Sedona Westerners in the Red Rock News

March 16, 2012

Amblers Ramble to SUBMARINE & MORE


by Angela Loscalzo

On February 16th, the steadfast Amblers group of the Sedona Westerners Hiking Club braved the chilly weather and headed out for a 4.5-mile hike entitled Submarine & More. Ambler Boss Sandy Unger promised that this new hiking route would be challenging. Olga Ostrom, former Trail Boss, was tailgater.

Unger led the group from Broken Arrow Trailhead but quickly diverted to enter a box canyon; the towering cliffs of the Schnebly Hill Formation rose overhead. Deposited approximately 275 million years ago, the group learned, this formation, unique to Sedona and not found in the Grand Canyon, has eroded into the iconic rocks for which Sedona is famous, such as Cathedral and Bell Rock. It overlies the even older, slope-forming softer rocks of the Hermit Formation on which the city of Sedona is built.

Further along, as the route exited the box canyon, the rock buttes of Thunder Mountain, The Sphinx, The Cibola Mitten, Steamboat Rock, and the Crimson Cliffs were revealed. The background was an incredibly blue sky. The Amblers were in “hog heaven!”

The cliffs of Thunder Mountain and more are a feast for the eyes from the Submarine formation area. Hikers can always find a sunny slick-rock spot for a rest break and good picture taking. Photo by Les Foshaug.

It seemed as if every turn presented another surprise. Suddenly, “Bill and Monica” were framed on a ledge protruding from the Twin Buttes. After a good laugh, everyone pushed on to a morning break atop an upraised promontory of red rocks. As the Amblers enjoyed their snacks along with panoramic views, Meri Thomason was overheard saying: “Great expanses like these make me feel small and insignificant, but in a good way.”

After their break, the Amblers faced a difficult rock scramble and, in true old-time Westerner fashion, helped each other up and over a difficult vertical obstacle, achieving their highest point above Broken Arrow basin. The views at this point were second to none.

Just before lunch, Unger brought the group's attention to a large patch of cryptobiotic crust. Cryptobiotic soil crust, made up of cyanobacteria, fungi, lichen, mosses, and tiny plants called liverworts, is actually a living, thriving symbiotic community of organisms. This dark-looking mucilaginous but fragile material is home to some of the very first organisms which appeared on earth.

Finally, we arrive at Submarine Rock, where the hikers all find a place to rest weary legs, enjoy the views, and feast upon their backpack of goodies!

After lunch, the Amblers followed a much more direct route, but the “more“ of this hike had not yet concluded. The first signs of spring are emerging, and we gather around Spring parsley (Cymopterus multinervatus), a flowering plant of the carrot family. One would almost pass it by without notice but nothing escapes our leader's eye, which is why so many love the Ambler hikes.

The final surprise of this journey was just ahead: the sinkhole named “Devil’s Dining Room," one of several in Sedona. Barbed wire surrounds the site keeping everyone at a safe distance from the yawning chasm. We have all learned, from the Westerner's own geologist Paul Lindberg, that in the Redwall Limestone which underlies our area, volumes of material has been dissolved over the years by acidic rain water seeping down through joints and cracks, until the weight of the rock above has caused collapses into the ever-enlarging caverns below. Quite a finish to this extraordinary day!

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, April 12, beginning at 7p.m. at the Jewish Community of Sedona and the Verde Valley, 100 Meadowlark Drive, Sedona.