What A Hoot!
While the Sedona Westerners hike primarily in the Sedona area, higher temperatures at the beginning and end of the hiking season have the Westerners looking to the Mingus Mountains or Flagstaff for higher altitudes and cooler temperatures. Such a location is Yaeger Canyon.
The Westerners began their hike around Yaeger Canyon at the trailhead for Trail 28, located just south of mile marker 334 off of Rt 89A, heading toward Prescott. The temperature was cool and the dense forest was quiet as the group started ascending. Near to 89A the group passed vestiges of a former road with an old concrete overpass in the woods. Leaving the shade, a long steady series of switchbacks led the hikers up the side of the canyon, passing globe mallow, purple aster, and broom snakeweed still looking vibrant after the abundant recent rains.
The morning break spot was atop an outcropping just short of the crest of the climb. Under a big dead juniper, the group studied the rock on which they were sitting. It had very interesting quartz veining. After the break, the group completed the final part of the ascent, walking over ancient lava rock, riddled with gas pockets. A humongous alligator juniper (6+ ft across at the base) marked the end of the ascent at 7100 feet. At this level, one could see evidence of past fire on the top of the mountain.
Now on a flat trail, the group was again hiking in evergreen forest, with ponderosa pines dotting the landscape. It seemed that the wildlife like this trail also, as there was an abundance of elk tracks. Coming to a trail junction, the Westerners turned south onto Trail 111. Starting the descent along the southwest face, the forest was thicker, and the beginnings of fall color were evident. A short connector on a maintenance road led the group to Trail 533 for the final descent. Fortunately, the hike did not take place on Oct 12th, or the hikers might have encountered both runners and horses on their route, as parts of trails 111 and 533 had just been used in the 30th annual running of the Man Against Horse Race, a unique southwestern endurance race pitting runners against riders and horses in a 50 mile race around the Mingus Mountains.
On trail 533, the hikers were treated to an abundance of blossoms and stunning views of Prescott Valley. But even more special , the hike leader flushed a burrowing owl from a stump near the trail, and, fortunately, the owl came to rest on the ground, at the side of the trail about twenty five feet in front of the hikers. Everyone quietly jockeyed for position in order to watch the little burrowing owl. He was content enough with the distance to stay a while. Eventually, though, the hikers had to proceed, and the owl flew off as the hikers approached.
The Westerners finished the remainder of the descent, everyone happy with the glorious blue sky, the comfortable temperature, the extended fall flowering plant season, and the unusual wildlife sighting.
The Westerners always welcome new members. If you are interested in joining the club, log onto our website: www.sedonawesterners.org. You may also join by attending a monthly meeting, our next one will be on Thursday, November 14th 7:00PM at the Sedona Elks Club, 110 Airport Road, Sedona.