After three weeks of temperatures in the 70's, fall had arrived, and it came not only with a quick drop in temperatures, but was also accompanied by 30-40 mile per hour wind gusts. So it is no surprise that when the Westerners took to the North Wilson Trail on October 29, 2013, the first word uttered as the hiking group gathered at the trailhead was “Brrrrrrrrrrr.” A total of fifteen hardy hikers ventured up the trail, led by Brad Bell and tailgated by Jim Warren. At least rain was not in the day's forecast.
Due to the chilly temperature, the hikers started their ascent wearing all their clothing layers. The climb from the trailhead to the first bench of Wilson Mountain was strenuous enough that somewhere in the middle, a clothing adjustment was necessary, and everyone shed their outer layer. But that sense of warmth was to last only a short time. The surrounding natural beauty of this segment of the hike was evidenced by the deep red fall colors of the sumac at the lower elevations, with a transitioning to the colorful red maple clusters as the group approached the elevation of the first bench.
Once the hikers arrived at the first bench, they lost the natural wind block provided by the east side of Wilson, and those gusts from the west were downright cold. And so, all the clothing layers that were removed just a short time ago were quickly pulled out of the backpacks and put back to use.
Probably due to the elevation change, the vegetation change in this stretch of the hike became apparent. More and more golden oak leaves were lining the trail. The peak Fall colors occurred a week or two earlier, but there still remained an impressive presentation of nature at its best.
An interesting aspect of the North Wilson hike is that when one reaches the second bench, there are a number of fallen pine trees that block the trail. These are largely the result of the forest fire that ravaged Wilson some seven or so years ago, leaving the fallen trees with charred bark. Today, they challenge hikers by making the trail a virtual obstacle course. If you can't walk around the fallen tree, you must either crawl over or under it. And more than one hiker will get hung up by their backpack as they crawl under a huge trunk on all fours.
The highpoint of North Wilson is reaching the Sedona overlook, and enjoying a scenic lunch with friends on the lava rock ridge. Not this day. Wind gusts were well into the 40-plus mile per hour range, and the temperature was measured at just over 40 degrees. It was downright frigid, and there was little to no natural shelters to block the harsh west wind. Instead of a leisurely and well deserved lunch break for these hardy Westerners, there was a quick consensus to take five to ten minutes to eat and get back on the trail home.
And so the descent started. A bunch of chilled Westerners eagerly hiked downward, only to encounter drizzling rain on the first bench. Now remember, rain was not in the forecast. But these adventurers can handle a little weather challenge. Except, somewhere between the first bench and the trailhead, the drizzle turned into sleet. And the hikers continued on, earnestly, and reached the trailhead just in time to experience a downpour. Fortunately, the vehicles provided shelter and warmth, and an end to the day's hike. Yet, the elements provided a memorable uniqueness that is experienced on so many of the great Westerner hikes in the Sedona area. Over eight miles were logged on this trek, which included over 2200 feet of elevation climb. In all respects, it was a challenging, but rewarding day.
If you are interested in joining the club, please go to our website at http://sedonawesterners.org or just come to one of our monthly meetings. The next one will be on Thursday, Jan 9, 2014 at 7 pm at the Sedona Elks Club, 110, located just off Airport Road.