Sedona Westerners in the Red Rock News

April 20, 2012

Drama on the Dawa Loop


by Angela Loscalzo

On February 23, the Amblers group of the Sedona Westerners hiking Club hiked a five-mile loop beginning at the Dawa Trailhead on Boynton Canyon Road. "Dawa" was suggested as a trail name to the Sedona Ranger District by the Hopi Tribe, to honor their Sun God.

This hike is designed to combine several intertwined Forest Service system trails leading around Dry Creek Basin. The Amblers were led by Ambler Boss Sandy Unger, and Linda Schermer. John Mezera and David Nelson were appointed tailgaters.

At a marked intersection, the group embarked on the Cockscomb trail. Soon, spectacular views were already a WOW factor! Thunder Mountain was prominent in one direction; in the other was Doe Mesa with mighty Bear Mountain just beyond. Then, mounting a rise in the trail, panoramic vistas open to the East. The Amblers stopped to identify the formations: Bell Rock, Cathedral Rock, and the Seven Sisters; they noted that the top profile of Courthouse Butte could be seen as "an Indian's face," gazing up to the heavens.

Amblers hike leader Sandy Unger talks to the group about the history of the Sedona Westerners’ contributions to the first hiking trails developed in the area. Spectacular views in the background seem to follow the group throughout the day. Photo by Les Foshaug.

Reaching an overlook of a sharply down-dropped drainage, with abundant sit-upon rocks for the hikers, the chance for a snack and rehydration was enjoyed. Schermer had brought along a copy of the first hiking map ever made of Sedona trails, developed in 1969 by Sedona Westerner “pioneers,” and this was a focus of great interest. Discussion during the break also turned to the historical early pioneers, and how they must have struggled to grow fruit and raise cattle on land such as that which we were exploring today.

The hike continued past the intersection with the Rupp Trail, named for the family who homesteaded the land presently being developed as "The Aerie."

Soon the time was right, and the group found a perfect lunch spot: a hidden rocky hilltop with 360-degree views. Unger pointed out Lost Wilson Mountain, noting how it is separated from the main massif of Wilson Mountain by an impassable chasm. He recalled the Brins Fire of six years ago. Over 900 fire fighters, or "Smoke Jumpers," arrived in Sedona from all over the West. They were ultimately successful in preventing the fire from jumping across Highway 89A in Oak Creek Canyon, and with the help of numerous air tankers, also contained it from ravaging the Red Rock-Secret Mountain Wilderness to the north.

After lunch, the trail descended towards Dry Creek Gorge. Chunks of "chert" abounded on both sides of the route. Discussion turned to the fact that this very hard "diagenetic microcrystalline quartz" was formed in the Kaibab Limestone layer that presently caps the Mogollon Rim. Washed down from the Rim level over about 250 million years, eventually it will make its way into Dry Creek, then into Oak Creek, then the Verde River, the Salt River, the Gila River, and finally it will wind up in the Gulf of California.

Before long the Amblers found the Girdner Trail; then they quickly turned onto the Cypress Trail, to find some of the largest specimens anywhere of Arizona Smooth Bark Cypress trees. “I have trouble keeping my hands off of them," Unger says, as he rubs off the shaggy bark to expose the colorful surface beneath. Everyone marvels at the palette of colors displayed on the smooth bark: pink, purple, cherry red, green, bronze, and amber. It is an incredible sight!

On the final leg, the OK trail is reached, leading the Amblers back to conclude the loop. What a 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. However, there is no regular meeting in May, due to the annual spring barbecue. The next regular meeting will be in September.