Sedona Westerners in the Red Rock News

February 25, 2011

Drovers Back in the Saddle Again


by Michael McCaffrey

“My father considered a walk among the mountains as the equivalent of churchgoing.” Aldous Huxley

And what better way to spend a Super Bowl Sunday than to join the Sedona Westerners Drovers for their afternoon hike to the Mitten Saddle. For those of you unfamiliar with a Drovers Trek itinerary, these hikes, on every Sunday afternoon, are usually 3-4 miles long. Generally, they are rated as moderate or easy, although in some instances they include steep climbs, rock-scrambling, and small ledges. They nearly always have as their objective either interesting view-points or natural features. The pace is adjusted to fit the group.

Whoopi-ty-aye-oh, Rockin' to and fro, Back in the saddle again. Photo by Michael McCaffrey.

After the usual gathering at Posse Grounds, discussion of the hike (this to be a moderate, 3 mile trek), rules to keep in mind, etc., carpools left for the trailhead on this partly cloudy day. The drive through parts of uptown took us past the remains of the first orchard planted in Sedona and finally dead ended at the trailhead.

Perlina McCombs was trail leader for this hike and she picked John Avery as the tailgater as we took off on the first part of the trail, an impressive boulevard of a fire road. This however was short lived, as the ascent of the stepped ridge quickly left behind views of uptown houses and got the respiration working in quick order. Brief pauses for breath catching afforded grand views of the Airport Mesa, Chimney Rock, Capitol Butte, and Coffeepot Rock panorama of West Sedona as well as brief glimpses of the landscapes and meandering trails (Jordan, Cibola Pass, Jim Thompson, Brins Mesa) to the east but what goes up, alas, must come down. The descent through a dense covering of pine, agaves (century plant), yucca, juniper and opuntia (prickly pear) led to the base of the saddle and the final ascent.

There is something about being faced with the end of the trail that brings a primeval peacefulness to the spirit. Of course there’s still that last effort to enjoy and enjoy we did, switch backing up the modest grade to the patiently waiting saddle.

With the saddle reached everyone settled in to enjoy a relaxing snack break, vigorous conversation and the realization of one of the many rewards of the hike- spectacular views of Mormon and Wilson Canyons, extravagant winter colors of browns and greens and Red Rock reds and the winter forests laid out below. Since we are situated in the Upper Sonoran desert in an environment commonly described as “high desert”, this provides the perfect environment for evergreen tree species, such as pine, cypress and juniper to flourish. The proof was below us; stands of Arizona Cypress, Pinyon Pine, and Utah Juniper drew the eye in green waves of shade.

All too soon it was time to return (the Super Bowl was starting after all). With renewed spirits accompanying us on our descent, the trail back to the cars was begun. The dying bloom stalks of several agaves greeted us with a sad reminder of the ending treat.

A special truth about this part of the country is that in a relatively short amount of time and effort, one is transported far beyond the ties to “civilization” to a place where, as Theroux tells us, “How near to good is what is wild!”
This calls to mind one of the distinct advantages of the Sedona Westerners- an ability to increase the wealth of trail experiences as well as providing a unique social forum for natives, transplants and visitors alike.

A special thanks to Perlina and John for spearheading and speartailing this perfect gem of a hike.

“Walking takes longer... than any other known form of locomotion except crawling. Thus it stretches time and prolongs life. Life is already too short to waste on speed.” Edward Abbey, "Walking"

Won’t you join with us on future hikes to stretch time and prolong life?

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.