A Return to Sedona Gets One Westerner's Heart Rate Soaring....... Straight to the FIN!
Arriving in Sedona mid-January from St. Louis for our thirteenth winter, a highlight for my wife and me is always hiking with the Westerners. No matter which trail we have discovered on our own, it is always fun to see how the group has a variation from the path we trod before.
So, on our third Sunday in town with some short “getting in shape” hikes behind us, we found ourselves once again meeting at Posse Grounds at 1 pm on a Sunday. We joined a small group, all apparently without regard for the Super Bowl festivities underway on television, or the sight of showers looming over Cottonwood threatening to blow our way. We know many Westerner hikes can be more challenging than what we do on our own, so I listened intently as Mike Holmes (Trail Boss and on this day also hike leader) described the impending adventure, which was listed as “The Fin and Less.”
I distinctly remember Mike saying we would first be heading “straight up” at one point, climbing 2,000 feet. I remember because my heart rate increased proportionately, leveling off at about 2,000 beats per minute just standing in the parking lot. When he amended his remarks to say it would be actually gaining “only” 600 feet, my heartbeat decreased 1400 beats per minute. Then Mike began talking about hiking across one narrow ledge after another, some sprinkled with loose rocks where we would need to watch our footing. If I made it to the end of the last ledge, he promised the real treat of the hike awaited. "We descend down a canyon so steep at one point we will be climbing through the branches of a tree,” he said. Now that was hard to imagine.
When we reconvened at the Jordon Trailhead parking lot and began our hike up the trail to the turnoff to The Fin, (or in my mind THE FIN) the mammoth hunk of towering, thin oval shaped rock loomed off to our right. I imagined the unseen top could easily be the location of the “lost world” and the very last surviving bastion of prehistoric life.
Reaching the base of what would be our steep climb, Mike providing some incentive to get to the top of the climb, announcing that would be our first break. It worked. Brad Bell, who was our tailgater, helped ensure we all made it steadily and safely.
Then it was time for the “walk of the ledges,” a series of exhilarating short stretches back and fourth along the south side of The Fin with a steep drop a few missteps away. Superman would have been frightened but not the Westerners. After a second and longer break, and fueled with candied almonds offered by Liz Sweeney, (thankfully fewer hikers than expected meant second helpings,) we set off for the descent, and the tree, where it was necessary to climb through a high branch to continue down through the series of steep slots in the red rock. Quicker than expected, and thanks to Mike and Brad, we were safely down. Too soon we were back in the parking lot, faces turned to The Fin and admiring both the beauty of the rock, and what we had accomplished.
A day later photos from the hike arrived from Westerner Historian and semi-professional paparazzi Cathy Lutz who had taken numerous pictures of the group traversing the most difficult sections of the hike. Our altimeter showed we had climbed 600 feet and traveled three miles in a little less than three hours. It did not register that we had enjoyed every step. With eight more weeks of hiking with the Westerners this year, we were already looking forward to returning in 2014!
The Westerners always welcome new members. If you are interested in joining, visit www.sedonawesterners.org. You also may join at our monthly meetings. The next one is March 14th, 2013 7:00 PM, at the Jewish Community of Sedona and the Verde Valley, 100 Meadowlark Drive, Sedona.