Sedona Westerners in the Red Rock News

November 9, 2012

Jim Bryant Trail Provides “Food for the Soul” for the Mustangs


by Michael McCaffrey

“Everybody needs beauty as well as bread, places to play in and pray in, where nature may heal and cheer and give strength to body and soul alike.” John Muir quoted from An American Profile article on Aug. 26, 2012.

This week’s food for the soul restaurant was sponsored by the Sedona Westerners Mustang group.

The Mustangs gather for a photo, with the beauty of the trail all around them and blue skies overhead. Photo by Michael McCaffrey

For those of you unfamiliar with a Mustang trek itinerary, these Thursday hikes, usually offer more physically challenging walks featuring great scenic beauty. Varying in their degree of difficulty, the majority of Mustang hikes will be in the 7-9 mile range and will often have an elevation change of 1000-2000 feet, sometimes more. Most hikes will move along at a moderate to slightly above moderate pace.

Since the trail is between the two official gathering spots, a dual sign in was initiated- one at the VOC parking area and one at the Posse Grounds park. One could almost hear the echoing instructions from both sites, discussion of the hike (this to be a moderate, 3.4 mile trek), rules to keep in mind, etc., carpools left for the trailhead on this mostly sunny day.

There are a number of paths to this particular trail: Bell Parkway, Chapel, Mystic, Broken Arrow, and Little Horse. Our leader, Jan Johnson, chose the Little Horse trailhead so both groups car pooled to this parking lot. After introductions and greetings, Jan chose Dave Nelson as the tailgater and we were off through the initial openness of this section of the hike. The relatively flat approach to Chicken Point took us through a forest of Arizona Cypress, past single family dwellings from the mid-20th and 21st centuries, past trailheads to Bell Parkway, Llama Trail and The Chapel and offered to this intrepid group of hikers the opportunity to engage in conversation without the insistent tug of lungs seeking air.

Once we reached Chicken Point, we turned around to see the magnificent structure of Cathedral Rocks in the distance, the exquisite rendering of Madonna and Child, the surrealistic image of the Camera (what hiker doesn’t remember the Kodak Moment hike), but we only lingered for a moment as we headed east to the start of the Jim Bryant trail. Nestled between Lee and Munds mountains the trail initially rose to an open vista that included Submarine Rock to the west and north. Then we descended into the watershed and ambled through a wonderland of colors: broom snakeweed yellow, manzanita cream, sugar sumac (with only a hint of the reddish buds), yucca, ephedra gentle green, pine vigorous green.

The end of the trail and lunch came all too soon as we scrambled through slick rock and ledges to the nestling comfort of our café in the wilderness and the wonderful oatmeal raisin treat from our leader, Jan.

This was one of those hikes that no one wanted to end so with reluctance we reversed our meander and headed back.

How can you explain that you need to know that the trees are still there, and the hills and the sky? Anyone knows they are. How can you say it is time your pulse responded to another rhythm, the rhythm of the day and the season instead of the hour and the minute? No, you cannot explain. So you walk. ~Author unknown, from New York Times editorial, "The Walk," 25 October 1967.

As the hike drew to a close, we all felt the bittersweet feeling of finishing a book. We confirmed the trees, hills, canyons, stream beds and sky were still there, we readjusted our circadian clocks, we raised our voices in engaged conversation, we relished in the company of new and old friends.

The Westerners always welcome new members. If you are interested in joining, visit You also may join at our monthly meetings. The next one is on Thursday, November 8, 7:00 PM, at the Jewish Community of Sedona and the Verde Valley, 100 Meadowlark Drive, Sedona.