Westerners Hike the Long Way to A Spectacular Canyon Wall
There’s no Christmas holly in Arizona, but the scrub oak we commonly see on the trail resembles it closely. Fourteen of us were able to spare a December morning away from holiday preparations to hike west-side Sedona’s Long Canyon. The trailhead does not offer much parking, but our Thursday morning start time was certainly the best time of the week to go. Harry Grossman, our leader (“Hike Boss”) for this hike, nominated Dennis Perry as “Tailgater” to keep an eye out for anyone who lagged behind. He explained that although the main trail would give us an easy five-mile round trip up the Canyon, Long offers some interesting side trips for the more adventurous. This chilliest hike morning so far this season motivated us to stay warmly dressed.
For the first mile in from the trailhead, we skirted the Seven Canyons Resort, getting viridian glimpses of its golf course and landscaping off to our right. We passed Rachel’s Knoll, a rounded hill that was once a New Age power spot and popular side hike from our trail. Today, it’s part of the Seven Canyons property, no longer accessible to hikers.
Soon after the fork with Deadman’s Pass Trail, we came to a wilderness boundary. Harry explained that Forest Service rules required we split up into two groups here, in compliance with the “party of twelve” rule designed to reduce wilderness impact.
As we hiked into the mouth of the Canyon, the shelter and concentrated ground moisture from the walls brought us into taller trees. Shaggy desert cedar gave way to alligator juniper. When we came into a tall slender stand of Arizona cypress, with their multicolored bark, we stopped for a water break. From there, we pushed on through stands of manzanita. We began to see trailside moss, green in the winter coolness.
As we headed further into the canyon, Neapolitan ice-cream walls of sandstone, and limestone closed in. Sandstone spires appeared. We diverted onto a small social trail leading up the canyon wall. This first brought us to a striking overhang of cliff edge, stained in places by rainwater from above, above the trail. In places the overhanging gallery broadened into beautiful domed grottoes.
A further climb to a projecting rocky spine took us to our chosen lunch spot. The rock layers were a lesson in geologic time. We could see each layer eroding at a different rate and in a distinct way: horizontal embossed edges in one layer, diagonal striations in another, then cross-bandings and vertical ribs as we looked across the face. Each type of weathering represents the changing rock composition of a millions-year different era. As we sat there trading jokes and stories over lunch, we wondered what we might have seen around us if we had been alive and hiking at the time each of these layers accumulated.
Back on the main trail, we encountered some tourists who were first-time visitors. At times like this, it makes a real difference that several of our members are Chamber and Visitor Center volunteers who can field any questions about our area. After several more re-crossings of the main wash, we made our way back to the trailhead.
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 a monthly meeting, our next one will be on Thursday, January 13th, beginning at 7p.m. at the Jewish Community of Sedona and the Verde Valley Center, 100 Meadowlark Drive, Sedona.