Drovers Explore Battlement Mesa and Twin Buttes Area
March 29, 2019
By Ernie Pratt
The Sedona Westerners hiking club stops to inspect the red rock sedimentary beds in the massive cliff of Battlement Mesa. The rock strata could be clearly seen in this view from the Hog Wash Trail.
Surrounding the Twin Buttes area, circumnavigating the Chapel of the Holy Cross, are a number of hiking and biking trails that are highly varied in difficulty and length with excellent views to the north of downtown Sedona, including Wilson Mountain, Thunder Mountain, and the Crimson Cliffs. At the trailhead, we could see how busy the Chapel was accommodating some of the many visitors to Sedona. Local rancher and sculptor Marguerite Brunswig Staude commissioned the Chapel. The Chapel is built on Coconino National Forest land; the late Senator Barry Goldwater assisted Staude in obtaining a special-use permit. It was built over a period of 18 months at a cost of $300,000. The project was completed in 1956. In 2007, Arizonans voted the Chapel to be one of the Seven Man-Made Wonders of Arizona.
That aside, we needed to hike. It was one of those days where you took off outer layers of clothing on the way up and put them back on during rests and on the downhill part of the trail. Our Westerners hiking group, the Drovers, set out to explore the Hog Trails and Battlement Mesa area. Starting out on the Mystic Trail, our hiking group leaders, Colleen and Randy Barcus, slowed down from their normal hiking pace to accommodate the eager, but less capable hikers joining them that day.
At first, our group hiked east toward a near vertical wall; fearing the worst (Colleen has a reputation as a tough hiker), we were soon relieved as she veered north circling clockwise away from and around the red rock cliff face. We did not climb it that day. Soon the panoramic view opened up and we set out in earnest on a challenging route involving the network of Hog Trails, eventually arriving, slightly winded, at the saddle between the Twin Buttes and Battlement Mesa. Occasionally, we met some brave mountain bikers sharing our trail, but it was easy for us to step aside and send them on their way down the dizzying Black Diamond-rated, slickrock paths, with lots of verbal encouragement and outright admiration.
Colleen did not disappoint us that day since she led us downward on a technical and different path from what we have normally hiked in previous years. The long hike around Battlement Mesa on the Hog Wash Trail was a kaleidoscope of views and changing colors. If you want to experience a Sedona moment, hike part of this trail at sunset and experience the remarkable color display on the massive, sheer rock formation known as the Crimson Cliffs. Suddenly our red rock path turned black as our boots encountered a near vertical basalt dike crossing the trail.
The group began chanting to get the attention of the resident geologist in hopes of gaining a small lecture on the exposed geology. They were not disappointed. This just one of a series of mafic dikes mapped throughout the Sedona area, feeding ancient volcanic activity 12 to 8 million years ago as part of the part of the North Verde Volcanic Field. A similar associated dike can also be seen nearby in the Devil’s Dining Room sinkhole on the Broken Arrow trail.
We finished our day and hike by returning on the Mystic Trail back to the trailhead. After hiking close to 5 miles and climbing 950 feet, we were all pleasantly tired, but proud that we had spent our Sunday morning being active and being able to share an experience with friends, both old and new.
If you are interested in joining the hiking club, please visit the Sedona Westerners website at www.sedonawesterners.org/membership. You are invited to our next monthly meeting at 7 p.m., Thursday, April 11, at the Sedona Methodist Church, 110 Indian Cliffs Road. Written by Ernie Pratt.