Sedona Westerners Rediscover Boynton Canyon
December 09, 2022
By Curt Kommer
Hiking in Sedona, you are used to seeing red in the rocks. On this beautiful fall day the red was also in the leaves of Boynton Canyon.
It is rare to find someone who is actually “from” Sedona, and the Westerners are no exception. Our hikers have come from all over to settle here; many from America’s Midwest, where memories of beautiful Autumn landscapes can still stir the emotions. On a recent Saturday the Westerners Roughrider group, led by Kelly-Leigh Thomas and Harold Brockwell, hiked Boynton Canyon, and it was like going backward in time.
The Westerners have been hiking in Boynton Canyon for over 60 years. An article published in the Red Rock News in Autumn, 1972, described a Club hike heading up the Boynton trail “into a fairyland of red maples and sumac, yellow oak and walnut, all glowingly interspersed among the pines. In bright sunlight a tall maple looked almost orange, while in a shady spot another maple was a deep, rich red”.
Our recent experience was no different, as hikers joyfully kicked through mounds of brilliantly colored leaves and hustled from sun patch to sun patch to avoid the chill of the shady spots. All of us seasoned hikers and adults, all remembering the pure pleasures of a gorgeous Fall day, and laughing like the carefree kids we used to be.
Another Westerner Boynton hike, summarized in the Red Rock News in 1978, focused on the huge Ponderosa Pines back in the Canyon: “According to our fellow Westerner and retired Forest Ranger, Bob Bailey, a Ponderosa’s age is consistent with the diameter of the trunk. A two-foot diameter tree is about 200 years old and a four-foot diameter tree is 400 years old. We measured the largest tree and found a diameter of nearly four and one-half feet, 450 years old”.
Forty-four years later our group found themselves observing the same giant trees, located well back in the Canyon where they were protected from logging. We took the time to measure the diameter of what appeared to be the biggest. Almost five feet! We want to think that it is the same tree measured by the Westerners almost 50 years ago.
The Boynton Trail is about 3 miles long, climbing gently at first and then doggedly at the end, finally reaching the sheer, thousand-foot high headwalls of the Canyon. This is the perfect break spot, with impressive views and big slick-rock benches to relax on. In the shady spots there were patches of snow, but the Westerners basked in full Autumn sunshine as they shared stories and memories.
The hike back to the trailhead is all downhill (another treat), passing rugged side-canyons, red-rock pinnacles, and white sandstone cliffs.
One more note from the past: The entrance to Boynton Canyon is now occupied by the Enchantment Resort, and the hiking trail circles around the many buildings, but this area used to be called Boynton Canyon Meadow. The 1978 Westerner article referenced above also speaks to this: “We assembled for the hike at the upper end of beautiful Boynton Canyon Meadow. Unfortunately, we found this meadow in the process of being “developed”, which looked to us like being scalped and defoliated. How sad! What won’t we people do for a buck or two?”
This Westerner hike, Autumn, 2022, was perfect. Indescribable beauty, great companionship, and memories of fall colors and glorious days from the past. It also reminded us of the importance of preserving the beauty of Sedona so that other Westerners, 50 years from now, can make their own memories around a beautiful and pristine landscape.
The Sedona Westerners always welcome new members, and we have hikes multiple days of the week for all abilities. If you are interested in joining the club, please visit our website at sedonawesterners.org. You will find an interesting history, the whole season’s list of planned hikes, and a handy membership link. It only takes five minutes to sign and start your new adventures here in the Red Rocks.