Sedona Westerners in the Red Rock News

December 2, 2011

Amblers Hike into History


by Sandy Unger

The Amblers, true to their name, is the most leisurely-paced of the six different groups, which comprise the weekly hiking schedule of the Sedona Westerners. All groups are available to all club members per their own evaluation of ability and interest. Ambler hikes are specifically designed to traverse four-to-five miles of the unique red rock terrain immediately adjacent to the city of Sedona. Ambler hikes are characterized not only by camaraderie but also by their unhurried time for picture taking, for identifying iconic landmarks, and for pursuing questions of botanical and geological interest.

AMBLER HIKERS ON THE SUMMIT OF SUGARLOAF MOUNTAIN From left: Jackie Sharkey, Linda Laursen, Dennis Perry, Christine Scott, Olga Ostrom, Horst Butz, Inge Hilberg, Mary Kay Egan, Craig Hartley, Sandy Unger (Hike Leader), Dot Heywood, Barbara Lewis, Helen Pogosoff, Sam Pietrofitta, June Caine, Jean Valence, Phil Valence. Photo by John Mezera (co-leader).

On recent Ambler hikes, local history has frequently provided a special focus. From Damfino Canyon to Marg's Draw, a recounting of the old stories from "Those Early Days" (a compilation of interviews and essays published by the Sedona Westerners in 1968), proved to be entertaining still, especially to newcomers. A visit to "The Call of the Canyon" engaged the group with the Hollywood film industry's first foray into Oak Creek. A hike along the base of Scheurman Mountain brought alive the tale of how the first vintner in Arizona, Henry Scheurman, was arrested and jailed after he refused to obey the Prohibition laws passed by the new State in 1915. And while standing tall under the ambiance of Cathedral Rock, the group discussed the phenomenon of Page Bryant, the "psychic" who in 1980 "channeled" the location of so-called Sedona Vortex sites, and the consequences thereof.

On November 17, on their most recent adventure, Sandy Unger led the Amblers out of the relatively new Thunder Mountain trailhead, with John Mezera tailgating. Their lunchtime destination was the summit of Sugarloaf Mt. But along the way, a well-documented but heretofore unfamiliar story was shared, which took everyone by surprise. In researching the old name "Grasshopper Flat(s)," which had identified this area for many decades, it was revealed that a former long-time Las Vegas "madam," named Fanny Belle Gulick, had moved to Sedona in the early 1940's. She is described as having become obsessed with acquiring land. Her portfolio of properties at the time of her death included 1000 acres in Big Park, and extensive acreage in Grasshopper Flat. It turns out that Fanny Belle is the person who was directly responsible for having the first successful water-well drilled in dry Grasshopper Flat (and subsequently in previously dry Big Park). The actual details are fascinating, but need more space than is available to recount here. Suffice it to say, once water could be piped around, the Sedona Land Boom began in earnest, and West Sedona was born. Likewise, Big Park turned into VOC in 1968, a subdivision which was built entirely out of Fanny Belle's 1000-acre holding.

Needless to say, the happy Amblers all made it to the summit of Sugarloaf for lunch, where they relished the gloriously Sedona-blue sky and balmy temperature, on this day of days in this remarkable place.

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 regular meeting will be on Thursday, January 12, 2012, beginning at 7p.m. at the Jewish Community of Sedona and the Verde Valley, 100 Meadowlark Drive, Sedona.