Sedona Westerners in the Red Rock News

December 10, 2010

Mustangs Scale Wilson Mountain


by Cathy Lutz

It was another glorious November morning full of promise and anticipation when the Mustangs gathered at Posse Ground for a hike to the top of Wilson Mountain that did not disappoint!

After initial hugs and greetings, the Thursday group listened attentively as Mustang boss Andy Beeler reviewed the club's rules, stressing safety measures and the all-important need to hydrate, even in cool November temperatures. With Andy's mantra this season "Hydrate!" many Mustangs automatically reach for their water bottles whenever he passes by--reminiscent of a well-honed Pavlovian response. Next, hike leader Doug Reinika briefly described the 8½-mile trail that he had scouted the previous day with co-leader Charlie Shudson. For the shady start of the hike, Doug recommended the group don three layers of clothing that could easily be removed during timely "clothing adjustments" as the sun appeared and the temperature rose. With Qwi Johnson and Cy Elliott volunteering to serve as tailgaters, the Mustangs were ready to climb into waiting cars for the drive to the trailhead at Encinoso Picnic Area in Oak Creek Canyon, 5.3 miles north of the Y.

Hike leader Doug Reinika explaining the technique for cutting down a tree. Photo by Cathy Lutz.

For those unfamiliar with Wilson Mountain, two options exist for hiking up Sedona's highest peak, officially named "Wilson Mountain Trail #10" and "North Wilson Trail #123." For this hike, the Mustangs would follow Westerner tradition and ascend the North Wilson trail, cross the First Bench to the junction with the Wilson Mountain trail, proceed up to the summit plateau, turn south to the Sedona Overlook, and return to the parking lot at Midgley Bridge via the Wilson Mountain trail.

With backpacks securely in place and trekking poles properly adjusted, the Mustangs left the picnic grounds and soon began a modestly steep ascent, passing through an area that had been heavily forested before it sustained significant damage from the Brins Mesa fire in 2006. Still, because of the random nature of the wildfire, the hikers were treated to the brilliant colors of autumn from the surviving deciduous trees that escaped the ravages of the fire.

Moving along, the Mustangs saw evidence of recent trail maintenance and reconstruction activity that had temporarily closed North Wilson during part of September and October. Here hike leader Doug stopped by a freshly cut tree trunk for an impromptu lesson in the proper technique for cutting down a tree. Then, climbing steadily through a steeper section, the Mustangs at last moved out of the shade, into the sunlight, and onto a flat section of trail known as the First Bench. Continuing south along the First Bench, several hikers asked curiously about two pretty canyons to the left that were identified as Casner and Munds.

At last the hikers reached the junction with the Wilson Mountain trail that would take them upward through switchbacks and a once lush woodland to Wilson's 7,122' summit plateau. Here they encountered a second junction near the landmark tool shed, another fire survivor and once again standing proudly upright and ready for service. From this point, one branch of the trail turned south to the scenic Sedona Overlook, an ideal spot for the Mustangs' lunch break. The hike leader provided lively lunchtime entertainment, sharing the story of the mountain's namesake Richard Wilson and his unfortunate encounter with a grizzly that led to his untimely demise in 1885. In no hurry to leave this magnificent place, the hikers observed haze from distant prescribed burns wafting lazily over the red rocks of Sedona, giving them an other-worldly appearance.

Retracing their steps to the First Bench below, the Mustangs began the final steep descent down North Wilson's sister trail to the south, taking care to avoid slipping on scree that challenged even the most experienced of hikers. Keeping one eye on miniscule Midgley Bridge below, a visual measurement of progress on the return, the hikers gave each other high-fives for a hike well done when at last they reached the trailhead.

The Westerners always welcome new members. If you are interested in joining the club, log onto our website: You may also join by attending a monthly meeting, our next one will be on Thursday, January 13, beginning at 7p.m. at the Jewish Community of Sedona and the Verde Valley Center, 100 Meadowlark Drive, Sedona.