Westerners give an A+ for Section C of Arizona Trail
The forty-eighth season of the Sedona Westerners opened with a hike through a section of the Arizona Trail along Walnut Canyon. The entire trail, when complete, will cover some 800 miles, from the border with Mexico to the Utah state line. According to the Arizona Trail Association (see the web site http://www.aztrail.org/at_trail_desc.html for further information), "the trail corridor… was developed to emphasize the wide range of ecological diversity in the state" and "was selected to maximize the incorporation of already existing trails." It was endorsed by the trails committee of the Arizona State Parks Board in 1988. Although this hike was not near the Mexican border, the word on the trail is that hikers within 20 miles of that border should have original U S Government IDs or an up to date Green Card.
Veteran Dogie hike leader Ron Schneider selected a very scenic 0.5% of the trail (8 mile round trip plucked from the 800 miles) to get the season started. Portions of the trail around the Flagstaff area are designated A, B, C, and D. Ron chose a new route for the Dogies, the "C-section" but promised us minimal pain on our route. Kay Schneider, the back up leader, volunteered to "back up" the group by serving as tailgater. The size of the group was easy to handle as many of the Westerners prefer to stay closer to home.
Leader Ron had researched both the Arizona Trail and the history of the section the group would be traversing. Much of the day's route went along old roads and former rail beds that were developed by logging companies. Basically, three lumber companies and their successors built rail lines to harvest specific areas. When these areas were logged out, the rail materials were pulled up and re-used elsewhere. The main sawmill site of one company is now occupied by the Flagstaff Mall. The area Ron led us through was last logged in 1922-23, so the Ponderosa pines, Rocky Mountain junipers, and oaks along the trail have up to 83 years of growth.
The group walked through a mix of shade and open sunny meadows splashed with large swaths of yellow composites, highlighted by purple asters with their punchy yellow center disk. Abundant summer rains brought new bloom to cliff rose, orange and red Indian paint brush, lupines, wild geranium, penstemons, gilias, globe mallow, yarrow, mullein, and rock mat.
The weather was warmer than predicted, reaching 85 degrees, but Ron took care that everyone was drinking adequately and resting in the shade as needed.
The trail was mostly level with a set of switchbacks down then up along a side canyon of Walnut Canyon. Morning break was enjoyed at a canyon overlook with views across to Anderson Mesa. Along the way,
About 3 miles east of Fisher Point, the group turned off at a second signed side trail to an even more beautiful overlook for lunch. From here, beauty beckoned from every side: down into the steep green canyon bottom, up to the red-tailed hawks gliding on the thermals, behind us and up to a stunning view of the Peaks.
During lunch, Ron passed around to the group two articles about the Arizona Trail and local logging history. Ron’s desert treats after lunch were superb leaving all the hikers to encourage him to lead all of the hikes in the future. Ron and Kay then led the group back on an (thankfully) uneventful hike with a stop in the shade for a rest and a nap, on a lovely but hot September afternoon.
"The Westerners always welcome new members! If you are interested in joining the club, log onto our website www.sedonawesterners.org. You may also join by attending the next monthly meeting which will be on Thursday, November 12th, beginning at 7 p.m., at the Jewish Synagogue and Community Center."