Hikers Never Stop Learning as They Tackle Turkey Tank
Late February weather may be miserable elsewhere, but not here! In warming sunshine, the Amblers group of the Sedona Westerners Hiking Club were ready to tackle Turkey Tank/Creek Trail, with Joan Scott and Reba Stone as co-leaders, and Chris Greene and Liz Sweeny as “tailgaters.” A fairly easy trail as far as the tank. Its four-plus miles rewards hikers with lovely views, and varied terrain, as well as variation in vegetation, from the pinion pines and junipers to old grassy fields. How about a volcano? There is even a sinkhole in the area, seen only if found. An added bonus is fewer hikers than encountered on most other official NF trails.
Without high-clearance vehicles, parking in the small lot where the access road to the official trailhead (FR 9216 B) leaves Verde Valley School Road is wise. Several unmarked paths move out from there. Keeping to the right brought us to the intersection with the main trail in about twenty minutes.
From the start, distant views are awesome, across the far line of trees marking Oak Creek, to the Sedona cliffs and formations west and north, and behind us to the back of Cathedral Rock. They only get better, as the trail drops to and across a ledged wash or two, and then gains some height again.
At the first of two grassy fields, an unmarked trail to the left leads to formations known officially as the Twin Pillars (and unofficially by some jokers as “the Dolly Parton.”) The main trail eventually winds up along a hillside, to where large rocks along the trail provided seats for a break with, of course, a view.
Crossing a much larger field, with House Mountain rising beyond, the trail, lead toward distant tall cottonwoods that signal a moisture source and the presence of the old, earthen-bermed stock tank. The tank itself, hosting weedy vegetation and numerous gopher holes, was dry…in February. Who had run stock there? When was the tank was built? Winter snow had been common, and the tank would have been full seasonally in the past. A seasonal “run” of water, called Turkey Creek, came down along House Mountain to the tank area. The Kell Fox ranch, with headquarters on the other side of House Mountain, grazed their stock there and to Oak Creek, and in Big Park and beyond.
Thanks to Paul Lindberg, one of our resident geologists, we had been given some background and understanding of House Mountain volcano, and sinkhole geology prior to the hike. Turning toward House Mountain, the group recalled Paul Lindberg’s information: House Mountain is a “shield volcano.” Lava flowed out 13-15 million years ago, and spread, creating a shield shape that is most visible from Beaverhead Flat Road. There is geologic evidence that at one time the southern edge of the Mogollon Rim extended to the north side of the volcano, blocking a lot of its northward flow. Beyond the tank, a sign designates the steep two-mile continuation to the top of House Mountain. That would be an adventurer for another day!
Among the geologic surprises in our area are the sinkholes, and one exists in the area through which the Amblers hiked. It is not obvious, however, which is a very good thing, for reasons of safety and environmental respect.
According to Lindberg, water from the Colorado Plateau, and surface water that percolates down through the many joints in our sandstone rock strata, slowly dissolves limestone layers below the water table. Over time these “caves” break through to the surface, as portions of the rock cap fall. They are inherently unstable over geologic time.
The day was educational and enjoyed by all and after lunch the group hiked back to their starting point.
With sunshine and late afternoon shadows creeping in, the Amblers were ready for a little rest yet looking forward to to their next hike!
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 second Thursday of September through April, 7PM at the Jewish Community Center of Sedona and the Verde Valley, 100 Meadowlark Drive, Sedona. We hope to see you there in September.