Sedona Westerners Mustangs Hike Mescal Mountain and More

March 23, 2018

By Alison Etter

Hikers from the Mustangs, one of the Sedona Westerners’ ability groups, can be seen hiking on the Mescal Trail. Mescal Mountain, a massive, horseshoe-shaped red rock formation, is in the background. Photo by Al Gore

What an amazing day!  We hiked the Mescal and Deadman’s Pass Trails recently in the Boynton Canyon area.  We had sunshine and clear blue skies, along with very strong winds (30 mph +), which kicked up dust in the distance and had me snugging down my fleece hat and wind jacket. 

There were some challenging sections of this five-mile, four-hour hike, not the least of which was the 1,700 feet of cumulative elevation gain.   I was impressed, as usual, with the Mustang hikers who always cheerfully assist those of us with shorter legs over larger rocks and up steeper inclines.  Also, thanks to the co-leaders, Michael McCaffrey and John Losse, who knew the route intimately and who expertly guided the group up and down the trails, throwing in the occasional stop for water, clothing adjustments, snacks, and photo ops.  The only mildly disappointing thing, I would have to say, is that they didn’t supply the cookies (which I had hoped were mandatory) that leaders usually bring to offer to us at lunch.  Tony Paunicka, our tailgater, made sure we didn’t lose anyone (and occasionally prompted anyone lagging, which was me taking pictures). 

I am actually Canadian, and don’t get to spend much time in Sedona, so my membership in the Westerners is invaluable to make the most of my available hiking time.  The group never disappoints.  There is always amazing scenery, great camaraderie and lots of fun.  Mescal Mountain itself is a parabola-shaped, massive, red rock formation with a flat top, which I had never beheld before.  Other red rock cliffs and ridges surrounded Mescal and I often craned my neck to see if ancient ruins might be tucked onto the ledges.  I didn’t see any, but the boulders themselves were picture-worthy, set against the deep azure skies.   

Also, I soon discovered that my eyes needed to be on the trail.  The southern slopes were littered with Ocotillo cactus, which threatened to tear our sleeves and any exposed skin.  We had to watch out for Prickly Pear cactus too, which tends to grow over the trail and can pierce any soft spots on hiking shoes.  The woody ten to twenty feet tall flower stalk of the dead Agave plant occasionally blocked our path.   It amazes me to think that the Agave lives for approximately twenty years and its last act is to send up a flower stalk to assure its lineage, and then it dies.

Conversations often ran to other Mustang hikes and favorite trails, and sometimes to hiking in other states and countries.  After the Mescal hike, I have a longer list of “must-see” places; many of them are listed on the Westerners’ upcoming hiking schedule.  The Sedona area has a huge array of easily accessible hiking opportunities and I couldn’t be happier about it!

If you are interested in joining the club, please visit the Sedona Westerners website at  You are invited to our next monthly meeting at 7 p.m., Thursday, April 12, at the Sedona Methodist Church, 110 Indian Cliffs Road.  Sedona Westerners, written this week by Alison Etter, appears every Friday in the Sedona Red Rock News.



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