The Westerners Go West to Elmersville and Lime Kiln
April 14, 2023
By Ernie Pratt
Mother Nature can make hiking either easy or hard. Here, the Red Rocks provide a natural staircase through an outcropping near Elmersville.
Although the early temperatures hovered just above freezing, the day held promise with bright sunshine and very little wind. The Dogies, lead by Michael Henry, were off to hike in an area south of Elmersville, Sedona’s next-door neighbor to the west. This community is located on Lower Red Rock Loop Road, approximately 1 mile south of SR 89A.
Elmersville was named after the Elmer family who in 1928 homesteaded in the area, hauling needed water some distance to the farm from Oak Creek. They grew pinto beans, farmed chickens, and raised cows. Today a housing development called Michael’s Ranch occupies the part of the original homestead that was called Jackass Flats.
A very popular horse-riding stable was developed in the area, operating until the late 90’s. Fortunately, there still exists a network of bridal paths (Elmersville spur trails) crossing the National Forest lands south and west of Elmersville. Some have become system trails, some have become jeep and ATV trails, and certainly some remain, happily used, by the locals for casual hiking. We walked on relatively easy cliff hugging trails and well-defined paths along various ridges. As it warmed up, we began shedding some of those clothing layers which were much needed earlier.
When confronted with a fast-flowing stream in partial flood, hikers are presented with a problem. Given our respect for each other, none of us wanted to communally strip down and cross the fast-flowing stream. The solution, as always, was to retain our dignity and to go carefully around if possible, remaining fully clothed.
Often as we hike up canyons and washes we are amazed on how Mother Nature seems to always provide a path. Sometimes the route is easy, sometimes it is technically hard if not a little scary, but part of the fun is finding a way. There are often natural rock steps, well placed and regular, seemingly man made that are always welcomed.
Sometimes the way forward is a vertical slot caused by close spaced fractures resulting in a scramble up a seemingly impenetrable wall. As I go up these chutes, I am reminded of a Westerner Scout safety mantra “no knees or trees”, leaving me with little more than a belly to slide on, flailing arms, grunts and all too short legs. We hike on through such areas with a little help from our friends and a great sense of accomplishment when we finish the traverse.
In the Sedona area we hike mostly on sandstone, and often encounter deep, water filled, sculpted surface pockets formed in the bedrock. These are mostly below waterfalls and in closely spaced slot canyons. They are called Tinajas which is Spanish for “earthen jar” and they are an important source of surface water in this arid environment. Such holes attract insects and animal life, but we don’t drink the water.
When scrambling through narrow canyons we are thinking that we do not want to be in the canyon when it rains. Contrarily, we also wonder how awesome it must look when it does rain? We hike on!
Sadly, as we hiked a short distance on the 4x4 road between trails we saw the unnecessary and purposeful destruction of the environment caused by ATVs. Seemingly every wide or flat spot along the road was marked by deep tire tracks as careless drivers who intentionally burned “circular wheelies” in the soft earth. This destructive action is leading the Forest Service to work with those user groups to develop innovative ways to mitigate the damage to our once unspoiled wilderness.
As we were finishing our hike, what turned to be an urn was spotted in a small rock circle just off the pathway. We could not resist taking a respectful picture of the redundancy of an urn and an Ern (me) side by side.
We returned to the trailhead with the same number of hikers as set out so all was well and everyone was happy.
The Sedona Westerners always welcome new members. 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 up and start your new adventures here in the Red Rocks.