Mustangs Fire Watch on Wilson

November 29, 2019

By Crystal Marty

View from Wilson Mountain, Photo Courtesy of Jim Sweeny

The Sedona Westerners Mustangs group took on Wilson Mountain on a typically splendid sunny mid-October day in Sedona.  After leaving the meeting point at Posse Grounds at 9am, we carpooled the short distance up Oak Creek Canyon to the Encinoso Picnic Area.  Our objective - hike 7.6 miles and 2400 feet of elevation to the Sedona Overlook and hopefully see some nice fall colors along the way. 

At the North Wilson trailhead (at 4700 feet), trip leaders Lucie Burris and Crystal Marty proceeded to lead the small troop of enthusiastic Mustangs up a solid trail through a nicely cooled forest of Ponderosa Pine and Douglas Fir to the initial goal of Wilson’s first bench.  Before too long, we came across vivid red leaves of sumacs, big leaf maple trees and ….. poison ivy.  Fortunately, the poison ivy was off to the sides of the trail and to the relief of many members of the group, the poison ivy was easily avoidable and visible with its bright red leaves of three.

As we ascended further into the lush forest, we were rewarded with swathes of yellow gamble oak and small clusters of maple trees of glowing red and orange imbedded in the pine trees up the walls of Oak Creek Canyon. Beautiful!   

Evidence of remaining burned out pine trees from the 2006 Brins Fire came into view along with a faint smell of smoke?  The smell of smoke, yes.   Not from the 2006 Brins Fire, but from two prescribed fires burning that day near Camp Verde and more noticeably from the Kachina area several miles south of Flagstaff.  The smoke wasn’t visible at the outset of our hike but large ominous plumes of smoke came into view from the east as we neared Wilson Mountain’s first bench.  The group had excellent vantage points to look across the canyons and debate whether this fire was really a prescribed burn on this windy day.  Indeed it was a prescribed burn and fortunately as reported on the Coconino National Forest website, the winds blew the smoke to the northeast away from our hike near Sedona.  

The hike up to the First Bench also gave us beautiful vantage points of the red rock walls of Oak Creek Canyon and glimpses of the San Francisco Peaks and Arizona’s highpoint, Humphreys Peak, off in the distant north. 

After a series of switchbacks up through the shady forest, we reached the First Bench (at 6200 feet), an open sunny plateau with stunning views of the surrounding canyons.   We walked about a half mile across a path on the relatively flat plateau past the posted sign to Wilson Mountain with another mission in mind - the rocks on the southern end  of the First Bench.  Great view spot for a snack break and some wonderful pumpkin bread that our trip leader Lucie brought to share.  

We returned to the posted sign pointing to Wilson Mountain and followed the trail for 1.2 miles to another sign indicating that the Sedona Overlook was to the left.   The Sedona Overlook offers panoramic views of Sedona and many other favorite Sedona Westerner hikes that we were able to point out from high above.

After lunch at the Overlook, we retraced our steps back to the trailhead.  With the change in lighting of the day, we gained a different perspective of the colors.  Perhaps even more beautiful.  Still more stops for pictures, taking in the views, and further speculation about the status of the prescribed burns near Kachina.  Success all the way around for the Sedona Westerners and the Coconino National Forest on this fine day in October.   

If you are interested in joining the club, please visit the Sedona Westerners website at  You are invited to our next regularly scheduled monthly meeting at 7 p.m., Thursday, January 9, 2020, at the Sedona Methodist Church, 110 Indian Cliffs Road. 

Written by Crystal Marty

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