Mustangs Try to Outrun the Rain on the Seven Warriors Loop

March 15, 2024


By Robert Apter

Bell Rock in between the raindrops.

As the date of our hike on the Seven Warriors Loop approached, it was evident that weather was going to be an issue. As the Mustangs Trail Boss, I was keeping in touch with my hike leaders, Lisa and Dan Celeste, with emails trying to decide what to do. As we tried to synthesize several weather reports, it became obvious that at least some rain was likely, but the predicted amounts of rain were very small. So we decided to start the hike earlier than usual to try to beat the rain. We all met up at the Yavapai Vista trailhead, anticipating relatively light demand for parking. We could always cancel there if conditions didn’t look good. 

Arriving at the trailhead, we had seven intrepid hikers for Seven Warriors. Undeterred by news that the other Westerners hiking group had already cancelled due to inclement weather, we noted a sucker hole in the sky - a break in the clouds luring us to venture into the wilderness - and decided to head out. After all, we could always decide to turn around if the weather deteriorated. 

Our planned route was seven miles and about 1,000 feet of elevation gain. Lisa headed out in the lead, at a very rapid pace with the thought of beating the rain. We had to rein her in a bit, so everyone was comfortable. Kelley Malek did most of the tailgating, but with a small group of experienced Westerners, we weren’t too worried about losing someone.

Clouds and mist highlighting Bell Rock, Courthouse Butte, and Cathedral Rock provided a very different perspective on our red rocks than the usual sunshine. We reached a high point on the Hiline Trail, noting that that trail is a double diamond black mountain biking trail shared with hikers – and it was possible a cyclist could come downhill towards us at any time. Fortunately, no bikers were in evidence there, though we did see one group of four bicyclists later on the Made in the Shade trail. But still no rain, so we continued, turning left onto the Transept Trail.

Lou Sideris entertained and educated us with stories of the Native American history of the area, the evolution of their dwellings, and their languages.

Our group developed a fascination with the copious crops of juniper berries we were seeing along the way. We did slow our pace a bit in order to pick some for later tea or possibly gin experiments. Normally the Mustangs don’t stop for berry picking, but our small group was able to make an adjustment.

As we passed the halfway mark of our hike, we started to get some light rain. Not hard enough to be much of an issue, and we were too far along to backtrack. As we continued on a seldom visited stretch of trail, we came across the foreleg of a deer, and ten yards further on, the other foreleg. There was no sign of the rest of the carcass, and these legs had not been there on our scout hike six days earlier. We guessed this to be the prey of a mountain lion, although a pack of coyotes may be possible. We were reminded of the saying, “If you frequent the backcountry, you may not have seen mountain lions, but they have seen you.” Also known as cougar, or puma, they are an extraordinarily successful animal with a huge range, extending from Western Canada through the Western United States, Mexico, and even into South America. It is said that wherever there are deer, at least in the Western United States, there are mountain lions.

As we approached our planned destination vista point, a flat rocky shelf with sheer side walls that projects from Castle Rock, the rain intensified, now accompanied by a penetrating wind. The overlook is normally the highlight of this route, but several hikers, having been there before, decided to seek shelter, rather than venture out on the exposed rock. For those who went onto the ledge, it was worth it, even in adverse conditions.

From there, we decided to take our fastest trail options back to the trailhead. Fortunately, much of our route was somewhat protected from wind and rain by being on the lee side of the cliffs of the Seven Warriors.

Looking forward to warm, dry clothes, we were happy to arrive back to our vehicles, but also energized to have enjoyed the Sedona trails under mildly challenging conditions.

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 a few minutes to sign up and start your new adventures here in the Red Rocks.

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