The Westerners Celebrate Another Stellar Hiking Season

May 26, 2023

By Dick Williams

The Westerner bolo tie is a badge of honor for our Trail Bosses. Here, incoming Trail Boss Ray LaPorte presents Linda Forsythe her well-deserved bronze bolo.

The last Westerner activity of the hiking season is always my favorite.  It’s a very short hike, typically only about 50 feet from the parking lot, and has very little elevation gain, about 10 feet.  The views are good, and the food and fellowship are fabulous.  Okay…you guessed it…it’s the end of season picnic.

Each May we reserve the ramadas in the upper part of the Posse Grounds and have a big old- fashioned cookout.  It’s a chance to get together, swap hiking stories, and wish everyone well before the group scatters to the winds for the summer.  I’m not sure if you have been up there lately, but there is a beautiful new play area that is quite tempting.  Alas, I was not allowed to go down the slides.

The party is organized under the keen leadership of our Chuckwagon Boss, Adrienne Pichette. This was not her first rodeo, and once again she rounded up a group of about 20 volunteers to help with the effort.   The Trail Boss, Donna Forsythe, and Wagon Boss (Trail Boss in Waiting), Ray LaPorte, also played huge roles in pulling everything together.  Adrienne and her crew put out a great spread of grilled burgers, bratwursts, and veggie burgers with all the fixings that fed about 90 people.  We even had the secret recipe western beans that have been on the menu for many, many years. I got tired just watching Adrienne work during the meal.  Her efforts, and those of the volunteers, were much appreciated by all.  Having a beautiful day to be outside did not hurt either.

So, what were we celebrating?  The end of our 2022/2023 season!  Although parts of it were unlike anything we had seen before, including the Covid years, we had a lot to be thankful for.

That started with our registered members.  This year we had 452 intrepid hikers.  Although many of them were for the full year, there was a growing group that just signed up for shorter periods of time that ranged from days to weeks to a month or two. We met folks from Montana, Wyoming, New Jersey, Minnesota, Michigan, and California.  As discussed in a previous article, the value of meeting new people and learning new routes truly eclipses the annual $30 membership fee.  And you get a great end-of-season meal to boot!

Although the Westerners are steeped in traditions and rules and guidelines, it takes excellent   people to make it all run smoothly.  Our entire officer slate is on the website, should you wish to learn more.

Great leadership is our secret sauce, and this year we were extremely fortunate to have Donna Forsythe as our Trail Boss.  You could describe her role as the conductor of a very finely-tuned symphony, or you could characterize it as the chief herder of many cats.  Whatever the description, she did it with aplomb and led us through another year that was coming out of Covid and had many weather-related twists and turns, with 29 hike cancellations.  Given you can normally count our season’s cancellations on one hand, this was extraordinary indeed.  Her leadership also propelled the fundraising partnership between the Westerners and the Sedona Red Rock Trail Fund to new heights.  Between the Trail Keeper membership and the individual donations, the Westerners raised over $16,000 for Red Rocks trial maintenance and development.

Ray LaPorte, who is second in the pecking order and is officially the new Trail Boss as of this writing, also provided invaluable and tireless support with making sure all the Hike Bosses kept their weekly treks on the trail and arranged for very interesting guest speakers at our monthly meetings.  We had presentations on saving family ranches, meteorites, and trail design. Ray, Amanda Maxwell, and Hassan Hosseini also did a marvelous job wrangling volunteers to assist with the Cathedral Trail Forest Closure. The club is in good hands for next year.

One of the other customs at the spring picnic is to award the outgoing Trail Boss their bronze bolo tie.  This year Ray got to present it to Donna, and it was really cool to see her with a handful of past Trail Bosses, wearing their coveted bolos, who were also at the event.  It is definitely a unique piece of jewelry that is hard-earned, well-deserved, and worn with pride.

As for the hikes this year:  There were a total of 188 hikes or Tracker Activities for the entire year, with September 6th being the first up near Flagstaff and May 9th being the last on Lizard Head.  There were an additional 29 hikes cancelled, with December and February being particularly hard-hit months.  The hikes covered over 1060 miles, and countless thousands of feet of elevation gain. To put it in perspective, that 1060 miles equates to about 33 one way trips to REI in Flagstaff if you hiked them from the Y in Sedona.  Trust me, there were many, many more trips to REI than that from Westerners. In fact, the week after the dividends came out one of the big topics was how you were going to spend our dividends.

Special thanks to all the guest column writers this season.   We had many more voices and perspectives to share, and hope you enjoyed living vicariously through our stories.

The new Westerners hiking season fires up in early September, and we would love to have you join us.  The website has tons of information, the hiking list for the entire year, and an easy to use button to join.  There are activities for all levels. 

As for the upcoming summer, please stay safe, hike early, carry lots of water, and let others know where you will be going.  We need you here to read next season’s articles.

Happy Trails.

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