Sedona Westerners in the Red Rock News

September 27, 2013

2 Passes


by Michael McCaffrey

“In the American Southwest, I began a lifelong love affair with a pile of rock.” Edward Abbey

This week’s love affair is brought to you by the Rough Riders’ first hike of the season, Two Passes, in the Red Rock, Secret Mountain Wilderness. This is an approximately 8 mile hike with an elevation gain of 1334 feet.

For those of you unfamiliar with Rough Rider hikes, these hikes, offered every Saturday, are usually, but not always, difficult and challenging. The distance is most often in the 8-10 mile range. There are fewer stops, but are done if required by the group. Significant elevation changes are the rule, and often rock-scrambling and ledge-walking is a part of the hike. It is intended that these hikes be attractive to our more experienced and well-conditioned members.

Black-Tailed Rattler

There is one thing about hikes in this part of the wilderness – the adventure begins even before your feet touch the ground. The usual morning check-in occurred at Posse Grounds and then it was into the cars for the drive to the first part of the adventure. Turning onto SR152 we had a smooth quarter mile ride and then began the Chiropractor Special, a four mile bone jarring massage of a ride, picking your course through the rutted, canyonized track that eventually led us to the Dry Creek trailhead at the end of the road.

With all the kinks pummeled out, the stalwart band of Westerners queued up behind the hike leader, Mark Frank, and in front of the tailgater, Mike Holmes, for the foray into the Secret Mountain Wilderness. Almost immediately, the faint purple of the Western Spiderwort called out a welcome to the Dry Creek Trail.

While views in this part of the wilderness are not jaw dropping spectacular, they do offer beautiful glimpses into Secret Canyon, as well as an encompassing embrace from the grayish-green Arizona cypress, alligator juniper, and Gambel oak woodland in the early part of the trail. Once past the Bear Sign cutoff, the canyon narrows jnto giant red rock buttes that bear hug both sides of the creek.

The trail gradually climbed with multiple stream crossings affording the Broadway personae of the group to express itself. Picture this if you can: everyone dancing up the trail singing a rousing chorus of the Coasters “Poison Ivy”:

…You’re gonna need an ocean of calamine lotion
You’ll be scratching like a hound
The minute you start to mess around…

Ok, so maybe there is a little wishful thinking involved here but at just about every stream crossing, Toxicodendron radicans was prolifically growing. That’s poison ivy to you unaffected folks. The trail was just rife with the plant and afforded some interesting juxtapositions in trying to avoid the sap.

The trail continued climbing to the first pass and then veered to the west and continued to the second pass and an outstanding view of the East Pocket area on the Mogollon Rim.

As the trek back to the cars began, one last excitement was in store for the group before the kink inducing drive back home. Our fearless leader proved his mettle by scaring up a sunning black tailed rattlesnake. The snake was initially stretched out enjoying the view and went immediately into a coiled stance as the rest of the group approached. Our new friend enjoyed rattling and made it known it wasn’t about to move. So with hearts beating a little faster, the snake was given a wide berth and we returned without further incident.

“I’ve learned that everyone wants to live on top of the mountain, but all the happiness and growth occurs while you’re climbing it.” — Unknown

Thanks again to the leader and tailgater, Mark and Mike, for this days touch of happiness and growth.

The Westerners always welcome new members. If you are interested in joining the club, log onto our website: You may also join by attending a monthly meeting, our next one will be on Thursday, October 10th 11AM at Red Rock State Park for the fall cookout.