My First Date with the Westerners

March 29, 2024


By Cynthia Hartmann

The red rocks contrast against a brilliant blue sky along the Margs Draw trail in early February.

Wondering whether hiking with the Sedona Westerners Hiking Club is right for you? Let me just say that my first hike experience with the club in mid-February exceeded my expectations and I encourage anyone to consider joining this organization. There is more to this group besides all the weekly scheduled hikes - including monthly meetings, special outings, and a chance to create new friendships. 

Though I am typically a solo hiker and I hike often, I had been wanting to join this group for quite some time and just kept putting it off. Unbeknownst to me, my friend Maarah Grayye was already a member and she agreed to join me on my first hike. We chose the Thursday morning hiking group called the Amblers. When I arrived at the designated carpool location, I started to get butterflies in my stomach and felt like I was going on a blind first date. From the comfort of my car, I checked to see if I recognized anyone and immediately noticed Jan Taylor, the hike boss.  While it might sound silly, seeing her gave me the added courage to step out of my car.

As I approached the group, I quickly realized everyone was friendly and welcoming. Members wear name badges, issued by the organization, which really helps to remember everyone’s name. After signing the daily log, we waited for the rest of the group to arrive, and we started to meet the other hikers. Soon Jan gave us a brief talk about the hike, including any possible adverse conditions, and then we quickly arranged carpools and headed off to the trailhead.

The day’s scheduled hike was Margs Draw Trail, a delightful four-mile hike that was entirely new to me.  Skies were sunny, temps were ideal, and thankfully there was no mud or ice on the trail. There were quite a few people attending this hike, so we split into two groups. Each group had an assigned trail leader and tailgater to ensure we all remained together. Along the way, we passed near Snoopy Rock and the Crimson Cliffs as we headed in the direction of the Twin Buttes. The pace was pleasant and one that allowed for conversation along the way while keeping a steady pace toward our destination. We stopped for a couple of water breaks as well as a longer snack break at a sunny spot which offered several rock ledges to rest on. Looking below in the dry wash area, my friend Maarah noticed some large footprints in the sand which appeared to be the size of a mountain lion. Had we not stopped to rest, I doubt we would have seen these. While I tend to be a faster hiker, I absolutely enjoyed the slower pace, instant companionship, and appreciated sharing the experience with other hikers. 

At the end of the hike, we returned to the parking lot and briefly talked about upcoming events including the monthly meeting that was happening later that day. This was a great opportunity for us to meet other members and learn more about the organization. The meeting was scheduled for the Sedona Public Library and was well attended, organized, and included coffee as well as several goodies brought in by other members. 

We were not the only new members in attendance and again appreciated seeing other familiar faces from the hike that morning. The meeting started with some official business followed by a brief report from each hike boss about their hikes from the past month and upcoming hikes for the next month. This was a great way to better understand the hikes enjoyed by the various groups. After a short break, we were treated to a guest speaker, Dondi West, from the Verde Search and Rescue. Her presentation offered fascinating insights into the amazing efforts provided by this dedicated volunteer organization who often head out at night to locate lost hikers. She also described the resources they use for the various types of rescues they provide during the course of a year. 

Joining The Westerners will not only offer you many options for organized hikes but also the chance to meet new people, learn more about our community, and provide opportunities to be an active steward of Sedona’s amazing network of trails. I highly encourage anyone who has considered joining to sign up, and then pick a hike that matches your preferred pace and distance. My prediction is that you will not be disappointed, and your first date with the Westerners will not be the last. 

To learn more about the Sedona Westerners Hiking Club, visit our website at www.sedonawesterners.org. With about 36 hikes left in the hiking season, the membership fee of $30 is still a good investment. Become a member of the Westerners today and join us for more fun events and hikes now through May 9, 2024.

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