On-The-Trail Seminars for Safe Hiking

December 11, 2020

By Charles Schudson and Jon Petrescu

How to use hiking poles

The Westerners, Sedona’s premiere hiking club now celebrating its sixtieth year, includes the “Trackers,” a group that concentrates on archaeology, botany, geology, history and other special subjects.  In addition to hiking easy/moderate trails, the Trackers enjoy educational interludes – some with travel to museums, some with docents and other experts – and this year, almost all with on-the-trail seminars to enhance hiking comfort, skills, and safety.

Modifying his plans in order to adjust for Covid conditions, Charlie Schudson, this season’s Tracker boss, developed a three-part program of Sedona hikes and outdoor seminars to: address the needs of new or less experienced Westerners; and enhance the comfort, skills, and safety of even the most experienced. 

Presented in October-November (and scheduled to be repeated in February-March 2021), each Trackers outing lasted four hours and covered three-five miles.  Each included a beautiful hike to a hidden “classroom” – in the Sunrise/Carruth, Adobe Jack, and Teacup systems – for the on-the-trail seminars:  “Hiking Basics 101,” “Advanced Hiking Basics,” and “What’s In Your Pack?”.

Charlie, a long-time Westerners member and Sedona hiker for twenty-eight years, and a seven-year veteran of Verde Search and Rescue, presented the seminars.  Sophia Sweeny and Louise Gelotte tailgated and contributed to the teaching.  In addition to the trail training, the seminars offered accounts of two you-never-know-what-might-happen-on-a-hike rescues – one of a young child, wandering alone off-trail in Sedona; the other of an adult, staggering and bleeding heavily following a fall in Ventana Canyon near Tucson

Much more than a walk in the park, Sedona hiking can be dangerous, particularly for tourists and others unfamiliar with southwestern conditions.  Even “easy” day-hikes raise questions about boots, poles, water, routes, darkness, first aid and other subjects, some specific to the special challenges of red rock country.  And some answers are surprising … counter-intuitive.

With the Trackers, we discussed mental preparation, physical condition, and the realistic self-assessment of hiking experience and ability.  We learned how to select boots, use hiking poles, adjust backpacks, and choose trails appropriate not only for ourselves, but for the friends, children, and grandchildren who may hike with us.  We learned the importance of proper nutrition … and hydration!

We solved the riddle:  “For the benefit of our backs and knees, what hiking choices can we make countless times – choices that are always the same, and always different?”  We learned some special tips – how to help others up and down steep terrain; the critical value of hiking straps, heavy-duty garden/garbage bags (rain gear and/or sleeping bags); and what equipment, at a minimum, to always carry.  Charlie provided each of us with a plasticized page of essentials – inexpensive, small, lightweight, and potentially life-saving. 

Charlie reiterated that all hikers are responsible for comfort and safety – for themselves and their families.  All hikers must use caution.  Ultimately, all hikers must determine their own best practices.  But essential fundamentals – many of them unknown and surprising – can be learned.  The Westerners and Trackers help make sensational Sedona hiking as safe as possible.  

If you are interested in joining the club, please visit the Sedona Westerners website at www.sedonawesterners.org/membership. Monthly meetings are only facilitated via Zoom at present until the Covid 19 restrictions are lifted.

Trackers On-the-Trail seminars are included in Westerners membership, at no additional charge. To register for Trackers On-the-Trail seminars, email Charlie Schudson at keynoteseminars@gmail.com.

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