Sedona Westerners in the Red Rock News

November 13, 2009

Cook Stove/Scott Spring aka "99 Duck Hike"


by Marion Hadji-Agha

On a crisp and wonderful October day the “Dogies” group of the Sedona Westerners hiked up the steep grade of the Cook Stove trail which starts in the Oak Creek Canyon across from Pine Flat campground to explore and enjoy Scott Spring.

As with so many other hikes, our Hike Leader and Co-Leader had scouted that trail prior to this Tuesday. The Cook Stove part of the trail is well marked and includes many switch backs along beautiful Alligator Junipers and Pine trees. While scouting and arriving at the top, however, the Scott Spring part of the hike brought on a challenge to Gini O’Brien, the Leader and Mickey Gershtenson, the Co-Leader. The beautiful plateau in front of them looked totally alike in all directions. Where is Scott Spring and were they able to bring a group of hikers up here without getting everyone lost???? It was a challenge which both of them thrived on.

A special Alligator Juniper. Photo by Andy Beeler.

As they made their scouting path to Scott Spring, ducks were strategically placed. By ducks we are not talking about Donald Duck or Daisy Duck… we are talking about trail markers, which have different names all over the country. The most common names for trail markers in our area are “cairn, “gabion“ and “duck”. A cairn is a manmade pile of stones in a conical form, a gabion a welded and woven wire mesh cylindrical form filled with rocks and a duck is a small well balanced pile of stones, mostly not more than 3 or 4 rocks at a time. Ducks are mostly placed by hikers.

Finally, it was time to proof the scouting skills of the Leader and Co-Leader to our happy “Dogie” group of Sedona Westerners hikers.

Even though the trail up Cook Stove was shady; arriving at the top everybody needed a little breather before continuing on. At that time the hikers were informed by our leaders to keep our eyes open for ducks which would show us the way. The question came up: how many ducks? The answer was: more than five and less than 200.

It was totally enjoyable hiking along the grassy plateau on even ground and the group advanced to Scott Spring, guided along by many, many ducks.

The history of Scott Spring is not readily known so our imagination soared as soon as we came upon remnants of an old cabin.

Close by a concrete basin was spotted which even included tiles and plumbing. What had been the purpose of this large, rectangular enclosure? We guessed the age of these landmarks to be perhaps 70 years and more. Will an answer ever be found or will it join so many other historical mysteries of our area? A bit further across a grassy area was another small spring and tank which thirsty animals of all kind would surely enjoy.

Another item of interest was a most fantastic and old Alligator Juniper. It had unexplained vertical slashes deep inside the bark, way up to the top of the tree. Were they man made or natural? Again, no answer.

A few minutes later we hiked to a fantastic lookout spot overlooking Oak Creek Canyon, perfect for lunch break. Several people dangled their feet over the cliff where the ground was about 1200 feet below.

On the way back across Scott Spring we cleaned up our trail and knocked down all the ducks. The Dogies were in awe of how many ducks had been put up by our hike leaders: 99 total. (One of our hikers actually counted them) What a job! We tired easily knocking them down and can only imagine how much muscle power it took to built them.

Thanks, Gini O’Brien and Mickey Gershtenson, for a most enjoyable “99 Duck Hike” at Cookstove/Scott Spring.

"The Westerners always welcome new members! If you are interested in joining the club, log onto our website You may also join by attending the next monthly meeting which will be on Thursday, January 14th, beginning at 7 p.m., at the Jewish Community of Sedona and the Verde Valley."