A Cold Day on Bear Mountain
It was the day after Christmas, but 13 hikers turned out at the Posse Ground at 9:00 a.m. for a hike led by Hadji Hadji-Agha to the top of Bear Mountain. The temperature was well below freezing and there was much stamping of feet and shuffling before it was time to set off. The hike commenced at the car park for both Bear Mountain and Doe Mountain. The first part of the hike starts off across flat land with deeply eroded drainage channels but quickly climbs up a steep path to the first shelf where we took a right turn along a series of ledge paths to an overlook of Fay Canyon. The paths were snow covered in parts but there was no ice here which was lucky given the exposed drop to the canyon floor. The overlook itself was bordered by drops on both sides with magnificent views of Fay Canyon with its deep red walls and far below the car park.
The hidden jewel on this part of the hike is an old bootlegger cave on a hidden ledge below the overlook. The site is complete with old pans and other paraphernalia but the whisky is long gone alas. The roof of the cave is blackened with smoke but it must have been a cold experience in the winter at least. Remembering our scramble it remains a complete mystery how they got the water and ingredients up and the barrels down. Maybe in the past there was another path. Some of the party went to the end of the ledge which involved some judicious bending and wall hugging at the narrowest point.
From the overlook the hike follows what can only be described as a scramble up a gulley in the side of the canyon. This took us out of the red rock before reaching more level ground on the plateau before the last climb on the main path up to the mountain. To get there it was necessary to follow a winding trail through the Manzanitas which once again skirted the top of Fay Canyon and gave a distant view of the arch and the Indian ruin. Again one wonders what they did for water.
There is a conspicuous tree that marks the junction and we progressed upward for lunch and the top. We broke for lunch in a sheltered spot albeit at about the narrowest part of the trail and enjoyed chocolates handed out by Hadji. It was not a day to hang around and we were soon on our way again. At this point we encountered some ice which was fine on the way up but we wondered how we would manage it on the way down. The weather was really warm out of the wind which in turn was icy and frequent clothing adjustments were called for. From now on the views over Red Canyon and the plain towards Cottonwood were truly spectacular. The drop off is around 1700 ft in the space of half a mile or so and the cars on the dirt roads to Palatki ruins and beyond look like toys. We spent some time on the extended summit but there are no clear paths across and there was still a covering of snow.
It was time to return and the way down was a lot easier than the way up, especially as a deviation was found on slickrock to avoid the ice. We thereafter took the normal way down which highlighted a particular feature of Bear Mountain, the series of false summits. There are a number of points when one feels one has reached the top but one is misled and the trail yet again reveals its next section. The last part of the descent seemed much steeper than on the way up but at around 2:30 the last of the hikers returned to the parking lot, after what was a great hike.
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, January 14th, beginning at 7 p.m., at the Jewish Community of Sedona and the Verde Valley.