The Drovers Go Hog Wild

May 19, 2023


By Dick Williams

We found this beautiful Agave sprouting its purple asparagus-like stalk a few hikes ago. If you look closely to the right of the stalk, in the background you can see Twin Buttes saddle…which was our snack break today.

It was the last hike of the season for the Drovers.   The weather was perfect, there was no traffic on either 89A or 179, and we arrived to an almost empty parking lot at Broken Arrow Trailhead. The latter two being minor miracles…but then again it was 7AM on a Sunday morning. The only other vehicle was an RV that looked like it had spent the night there.  Seeing the empty spaces was our initial indication that it was going to be a great adventure.

Kelley Malek, who has done a fabulous job at Drovers Hike Boss this year, read the requisite rules.  Each of our hiking groups has a Hike Boss and Assistant Hike Boss, whose jobs are to develop over 35 weekly hikes a season, just for their groups, and make sure there are leaders and co-leaders for each one. As we talked with Kelley during the hike, she said she truly enjoys the job, especially the cooperation of the Westerners who volunteer to lead the hikes.  The worst part of the job?  Figuring out whether or not to cancel a hike due to inclement weather, trail conditions, or just the cantankerous spirit of Mother Nature.  They always have alternatives, but when even those are questionable the call is made to cancel…often that morning.  The trick is to do it before folks head to the meeting places.

Jim Kemper and Crystal Marty got the honors of leading our final expedition, with Sandi Heysinger acting as the tailgater.  Her only job?  Making sure the same number of people return as we left with. Jim, ever the taskmaster, gave us an assignment to find the lava flow during the hike.  An unspecified prize was offered to the winner.

So with keen eyes for something that looked like it had flowed at one time, and was probably a dark color, we set off up Broken Arrow Trail, which was uncharacteristically quiet since the jeeps and ATV’s were all apparently still asleep.

This was one of our “How many trails can you string together?” hikes.  After a short stint on Hog Wash we turned onto Twin Buttes Trail.  Still quiet, but now we were all looking at the little wildflowers and just-beginning-to-bloom hedgehogs.  Given the weather was a little more temperate, there were also very few clothing adjustments needed.

Partially up the hill we made a right on High on the Hog, and after scrambling over some rocks and going up some small slots, we ended up at our destination…just below Twin Buttes Saddle.  Still nobody on the trail…it was too good to be true.

At our well-earned, yet early, break the conversation was all about what people would be doing after the picnic on Thursday, which was the last official Westerner meeting of the season.  It never ceases to amaze me the different interests of the Westerners, as well as what makes them tick.

Although the Westerners don’t have sanctioned hikes in the summer, several groups hike on a regular basis.  Due to the heat we start very early in the morning and are often home by 930 or 10.  Many of the hikes are ones we do with the club, but the groups are good at making little changes here and there.

A sizeable group loves to backpack and kayak, so they plan trips around the area.  White Pocket, Buckskin Gulch, Pariah Canyon, and portions of the Colorado River seem to be in the plans for the next few months.  There was considerable discussion about how to pack your waste out, and what type of container to use.  Like I said, the topics never fail to surprise me.

We have many members who travel to second homes or places in the Rockies and Canada.  Obviously escaping the heat.  A fair number head back to Minnesota, Michigan, the Ohio Valley, and the northeast.  Lots of RV’s are involved in these trips.

Then there are the intrepid wanderers that haul out their passports and travel overseas.  Westerners are going to Italy, Germany, Ireland, the Azores, and Iceland to hike and explore those environs.  Also a fair number of cruisers…seems like Europe, the south Pacific, and Alaska will be popular. The list goes on…

With the travel talk waning, we got back on the Hog Trails, going down Hog Heaven, then turning on Hog Wash to skirt the Sedona Cemetery.  About 100 yards down that trail, as you go around a little wash, lo and behold there is the lava flow. At first it just looks like rocks, but then you start to follow it with your eyes and it all makes sense.

More Hikers were finally beginning to appear, with several groups asking for directions to the Chapel.  All we could do was point “that way”, and tell them to keep on going.

Making our last turn of the season, we veered left onto Broken Arrow and arrived back to a full parking lot, folks airing up Jeep tires after taking the Chicken Point run, and scads of rent cars lurking and lusting over our coveted parking spaces.  With that we said our goodbyes, already looking forward to September and a new season of hiking.

There will be a wrap-up article next week and then we will take a break for the Summer.

The Sedona Westerners always welcome new members—even if just for a few days or a few weeks.   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 seasons 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.

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