Ledge N Airy Redux

March 01, 2024

By Mark Antin

There's rocks in them there hills. The view from the Ledge N Airy trail as seen by the Sedona Westerners Rustlers hiking group.

Ledge N Airy Redux

by Mark Antin

I hadn’t hiked for several weeks and needed to get some miles in, so I joined the Rustlers group of the Sedona Westerners for a hike in mid-January out near Cultural Park taking Outer Limits to Ledge N Airy. I had done the hike several times before and had even written about it. It wasn’t my favorite hike, so I wasn’t expecting much. I just wanted to get a hike in. But not for the first time, I was wrong.

We had a large turnout of hikers, perhaps prompted by concern about the forecast for rain over the weekend and into next week. As it turned out, this was smart since the rain did come later, although not in the quantity we had hoped for. The parking area was surprisingly full that morning because the National Forest Service, with volunteer help from the Sedona Westerners, was performing trail maintenance and a group of bikers was also in evidence. 

We split into two groups, and both were ably led by members of the Petrescu family - Jon and Terri. It was a relatively easy hike with time to look around a bit - that is, we did not always have to focus on our footsteps to the exclusion of the wonderful surroundings. The track was firm and mostly without mud, although there were rocks galore. Did you ever wonder whether there were more rocks on Sedona trails than stars in the sky? How could that be? 

What distinguished this hike from the others I had taken were the longer excursions on both Outer Limits and on Ledge N Airy. This time we continued on Outer Limits past the third turnoff for Ledge N Airy and continued down to the Dry Creek wash. This was new for me. It reminded me of the Pyramids to Polygons hike, but with no polygons at the end - just good places to sit and talk. 

During our break at the wash, Fig Newtons were passed out. They are an old-time favorite. I was reminded of a legal case I handled decades ago - and many miles away - involving a fire at a cold storage warehouse in Jersey City, New Jersey, where Nabisco fig paste and dates were destroyed, and, sadly, millions of Fig Newtons lost - but that’s another story. 

After our break, we retraced our steps on Outer Limits and found the intersection with Ledge N Airy. From there we headed up to the top of the ridge with great views of the Dry Creek wash in all its splendor. Surprisingly, this was the first opportunity for several of our hikers to see it from above and they were duly impressed. On this part of the trail, we noted the presence of smooth black rocks, some with deep purple veins. These may have been black chalcedony, which some say, “absorbs negativity and promotes brotherhood, sisterhood and goodwill.” Ok, there was plenty of that on this hike. These stones peppered the landscape adjacent to the trail. It was unexpected, at least to me, to find them here, especially because they were so smooth, whereas most of the rocks we find along the trails here in Sedona are jagged and white or gray limestone. A fellow hiker also reminded us that this area had been under water millions of years ago, and we found a few pieces of fossilized coral to back this up. Our imaginations ran wild as we teleported ourselves into the future and imagined scuba diving on a new sea, looking down at the location where we were now standing.

Another notable geological observation was of rocks of all sizes with multi-color striations, with white, gray, tan, and brown as the predominant ones. It was as if someone, a cubist perhaps, had painted those rocks for our pleasure, but actually, it was Mother Nature’s idea. They were quite striking, and another natural treasure left for other hikers to see and enjoy. We also noted the early budding of this Spring’s vegetation - something to look forward to and, for some, a sign of the best time to hike in Sedona.  

Instead of returning to Outer Limits from Ledge N Airy, which we had done on earlier hikes, we continued on Ledge N Airy to the end, which looped around and pointed us back toward the parking area - which was still more than a mile away. At the end of the loop, we stopped to consider what geological forces had created this visage. The ice had come to a halt at this point and left its mark here. This was a new part of the trail, at least to me, and, if I had not been disabused of my pre-hike notion already, it was clear that this hike was not merely be a repeat of previous ones. This longer hike covered about 5.8 miles with elevation gain of about 700 feet.

In the quiet along the trail, it was not lost upon us that we are in a special place and part of a special experience. No wonder we keep coming back for more.

Upon returning to the trailhead, we were surprised to find food and drink. The trail workers had set up a tent and tables and the Sedona Westerners sponsored the workday with pizza and other yummies, plus some delicious drinks to go with. We weren’t the target audience for this picnic, but we were invited to share, and share we did. What an unexpected treat. The hiking community is a relatively small one and it was enjoyable to be together, with friends and fellow hikers, especially after good trek on Ledge N Airy. 

There are Sedona Westerners groups heading out to trails throughout the area, with differing degrees of difficulty, almost every day of the week between September and May. Check our website, www.sedonawesterners.org, for our hiking schedules, then become a member, and join us on our next hike. Chances are you might just see the trails in a new light – and make some new friends along the way. 

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