Sedona Westerners in the Red Rock News

December 21, 2012

“ If You Don’t Teach It, You Won’t Remember It”


by Marcia Lee

“If you don’t teach it, you won’t remember it”. Words of advice passed from revered Westerner Norm Herkenham to Sandy Unger. Unger, a former Trail Boss tries to live by this advice and fortunately, he remembers everything! He is filled with extensive knowledge in Sedona history, ethnobotany, and geology. For over 18 years he has been a leader in initiating, developing, and teaching programs for the Westerners, Elder hostel, and the Road Scholars. He initiated the Tracker Hikes (originally called Science hikes) and was the first Tracker Boss. On Halloween he led a Tracker natural history hike on several trails in the Carroll Canyon area.

Sandy Unger presents an in depth explanation of the geology of Sedona and the surrounding area. No matter what you love best about this area, a hike with the Westerners will increase your knowledge of, and appreciation for, the wonders of Sedona.

Carroll Canyon, which drains the runoff from Thunder Mountain into Oak Creek, was named for Thomas Carroll who first settled in Red Rock in 1879. Carroll later traded this land to Henry Schuerman to cover a bad debt. Unfortunately for Schuerman, Carroll only had squatter’s rights to the land and Schuerman had to purchase the acreage from the Atlantic and Pacific Rail Road. Many of the Sedona trails, canyons, and mountains bear the names of these initial pioneers and settlers: Thompson, Loy, Wilson, Huckaby, Munds, Lee, Casner, and Chavez are a few examples.

Common plant growth witnessed and discussed along the trail included Mesquite trees, Banana Yucca, and Pinyon Pine. Unger explained that Native Americans knew and used over 400 different wild plants for food, medicine, and a variety of other products.

Soon, the group was led into a deep gorge, and while they nestled against 300 million year-old Esplanade Formation rocks, Unger produced mature mesquite beans for hikers to sample. Native Americans relied on ground mesquite pods as a staple in their diet. Made into flour, they taste quite sweet. Unger also displayed a fruit from the Banana Yucca that was prized by Native Americans for food. Fibers from the yucca leaves were made into ropes, bowstrings, and nets. The leaves themselves were woven into baskets and sandals. The important uses of Pinyon Pines were a topic considered by the group, over and beyond noting the well-known nutritious “pine nuts”. Interestingly, Pinyon Pine needles release an “allelopathic” substance that prevents competing shrubs and grasses from growing, perhaps accounting for the ubiquitous presence of Pinyon Pines throughout the Southwest.

After lunch, on the summit of a ridge which offered a truly panoramic vista from the Black Hills in the West to the Mogollon Rim in the East, the group was treated to a synopsis of the geologic history of Sedona, as developed by the Westerners’ own professional geologist, Paul Lindberg who painstakingly devoted over 41 years of study to the Verde Valley and its formation.

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 January 10th, 2013 7:00 PM, at the Jewish Community of Sedona and the Verde Valley, 100 Meadowlark Drive, Sedona.