Amblers Visit Devils Bridge
February 24, 2017
By Scott McFeely
Devils Bridge from above, showing the cracks on either end of the span
On January 12, a hardy group of 13 Amblers hikers gathered under cloudy skies at the Mescal Trailhead off of Long Canyon Road. Our destination for the hike was Devils Bridge via the Chuck Wagon trail. This route is about 4.5 miles round trip. The hike was led by Jean Barton, an experienced hiker, and co-led by myself. Hassan Hosseini was welcomed as a volunteer tailgater. For several days prior to the hike, Jean had spent a considerable amount of time scouting Dry Creek for a suitable crossing. After a short distance, the Chuck Wagon trail splits with one leg heading south to Dry Creek Vista and the other branch heading north where it intersects with FR 152, the notorious dirt road leading out to Vultee Arch. The Devils Bridge trailhead is at the intersection of the north leg of the Chuck Wagon trail and FR 152. Having begun our hike, our first obstacle was the crossing of Dry Creek, about 200 yards from our starting point. The water flow in the creek was high due to the heavy rains that had occurred the previous day. After a bit of reconnoitering, a decision was made to attempt the crossing downstream a few yards where both a log and large rocks afforded dry footing across the creek. A few Amblers would dispute this statement as a few wet feet were sustained as a result of the creek crossing.
Following the creek crossing, the easy Chuck Wagon trail meanders from hilltop to gulley and over again - roller coaster like. After 30 minutes or so on Chuck Wagon the clouds parted and we were afforded wonderful views of the back of Capital Butte North as well as Bear and Maroon mountains to the west. In about a mile and a quarter we reached the Devils Bridge trailhead and stopped for a rest break and a photo opportunity.
From the trailhead we followed the wide one mile trail uphill over increasingly rocky terrain toward the bridge. As we approached the designated Wilderness area, the group of 13 was split into two groups as is the practice of the Westerners. Jean continued to lead her group of 7 with Jodie Ball tailgating, and I led the second group with Hassan as tailgater. During spring and summer this trail can become very crowded, but on this day we had the trail to ourselves. As we continued uphill, the trail became increasingly rocky with numerous rock benches of various heights. These benches helped us limber up for the finale of the hike – the large rock steps up the last portion of the cliff face. This section of the trail can be a challenge for some but on this day, with little opposing traffic, all of us negotiated it with ease and joined together on the rock benches above the arch for lunch and a well deserved break.
A few Amblers chose to walk across the natural arch including Jean and her husband Al, Hassan and myself. If you look carefully at the arch from above you can see that a section is cracked through at both ends. This makes me wonder how many more years we will be able to enjoy this natural wonder.
After our lunch break, both groups gathered for the return trip. My group had expressed an interest in seeing the Arch from below so we headed down the somewhat difficult trail down and along the cliff face to a point under the arch to take photos. Following our photo opportunity under the arch, we joined Jean at the main trail and the two groups proceeded back down the trails to our cars at the Mescal Trailhead.
If you are interested in joining the club, visit the Sedona Westerners website at sedonawesterners.org or come to one of our monthly meetings. The next meeting is scheduled for Thursday, March 9, at 7 p.m. at St. John Vianney Parish, 180 St. John Vianney Lane in Sedona.
Sedona Westerners, written this week by Scott McFeely, appears every Friday in the Sedona Red Rock News.