Westerners Experience Long Canyon’s Beauty on a Sunday Afternoon
The Sedona Westerners Drover Hiking Group inaugurated its 2012-2013 season on a recent Sunday with a little scamper into Long Canyon. This hike features a typical Sedona "canyon hike" with red rock walls and spires looming on both sides, as well as spectacular views from the occasional vantage point. It was a perfect first hike for old friends and for three brand new club members.
While most of the Westerner hikes begin in the morning, Sunday hikes start at 1 pm, so temperatures are always a concern in September. Rules require at least two liters of water per person, and on this hike many brought more just in case. In the event, highs were only in the 80's and the storm which reached Sedona later that evening provided occasional cloud cover in the afternoon, and all was well.
Much of this hike is in the Red Rock-Secret Mountain Wilderness, and for that reason the hikers split into smaller groups, which were led by John and Debby Losse, with tailgaters Diane Luce and Liz Sweeney. The sign-in sheet at the Wilderness Boundary contained a note from an earlier hiker saying, cryptically, "saw a black bear", which encouraged vigilance and talking as the groups headed into a thick stand of Arizona Cypress. Sure enough, a large deposit seen later in the day was identified by the "staff scatalogist" as being of ursine origin, and it liked pine nuts, too!
The late-season monsoon rains made Long Canyon green with vegetation, but the trail was not at all muddy. In the open areas, the prickly pear flowers of spring had given way to large red fruit, much of which had fallen to the ground and would soon be providing food for critters large and small. The moist conditions had produced a variety of mushrooms, some even emerging from sand in the creek bottom. The Manzanita groves were especially healthy.
Along the way hikers could see many of Long Canyon's beautiful "named" features, such as Maroon Mountain, the Three Sisters, Ice Cream Cone, as well as others which have yet to be named but are equally striking. This canyon is also rich with overhangs and alcoves, which in our case provided cool shade in mid-afternoon. During the day, several helicopter tours also came by to see the same sights, but the hikers' views were absolutely free and came with built-in aerobic benefits!
There are many possible variations to a hike in Long Canyon, and this one fit the "afternoon hike" window pretty well - hikers returned to the trailhead after a little over three hours of hiking, with five and a half new miles on their boots, and about 800 vertical feet of climbing on their calves and thighs.
The Westerners always welcome new members! If you are interested in joining the club, visit our website at www.sedonawesterners.org. You may also join by attending any monthly meeting, which is the second Thursday of every month beginning at 7 p.m. at the Jewish Synagogue and Community Center on Meadow Lark Road.