Sedona Westerners in the Red Rock News

March 1, 2013

Mayan Maiden Hike transforms Amblers into Scouts


by Jim Winnerman

The ominous warning began to appear on the Westerner’s web site several weeks before the hike. The Amblers, the group which hikes on Thursdays and at a more moderate pace and along less challenging routes than the other six Westerner groups, was alerted that the February 7 adventure to the Mayan Maiden rock formation would be more challenging than the group was accustomed to undertaking.

At the trailhead, George Witteman, a recent Westerner Trail Boss (club president,) and the day’s hike leader, presented the background on the route we were to follow. “Tom Pallas and I discovered this trail a few weeks ago using a book published by the Westerners in the early 1970s,” he said. “The book, A Sampler of 108 Sedona Westerner Trail Walks by Lorraine Jaquith and Dixon Fagerberg Jr., presents vague descriptions of trails they had walked three decades ago. So recently Tom and I set out to rediscover a few. We will take one and I assure you it is a trail no Westerner group has walked on for many decades.”

The Amblers took on more than the "norm" on this particular Thursday hike. But all were thrilled with the added challenge of Mayan Maiden.
Photo courtesy of Cathy Lutz.

Soon we had descended into a box canyon where George stopped to point out a long abandoned well and a 15-foot high stone dam. As we passed underneath the stone outcropping with the nickname of the “Mayan Maiden” who was watching our every step, we were soon into a steep climb, and George encouraged the group along. Then he announced the hardest part of the hike had been achieved and that it was easy going ahead. Apparently he had been only taking about the last steep climb, as the same announcement was repeated time after time as the route continued up one ravine after another.

As the “Gunsight Overlook” was reached featuring a breathtaking view of the Village of Oak Creek, not an Ambler appeared winded. Lunch was served out of each backpack, and reliable dessert maven and Ambler hike coordinator Liz Sweeney was soon passing out cookies for all. Half way down the trail back to the parking lot, tailgater Tom Pallas somehow had ended up in the lead, and asked the group if they would like to take a more strenuous but eminently more scenic return route. Encouraged perhaps by the fact the return was a descent, the voice vote was unanimous to take up the challenge. George, however, had second thoughts, announcing not once but twice that as hike leader he was “taking the Purell out of his pack and washing his hands of any responsibly for the Amblers.” Then Tom implemented a tactic he apparently had learned from George early in the hike. As the group followed him down several narrow and steep crevices, he announced each was the steepest descent of the hike. However, it was actually the next one that was the steepest, then the next.

Each crevice down led to scenic hoodoo surrounded box canyons well worth the effort, but the route also meant the group had to climb another crevice out. Several times the ascent required stepping out onto rock outcroppings with a steep drop just a misstep away. Still, there was no hesitation and no grumbling, just remarks how unexpected and beautiful the hike was becoming.

At the end of the hike, it was apparent the Amblers had far exceeded what George and Tom had expected. A total of 3.6 miles strenuous miles had been covered, with a respectable cumulative elevation gain of 740 feet. As “high fives” were exchanged in the parking lot, the group was unofficially renamed the “Ambler Scouts,” a reference to another Westerner group which undertakes the most strenuous and difficult trails. Photos of the hike sent by Tom to all hikers a few days later concluded with the salutation that “Ambler Scouts Rule!”

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 March 14th, 2013 7:00 PM, at the Jewish Community of Sedona and the Verde Valley, 100 Meadowlark Drive, Sedona.