The Sedona Westerners Celebrate a Successful Hiking Season

May 31, 2024


By Sara Stiffler

Donna Forsythe presented Ray LePorte with the Trail Boss bolo as the Sedona Westerners wrap up the 2023-2024 hiking season at their annual spring picnic.

The 2023-2024 Season for the Sedona Westerners concluded on May 9th with their annual end-of-season Spring Cookout at Posse Grounds. This was a fitting location as Posse Grounds is a common gathering point for many of the Westerners hikes throughout the season - where we pile into carpools to drive the various trailheads. The wonderful picnic was planned and coordinated through the hard work of Adrienne Pichette and Lynn Moffatt and their volunteer workers.

The end of the season is a bittersweet time for the hikers. As we ate our hamburgers and brats, we regaled each other with stories of our favorite hikes this season and of our travels that took us out of town if just for a short while. A number of the Westerners will spend their summer traveling – and getting away from town during the hottest days of the summer.

But as we said goodbye, it’s not really a goodbye. Most will return for our next season starting in September and many of us will continue to meet up (informally) over the summer for early morning hikes ahead of the hottest parts of the day.

As we look back at the 2023-2024 season, we are proud of our accomplishments as hikers, trail leaders, volunteers, donors, and stewards of the trails and community. We bid our warmest thank you to our Trail Boss, Ray LaPorte, who along with others made this season a huge success. Ray will return next season as the Immediate Past Trail Boss; a position held this season by Donna Forsythe. Terri Petrescu will take on the role of Trail Boss for the 2024-2025 season. Teri previously held the position during the 2020-2021 season when most of the hikes were canceled due to the pandemic, so she is looking forward to running the club during a more active season.

We want to thank all of the officers who served this season including our hike bosses - Jan Taylor, Trisha Travis, Lisa Celeste, Kelley Malek, Robert Apter, Linda Warren, and Mark Hurtt - who planned and coordinated the approximately 219 hikes this season. While some of the hikes were canceled due to inclement weather, the hike leaders sought alternate locations for a couple of the scheduled hikes to avoid canceling them altogether. Kudos to the hike leaders for being flexible and keeping the best interests of our hikers in mind each week.

The club participated in two planned volunteer events this season. On January 20, 2014, the Westerners sponsored a Volunteer Work Day in the Western Gateway trail system near Cultural Park. Volunteers donned the appropriate PPE and tools and helped make needed improvements to the trails. Others served lunch to the numerous volunteers as a thank-you for their work. A big thank you to Sedona Westerner Hassan Hosseni (who is also a Forest Service Liaison) for coordinating the volunteers.

Hosseni, Ray LaPorte, and Dave Vanderwater were also very instrumental in coordinating volunteers who worked as the Cathedral Rock Trail Maintenance Closure Support crew from February 28-April 13. Thirty-one Westerners contributed approximately 201 hours aiding the trail construction crew by directing hikers and visitors at the juncture of the Templeton Trail and the Cathedral Rock trail away from the construction zone. Volunteers gave helpful advice to visitors, informing them of other great trails to take instead.

Philanthropy has always been a tenant of the Westerners philosophy and this year we proved we don’t just talk the talk. The Westerners raised a record $37,110 during the Sedona Red Rock Trail Fund 2024 Fund Drive this spring – fueled by a $10,000 incentive match from an anonymous donor with more than 60 members making donations. This is double the amount raised and donated in 2023 and triple the amount in 2022! The money will go toward trail maintenance and enhancement.

If you have hiked the Sedona trails in the last forty years, you have likely seen some of the metal trail signs along the way. These metal signs were donated by the Westerners in the mid-1980s to replace aging wooden signs. This year, in cooperation with the Forest Service, the metal signs have been systematically replaced with new trail signs, and the old metal signs were removed. The metal signs were transferred to the Sedona Red Rock Trail Fund which auctioned off the signs to current Westerner members with all bids starting at $100 per sign. The auction raised $9,600 for the Trail Fund. We are delighted that these original signs now hold a place in honor in the homes of our Westerners members. The club offered one of the signs to the Sedona Heritage Museum and they aptly chose the sign for Schnebly Hill Trail 158 – which was named Sedona’s namesake, Sedona Schnebly.

While we all know Sedona gets a fair share of visitors from the Phoenix area each year, there were two occasions this season when we had some very special guests from down the way. Last fall, we hosted Mare Czinar, a writer for Phoenix Magazine, on a Rustlers hike out in Cultural Park. Mare interviewed Ray LaPorte and me for the January/February edition of the magazine, after which she joined us for our hike. We were honored to have our club featured in the magazine. More recently, the Westerners hosted our first-ever joint hike with the AZ Trailblazers in the Turkey Creek area on April 6. The hike was well-attended by members from both groups, and it was great to share our Sedona hiking trails with our neighbors to the south.

Something to look forward to next season is the proposed addition of a new hiking group with Westerners. In the spring, we conducted three test hikes designed for members who want a shorter, easier hike than those offered by the Amblers. Specifically, the new group targets those who have been away from hiking for a while and are evaluating their abilities. Initial tests show great interest among the target group. The Westerners Board will be evaluating the proposal this summer and will make the final decision in the fall about the new group. Fingers crossed.

A big thank you and congratulations to the members of the Sedona Westerners. We had a fantastic season and shared some amazing adventures on the trails here in Sedona. I know I can’t wait to do it all over again.

Check out our website (www.SedonaWesterners.org) in late August for information about joining the Westerners for the 2024-2025 hiking season which will begin in September. As always, the membership fee will be $30 for the whole season.

Be safe this summer whether you are hiking or traveling. We look forward to seeing you on the trails next season.

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