Sedona Westerners in the Red Rock News

January 29, 2010

Sedona Westerners’ Ambler Group Steps into the New Year


by Meri Thomason

Did you make a New Year’s resolution to be more active in 2010? Perhaps you’ve heard that walking 10,000 steps a day strengthens the heart and reduces body fat. A January hike with the Amblers to Sugarloaf Mountain was the perfect example of this type of exercise.

The average age that day was estimated to be around 60, making this the ideal group for the older hiker. The Amblers keep a slower pace than other Westerners groups. There’s plenty of time to take pictures, enjoy a snack and lunch break, and, of course, admire the views.

One of the benefits to hiking with this group is that you don’t need much to get started. Club policy requires that you wear lug-soled shoes. For the Ambler outings, lightweight hiking shoes - as comfortable as sneakers - can provide the necessary traction. You also need to bring water. Winter air can be quite dry, so although sweating is minimal, all hikers must carry water. You should also pack something to eat.

Break time on the way up Sugarloaf. Photo by John Mezera.

Each Thursday at 9 am, weather permitting, the Amblers meet at Posse Grounds Park before carpooling to the trailhead. Sometimes, hikers from the Village of Oak Creek get together and carpool to Sedona or the trailhead. Be sure to check the website for last-minute changes to the hiking schedule, and bring several dollars for the driver.

Your first step is to locate the person holding the sign-in clipboard and fill out the waiver form. The Sugarloaf hike began with Harry Grossman greeting everyone and checking to see all were prepared. Introductions ensued; many had driven north from the Village, while others had come south from Alaska and Canada. Harry described the Amblers saying, “We hike in the mountains to show that we’re not over the hill.”

With John Mezera leading, the group started off under calm, cloudy skies in a single file through the hushed, forested area. Tailgater Dennis Perry made sure they stuck together. The steps taken here were on a still-frozen trail, with easily identifiable tracks made by mountain bikers. The hikers observed Coffee Pot rock from a perspective that made it look very little like its namesake. Coming around a bend, the group viewed beautiful homes below them. Harry pointed out one house owned by a fellow Westerner, who, on the return trek, was outside waving to the group.

The snack break was at a huge, open area with plenty of flat red rock on which to perch. While the group munched on snacks from their packs, Bernie Platte shared his delicious homemade beef jerky.

The vertical rocks nearby were coated with a dark substance identified as desert varnish. Thousands of years ago, a layer of clay was carried by the wind and deposited on the rocks. Then, colonies of microscopic bacteria lived on this surface. During our high-heat summers, a chemical reaction occurs to bond this to the rock, often just one hundredth of a millimeter thick.

The group resumed hiking, with uphill steps and warm sunshine necessitating short stops to remove layers of clothing. Taking a loop trail to the summit, (elevation around 4900 feet), it was time for lunch with excellent views of West Sedona down below. Resting there in the slight breeze made many retrieve their cast-off clothes.

The warmth of the sun melted remaining patches of snow and created some muddy and slippery steps on the return trek. Hikers who thought it would all be downhill after leaving the summit were surprised to find uphill stretches. A short rest stop was the perfect opportunity for exchanging email addresses before returning to the trailhead’s parking lot.

Harry’s pedometer registered 12,000 steps. For those of you trying to put 10,000 steps in your day, consider stepping out with the Amblers!

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, February 11th, beginning at 7 p.m., at the Jewish Community of Sedona and the Verde Valley.