Sedona Westerners in the Red Rock News

November 11, 2011

Fall Color and Rock-Hopping In Pumphouse Wash


by Marion Hadji-Agha

It was another beautiful fall day in Sedona and the Saturday Rough Rider hiking group of the Sedona Westerners turned out in full force to enjoy “rock hopping” at Pumphouse Wash. This is the drainage that comes down from the Rim and runs under the bridge at the curve just before the serious switchbacks on 89A. The day started with the drive up Oak Creek Canyon, perfect for viewing the canyon walls and plateau of the Coconino National Forest in all their autumn glory. The riders car-pooled past the overlook on top of Oak Creek Canyon, in order to begin the descent down into the narrow sandstone creek bed of the wash. Pumphouse Wash usually has little or no water flow. However, one might not want to venture there in spring during snowmelt, or after a summer rainstorm. The water accumulation at those times could make safe hiking impossible.

Against the golden glow of late October leaves, the Rough Riders of the Sedona Westerners Hiking Club take a needed break from boulder hopping on Pumphouse Wash. The Wash drops down from the Mogollon Rim to confluence with Oak Creek just below the switchbacks leading up to the rim overlook. There is no trail down Pumphouse Wash, and footing can be treacherous.

After entering the wash we were awed by the beauty of the canyon walls and the size of boulders and rocks, which would eventually lead down to the confluence with Oak Creek. A short detour at one point led east into James Canyon. Late September through mid October is the best time to view fall leaves change color in the upper canyon. We were in for a real treat and rewarded with the most beautiful sights and colors, providing many photo opportunities.

The hikers knew of the rocky terrain, and came prepared with hiking sticks, wore good lug-soled hiking boots and even brought along water shoes, which were needed to pass a stretch of ice cold water that was up to knees and above. There is no trail through the wash. We just kept hopping and climbing over boulders; some were the size of small cars and proved to be a challenge. Aside from the beauty of the season we had to pay close attention to our footing.

After almost eight miles in a rocky wash, the destination at the bridge on SR 89A was welcomed. What an accomplishment!

At this point in the season a reminder for new members, or anyone interested in joining the Sedona Westerners may be useful: It is suggested that you familiarize yourself with the information available on our website, and become aware of the distinct differences in hiking groups. One of the differences to note is the pace that is set.

• The AMBLER hikes are rated as easy to moderate and follow trails of low relief. The pace and distance is adjusted to fit the group with hikes lasting up to 5 hours or so.

• The DOGIES hikes are significantly more challenging and variable. They are rated as moderate to (sometimes) difficult, and often require climbs, rock-scrambling and occasionally follow exposed ledges. The pace is moderate and designed for reasonably conditioned members.

• The MUSTANGS take on more physically challenging hikes, that vary in their degree of difficulty. Distances are 7-9 miles, with an elevation change of 1000 to 2000 feet at times.

• The ROUGH RIDER hikes are usually but not always difficult and challenging, with distances of 8-10 miles at a much faster pace. This group is intended for more experienced and well-conditioned members.

• The DROVERS are the Sunday afternoon hikers. Hikes are rated as moderate with some climbs, rock-scrambling and small ledges at times.

• The TRACKERS offer special interest hikes or outings which may include archeology, botany, geology, area history, photography birding etc.. Best described as field trips, they can also include rock scrambles at times.

The hiking schedule for the season is posted on the website. It is very important to read the destinations and ratings, and the guidelines regarding footwear and water carefully to assure safety and enjoyment for everyone in our beautiful Red Rock Country.

The Westerners always welcome new members. If you are interested in joining the club, log onto our website,, for membership information. You may also join at one of our monthly meetings. Our next one will be on Thursday, Nov.10, beginning at 7p.m. at the Jewish Community of Sedona and the Verde Valley Center, 100 Meadowlark Drive, Sedona.