Making New Friends at Turkey Creek

April 26, 2024


By Dick Williams

The Sedona Westerners explore Turkey Creek near the VOC with members of the Phoenix-based Arizona Trailblazers and the Sedona Red Rock Trail Fund. The Westerners have 10 hikes scheduled before May 9.

The more time I am here in Sedona, the more I have grown to respect the special powers of our trails. They give us solitude, exercise, beautiful vistas, abundant flora, and a chance to unwind. However, their real superpower is that they bring people together. This power is true not only for the residents of Sedona, but for the many visitors that travel long distances to lace up their boots. This week’s story of a unique Westerners hike is a perfect example.

It was nothing short of a fabulous day in early April when the Sedona Westerners met up with members of the Arizona Trailblazers and the Sedona Red Rock Trail Fund (SRRTF) for a joint hike in the Village of Oak Creek. It was a little chilly to start but it warmed up nicely. There were gentle breezes pretty much all day, and the Sedona blue sky was filled with many small puffy clouds that created beautiful, dappled shadows on the landscape. 

This hike had been many months in the making, and actually started with a “cold call” email outreach last fall from Sandi Heysinger (Vice President of the Sedona Red Rock Trail Fund and Prospector for the Westerners) to the Arizona Trailblazers. The Arizona Trailblazers, primarily based in Phoenix, had come up last fall for a Volunteer Work Day with the Forest Service. After clearing drains and pruning their way up Doe Mountain, everyone agreed it might be nice to come back for joint hike with the Sedona Westerners. Not only would there be new relationships formed, but it would give us folks in Sedona a chance to show the Phoenicians some of our lesser used trails.

Working with Westerner Trail Boss Ray LaPorte, Vice President Dave Vanderwater, and through myriad emails between Sandi and Li Li, Vice-President of the Trailblazers, the date was set. Given the proposed National Forest Service work on Turkey Creek, it was decided that would be a great place to take the group and show them some of the work planned in the coming years.

Getting to the meetup point in the Village was not without its share of weather angst during the week. A date of early April was initially chosen, given the normally good weather. Mother Nature, however, had decided to play even more of her recent tricks earlier in the week. Alas, there was snow, rain and cold forecasted for the Friday before the hike. Given that our Phoenix guests would be getting up early to drive north on I-17, we wanted to make sure conditions were such that hikers were safe and the delicate trails were not muddy and susceptible to damage.

Thankfully for the Westerners, we have an ace up our sleeve with a resident meteorologist, Dave Minott. He is always good at sorting the hype from reality in the weather charts, and this time was no different. As of Friday afternoon, he deemed us good to go for the next morning. The time was adjusted one hour later, ostensibly to let it warm up another few degrees, but the added benefit was that the Trailblazers got to set the alarm clocks an hour later.

A great group of Westerners was assembled to act as hosts, including three past Trail Bosses and many hikers that live in the Village that know the Turkey Creek area well. The Trailblazers were mostly from Phoenix, but had members from Prescott, Cornville, and even a Westerner, in attendance. We split into two groups, mixed up the groups, read the rules, and headed down the trail.

There really are fabulous views and interesting rock formations in Turkey Creek. Just about everywhere you are there is a panoramic vista of Cathedral, Seven Warriors, House Mountain, Red Rock State Park, with Bear and Thunder Mountains off in the distance. I mean everywhere.

At breaks we were regaled with some of lore of the area, including the House of the Apache Fires, built by a then-owner of TWA, the house on the hill recently covered in national media, and the local homesteads. Dick Williams, of the SRRTF, also gave the group a short recap of the Red Rock Trails Access Plan and what that would mean for Turkey Creek specifically. Everyone hoped the Forest Service process would move along quickly so work could get started to further protect and showcase this wonderful area.

After heading by the Turkey Creek Tank, we started our trek back to the parking area. Along the way we passed the garbage dump filled with old rusty cans and car parts, a protected sinkhole (not with the grandeur of Devil’s Kitchen but interesting nonetheless), and a view of what folks affectionately call “Mayan Man.” To me, it looks more like “Polynesian Man” from Easter Island, complete with a pineapple plant hairdo, but as is always true in these cases, your vision may vary.

Conversation along the way was the usual trading of hiking and travel stories, what you did in a previous life, your favorite restaurants, etc. It never ceases to amaze me the interesting life experiences folks around here have had. I truly enjoy hearing fellow hiker’s stories.

Back at the trailhead we offered our appreciation to Sandi Heysinger, Dave Vanderwater, Dick Williams, and Jim Kemper for their leadership on the hike. The Trailblazers offered to host us in the future for a hike in their neck of the woods. We are looking forward to it!

While the 2023-2024 hiking season is starting to wind down, it’s not too late to join the Westerners. We still have 10 hikes scheduled before May 9th when we wrap things up with our end-of-season picnic. As always, the Westerners invite new members to join our hiking club. Check out our website at www.sedonawesterners.org for more information. We’ll be back on the trails for our 2024-2025 season in September as we embark on another exciting hiking season in Sedona.

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