full-size appliances.  The hosts, Mary and Jim Strong are just so hospitable and friendly.  There is a nearby creek – which was dry when we were there – but in spring and fall after rains probably worth a short hike down.  Hubby Jim is a passionate and knowledgeable birder and noted 45 different bird species right from area around the house.

But the very best features are outside!  A large rope hammock under a tree drew my attention immediately!  Three decks on 3 levels – muted night lights so you can enjoy the stars which are abundant and clearly visible – no light pollution!  No sound pollution either….just crickets, coyotes, screech owls, and various nocturnal birds.  Large hinged windows in the bedrooms to let in the cool, cool night air.  A screened porch off the main bedroom has a comfortable swing and a great collection of old bottles, in case of rain.  Gas grill and a big caged fire pit in the back.  Two satellite TVs and oodles of classic VHS tapes – if you really feel the need for it.

The house comes with a guardian angel of sorts – Marvin, the gray and cream feline (and feral) beggar – quite sweet and lovable. He will join you for dinner if he can’t find any available mice, and nap under the hammock as you sway gently under the shade provided by a tall tree.

We like to take our vittles with us instead of dining out – and who would want to leave this delightfully woodsy retreat?  We had pre-cooked roasted duck glazed with Wild Vermont Blueberry preserves that we threw on the gas grill for some smoky flavoring,  created some wasabi and garlic mashed potatoes, a  lush avocado salad with wasabi sake ginger-stuffed olives and Meyer Lemon Olive Oil (both purchased from a previous quest for a fun escape – Queen Creek Olive Mill), red onion,  Feta Cheese and fresh cilantro.  We dined under the stars with Marvin.  Next day’s breakfast began with a glass of champagne, French Toast made from lip-smacking pound cake covered in raspberries and blueberries,  drizzled with pure maple syrup and a dash of confectioners’ sugar, and French Press Lattes.   Life is GOOD!”

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