Sedona Westerners in the Red Rock News

February 11, 2011

Mustangs Explore Turkey Creek in Search of Mayan Man


by Marcia Frye

On a brisk January morning the Mustangs gathered at the Oak Creek Outlet parking area. Andy Beeler, Mustang boss, greeted the eager hikers and reminded each to have plenty of water, wear lug-soled boots, and carry snacks and lunch for the day’s outing. Mustang hikes are scheduled for Thursdays, and are physically challenging hikes offering great scenery. The hikes vary in degree of difficulty, but most cover 7 - 9 miles with an elevation change of 1000 - 2000 feet. The pace at which Mustang hikes are led is moderate to fast.

Andy introduced Marcia Frye and Cathy Lutz, the hike leaders, who told the group that they would be hiking in the Turkey Creek area to view the “Mayan Man” formation. With Cathedral Rock in the background, Cathy set a fast pace from the parking area. The group crossed a large wash and climbed up to an open slick rock pad, which led to a narrower trail surrounded by varied vegetation. While stopping briefly for some hikers to remove jackets, they were treated to views of Napoleon’s Tomb.

View of Mayan Man. Photo by Marcia Frye.

Soon the Mustangs reached the boundary of Red Rock State Park. Their planned route took them across several washes and through stands of juniper. Here the Mayan Man formation was first visible. Nestled within a high red rock formation, this feature resembles a face in profile.

A pack rat midden was pointed out in its location within a large, old prickly pear cactus beside the trail. Most middens are conglomerates of plant parts, bones, and debris held together by pack rat fecal material and sticky urine. Marcia told the group that well-preserved middens provide information about the climate and plant and animal inhabitants found nearby in the past.

Cathy urged the hikers to proceed onto a trail that bisected a large, open meadow after crossing a rocky wash and broad area of slick rock. As they ascended a gentle slope, the hikers came upon one of Sedona’s seven sinkholes. Its opening is not readily apparent, so is surrounded by fencing. The cavern below, which formed when its surface rocks fell inward due erosion from running water, occupies more than 1800 square feet. That piece of information motivated the hikers to step away from the opening and continue on their way.

Leaving the sinkhole, the Mustangs climbed to the saddle between the Mayan Man butte and another to the south. Noting excellent views of Mayan Man, hikers snapped many photographs. Cathy encouraged everyone to climb higher for their snack break. Two false summits were reached where everyone stopped to enjoy views of Steamboat Rock, Capital Butte, and Coffeepot Rock.

Eager for a snack, the hikers scaled a lichen-covered rock face to reach the summit. After locating a seat on the southern side of the butte, they looked at the cottonwoods surrounding Turkey Creek Tank below them. Beyond the tank, the old jeep road formed a path to House Mountain. In the 1980s, geologist Wayne Ranney discovered that House Mountain was a shield volcano. Like the volcanoes in Hawaii, House Mountain’s lava flowed slowly down its sides. The Mogollon Rim to the north blocked the lava, which then flowed in the other three directions.

The hikers next trekked across the narrow ridge that extends from the western side of the butte to reach a trail to the old jeep road. Forty minutes later they arrived at a scenic vantage point near the Turkey Breasts for lunch. After a short break, they had another two miles of hiking to reach the trail head. From GPS readouts, totals for the day were 6.8 miles and CEC of 1200 feet.

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 held on Thursday, March 10th; at 7 pm. Jewish Community of Sedona and the Verde Valley Center, 100 Meadowlark Drive, Sedona.