Throwback Friday – Snow Caused a Change of Plans

September 15, 2023

By Mark Antin

Colorful quartz crystal is exposed on a rock covered with lichen just off the Ledge-N-Airy trail in the Cultural Park area of West Sedona

With fall just around the corner, we thought we’d share an article written last November that somehow got lost in the internet vortex - that is, an email went missing but has now been found. We hope that you enjoy this article that shows neither snow nor ice could stop one Westerners group’s plans when there are so many hiking options in Sedona.

November 2022. As it turned out, a recent storm dropped much more snow in VOC than in other areas of Sedona. My hiking friends and I were scouting a Rustler’s hike which began at Hiline from Yavapai Vista. Before we got a half mile in, we encountered a significant amount of ice and snow, which thwarted our scout and, we realized, the hike scheduled for a few days later. This is an occasional hazard even in Sedona’s “winter.” A change of plan was needed.

Considering our options, we reviewed hiking opportunities in and around West Sedona and settled on a route from Cultural Park. Outer Limits and Ledge-N-Airy seemed like a good choice and we hoped it would serve as a suitable replacement for the Hiline hike - but without the footing issues. As we’d hoped, there was no snow underfoot and a great hike was in store for our group.

We gathered on a Saturday morning and a number of Rustlers were up for our hike despite the cold. Even though the Hiline views were not in store for us that day, a future hike in the season would solve that. In addition to our familiar hiking friends, with us for the first time was a new hiker - from the Gold Coast of Florida, no less. The five-mile hike began on Outer Limits and crisscrossed Ledge-N-Airy several times with a gain of about 400’ in elevation. It was a rolling trek for the first half, approaching and paralleling 89A towards Cottonwood. We hiked about two miles to the third intersection with Ledge-N-Airy.

For a while, we were tracked at a safe distance by two healthy-looking coyotes. We continued the hike ever aware of their presence. Fortunately, they eventually bounded ahead and crossed the trail, not to be seen again. But we did keep a watchful eye out just in case.

The hike was well-led by our (then) Trail Boss, Donna Forsythe, and I was the co-lead. When we stopped at the junction with Ledge-N-Airy, we “switched engines” and I took the lead. Our trusty Tailgater made sure we lost no one, at least not yet. Before making the turn, gazing out toward the continuation of Outer Limits, I made a mental note that I wanted to return. Outer Limits eventually meets up with Lost Frontier and there appeared to be opportunities for hiking different terrain out there, perhaps to a curious-looking rock mound in the distance. Particularly in a locale like Cultural Park, with so many interlocking trails, there are always multiple options for future good hikes.  

The rolling trail of Outer Limits was left behind as we ascended Ledge-N-Airy, getting our first look at Dry Creek Wash, a deep canyon that bordered the first part of this trail. As we leveled out at the top, we took a break, about three miles into the hike at a point along the edge of the canyon. The view was quite splendid. In the “you-never-know-what-you-might-find” category, we observed an unexpected rock that had fractured revealing an interior of some interest. With its multi-colored interior, it looked like an abstract painter used a rainbow palette to illuminate the inside. We had never seen one quite like it.

Following a short break, we continued on the trail, which then became somewhat more challenging. We traced the edge of the canyon until, just before a glacier of old came to a halt, we turned right and started heading back on more rocky terrain back toward Outer Limits. On this fine Saturday morning, we encountered only two bikers and a solo hiker. But for these life forms, we had the trail to ourselves. Evidently, it is lesser known, lesser used, and perfect for those hikers interested in some solitude.  

After turning back onto Outer Limits, we knew we were getting close to our destination when the glint of broken glass reminded us that at one time this area served as the town dump – the remains of the large number of beverage bottles left behind years ago, especially for a small town. It is a good thing that plastic containers were not yet in use back then.

At the end of the hike, our new hiker from Florida, allowed as how she greatly enjoyed the hike and the company - and that she was contemplating a permanent move to Sedona (surely not just due to her hiking experience this day). Our Tailgater reported that he had not lost anyone, and all were accounted for. In a little more than two hours, another successful hike was completed, with memories to last, at least until the next hike.

Or the following hiking season, as it turns out.  Thanks for taking this journey down memory lane with us. Many more adventures to come. 

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