Dogies ‘Get-along’ on Old Cattle Trail
On a sunny warm January day, the Tuesday Dogie group of the Sedona Westerners met in the Village of Oak Creek to carpool to a favorite winter hike, the Bell-Weir Trail combination. It is usually a surprise to new hikers to learn that the Bell Trail is nowhere near Bell Rock. It passes alongside Wet Beaver Creek in a separate red rock area 17 miles south of the "Y". The drive to the hike, along Route 179, showed that Dry Beaver Creek is wet this season.
At the trail head, the hikers grouped themselves into two sections, one led by Bob Dannert and tail-gated by Liz Sweeney, the other with Gus Rousonelos and Joan Scott taking on those responsibilities. The pace, the length of nearly 8 miles, the elevation change, even the temperature, fit the Dogie group's preference for moderation.
The hike leaders recounted the history of this trail, which was built by rancher Charles Bell in 1932 to drive his cattle to the cooler Mogollon Rim for the summer. Bell, originally from Santa Barbara, had been an emissary to Cuba and South America. After living in the East, he so enjoyed vacationing at a local dude ranch, that he switched careers and became a rancher.
Three new Westerner members joined the group, and for today, former Michiganders numerically dominated the hiking group. Sedona has experienced swings in temperature this season, staying warm in December and hitting the seventies on Christmas Day, then setting a pipe-bursting low of 11 degrees one week later on New Year's Day. The former mid-westerners were glad to be away from snow and gloomy weather. Some even sported shorts and T-shirts along with their required lug-soled boots.
After a short time on the Bell Trail, the leaders headed off down the Weir Trail for morning break streamside, stopping by the weir, a dam that has a gauging station which measures water flow in this spring-fed perennial stream. After break, the hikers returned to the Bell Trail, enjoying its rise and fall, and the views of lush growth in this red rock riparian area.
At lunch break on broad rocks overlooking a warm weather swimming hole, hikers caught up on holiday travel stories, and imagined what it would be like to swim there in warmer weather. The water was running quite high that day, providing pleasing background sounds, and a canyon wren, with its characteristic melody of "singing down the scale", accompanied the sound of water.
On the return trip, Rousonelos pointed out lava dikes that punctuate the trail in spots. Hikers were glad for this day by the stream and the red rocks.
Bell Trail is a treat anytime of the year, with fall's color, winter's open views, spring's blooming cactus and wildflowers, and summer's opportunities for a refreshing dip in Wet Beaver Creek. Today, only milk vetch or loco weed was in bloom, but the deciduous trees were starting to green up.
The complete Bell Trail crosses the stream, then heads up a lovely canyon, topping out after 11 miles with views to Sedona and the San Francisco Peaks.
A few years ago on this hike, Ron Schneider passed around historical information about the Casner family, who arrived in 1875. Jane Casner and her many sons were active in farming and ranching. Because of drought in Oregon, the family gradually relocated to Arizona. Riley Casner and his wife Rebecca homesteaded at what is now the Southwest Academy across Wet Beaver Creek from the Bell Trail. They planted the first orchards in the Verde Valley and traded with both the native peoples in the area and a local army post. Other Casners raised stock and sheep from Williams to Jerome to Mormon Lake, which explains the Casner name on widely separated land features. Schneider's materials came from the Sedona and Camp Verde historical societies.
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 held on Thursday, February 10th; at 7 pm. Jewish Community of Sedona and the Verde Valley Center, 100 Meadowlark Drive, Sedona.