Dogies Hike the VERY AIRY Ledge-N-Airy
April 03, 2020
By Jeanmarie Haney
It was a cool day with partial overcast as the Dogies group of the Sedona Westerners hiking club began our Ledge-N-Airy hike, bundled up against the low temperature and occasional biting wind. The overnight storm had turned the mountains and much of the surrounding foothills white, and the start of the trail gave us good views of snow-covered Mingus Mountain. The original destination for the hike had been changed based on the forecast, though it turned out that the Sedona area received little rain and no visible snow. The trails were mostly dry with occasional dampness, and consistently good footing.
We started off on the Outer Limits trail, part of the Western Gateway Trail System. This trail system is accessed from the Girdner trailhead at the old Cultural Center across SR89A from Red Rock high school. The interconnected trails wind through hilly high desert terrain of the Dry Creek drainage that was formerly part of the old Girdner Ranch. Many of the trails are for moderate hiking and mountain biking without much climbing.
Leaving the parking lot, we soon passed the historic Sedona dump where artifacts in the form of old rusty cans and broken glass of many colors are scattered about. The rusty cans exhibited the distinctive triangular puncture made from a “church key” can opener. Being older than 50 years, these items are protected as historic artifacts, so observe from a distance and do not disturb!
We had big Sedona views at numerous locations along the trail, including views of Cockscomb and other red rock formations, and views across the Verde Valley. The trail did some contouring and was easy to follow, with little traffic on this particular day. We descended at an easy slope and pace to the bottom of Dry Creek Wash, where we took a short water and snack break. Most of us perched on rocks in the sun, lizard style, soaking up the rays. We shivered a bit in the brief periods when the sun went behind clouds and a biting wind whipped through. Such conditions invite activity over inactivity, so we were soon headed back up the trail to continue our way along the canyon.
The trail wound its way alongside ridges and drainages, through pinyon(piñon)-juniper woodland, a common vegetation type of the Sedona area and of the Western U.S. higher elevation deserts. Affectionately referred to as “P-J,” it is an open forest dominated by evergreen junipers and pinyon pines, with an understory of live oak, manzanita, other shrubs, and grasses.
We had good views of Dry Creek drainage along the way, as the trail made an easy climb to the top of the ridge. Numerous outcrops of limestone showed evidence of this area’s long-ago history being covered by shallow seas. We stopped for our lunch break on a limestone outcrop above Dry Creek drainage, with good views across Dry Creek to Cockscomb and Mingus Mountain in the middle and far distance.
After lunch, we continued along easy trails with many interesting exposures of limestone showing the fossilized burrows of long-extinct crustaceans and other sea-dwelling creatures of that time, some 300+ million years ago. We enjoyed the views near and far as we made our way with easy walking and light conversation back to the parking area.
Written by Jeanmarie Haney