Sedona Westerners in the Red Rock News

March 8, 2013

A Look Back at Sycamore-Sugarloaf Hike
and "Just Another Day Wasted in Paradise"


by Sandy Unger

Local topographical maps identify a distinctive land form overlooking Sycamore Canyon as “Sugarloaf” The goal of the hike is to reach the summit of an unusually symmetric mountain and entirely separate from its surrounding terrain. If one knows where to look for it, this formation is readily visible from Highway 89A, when driving the route between Sedona and Cottonwood.

Sandy Unger and Tom Pallas, who actually were the first Westerners to find a route to the top of the mountain, were the day’s Dogie hike leaders. The destination of the hike was immediately discernible upon arriving at the Trailhead on Sacred Mesa Trail road; likewise, throughout the entire trek, the hikers had the mountain in plain view.

Looking at Sycamore-Sugarloaf in the distance on the left, one would think "no sweat!" in comparison to the larger and higher Casner Mountain in the background. Think again. It is more challenging that it looks at 5200 feet at the top.
Photo courtesy of Les Foshaug.

Upon leaving the start point, the group advanced through fields of waist high, flaxen-colored grass. Unger commented, in jest, that this area put him in mind of an African veldt, and that he half expected to see a pride of lions make a surprise appearance.

Onward the group progressed, following an old overgrown wagon road, which led them up the side of Black Mountain. Reaching a small clearing at the terminus of the road, actually now on the ridgeline that promised access to their mountaintop objective, the group stopped to have lunch. The spot was intriguing visually, and replete with mystery. Hikers inspected a stone foundation of what had once clearly been a cabin. In addition, there was a puzzling deep hole in the ground, capped by an elaborate poured concrete slab. Members of the group speculated that the latter feature was actually a cistern that had stored water for the cabin’s owner. Discussion proceeded about who might have lived in this place, and what his purpose had been. Gordon Scott spoke with some authority about this matter. He affirmed that a bootlegger had set up shop at this site, had built the old wagon road so as to enable him to bring in his supplies for manufacturing “white lightning,” which he subsequently sold at considerable profit in Prescott. It was when Scott named the bootlegger as “famous Slippery Jack” that the hikers knew for sure that they had been “FLABBED” by a master.

Before leaving the lunch site, Unger produced a potato-shaped fruit from a Banana Yucca, which he had been carrying for the last two weeks, allowing it to ripen. He cut it into slices for all who were curious to taste. Let no one doubt that this fruit does taste like a sweet banana! The testimony was unanimous.

The hikers were now ready for their acsent to the Sycamore-Sugarloaf Mountain top itself. The final pitch involved a challenging 300-foot rock-scrambling ascent, up a narrow ridge strewn with boulders and chunks of Coconino sandstone. Achieving the summit, all were taken with the staggering 360-degree views, encompassing Sycamore Canyon to the west, and the full panorama of Sedona’s iconic formations to the north, east, and south: Bear Mountain, Thunder Mountain, the Cockscomb, Cathedral Rock, and more.

The wind was beginning to whistle around the mountaintop at this time, so the hikers did not linger. However, all viewed a hefty-sized boulder fragment that remained near the very topmost point. Chiseled with great care into this rock were the words: “Beloved Husband and Father - 1918 - 2002.” We intuited that the family of some dedicated hiker must have scattered his ashes in this awe-inspiring location, and etched this memorial token of their connection. The return to the trailhead was windy, swift and uneventful. As Westerner veteran Tom Hager might have opined, as he often did in his heyday, “Just another wasted day in Paradise.”

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