Sedona Westerners in the Red Rock News

February 10, 2012

Amblers Tackle Cathedral Fault


by Louise Gelotte

On an unusually blustery day in January, a group of intrepid Amblers from the Sedona Westerners Hiking Club rallied up at Posse Grounds somewhat amazed that other hikers had also decided to brave the cold. Part of the enthusiasm was because the Ridge Trail Lollipop was a new place for this group to test their hiking skills. Ambler Boss, Sandy Unger, explained that this hike would begin and end on the Ridge Trail or lollipop stick, and use several other trails to make the sweet lollipop loop. The hike would begin at a trailhead across from the Sedona Recycling Center that not many people know about.

Charlie and Karen Schudson peer into Carroll Canyon gorge. Photo by Clint Gelotte.

Unger has been hiking with the Sedona Westerners for almost twenty years and has held many elected offices with the club. This year he was elected to lead the Amblers, a group of Thursday hikers, who usually travel 4 to 5 miles at a leisurely pace through the red rocks of Sedona. Unger has a passion for discovering new hikes and researching the history, geology and botany of a particular area. Dennis Perry, who has been hiking with the group for eight years, has enjoyed all the new hikes being offered this season, taking him places that he has never been before.

As the group enthusiastically set off, John Mezera kept everyone in line as the appointed tailgater. As we crossed Carroll Canyon drainage, we learned that this wash was named for Thomas Carroll who moved to the area around 1879. To repay a debt, Carroll gave land that he owned by Oak Creek to Henry Schuerman, another early settler. The Schuerman family was one of the first vintners in the area.

As the Amblers began to climb, Unger encouraged everyone by letting them know that the 640-foot elevation gain for this hike was more than previous hike ascents. As the group reached the top of the ridge, Sam Pietrofitta remarked that the group was “simply getting high on Sedona”. From the new vantage point, hikers forgot how cold they had been an hour ago and reveled in the spectacular views of many of Sedona’s iconic landmarks. All this exercise was beginning to develop everyone’s appetite. Happily, an ideal lunch spot had been selected for al fresco dining with just a bit of a view. Unger never disappoints in selecting lunch spots that are “not too shabby”. Nourished and rested the Amblers were eager to resume their hike. The trail would now descend, follow the Cathedral Rock fault and then skirt the rim of Carroll Canyon’s deepest gorge – “Sedona’s Grand Canyon”.

All these features required the group to contemplate some red rock geology. It’s difficult to imagine that the magical landscape we had been gazing at all morning would have been flat and boring 300 million years ago. At that time, the area was covered by a shallow sea, which moved in and out over the land. And this is one of the few places in Sedona where the Supai Group, Sedona’s oldest exposed rocks, provides evidence of this ancient landscape.

After all this contemplation, the hikers were now ready to tread very carefully along the edge of the Cathedral Rock fault. This break in the earth’s crust, displacing the red rocks 500 feet, starts at Horse Mesa, goes by Bell Rock, curves around and finally stops at Dry Creek. Safely back on the Ridge Trail lollipop stick, the group headed back to the starting point happy and content that they had left their warm beds for a wonderful hike in Sedona.

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, Feb. 9, beginning at 7p.m. at the Jewish Community of Sedona and the Verde Valley, 100 Meadowlark Drive, Sedona.