Thursday, December 5, brought the first significantly chilly weather to Sedona. Winter hiking is a challenge to the Sedona Westerners as extra caution needs to be taken on the frosty trails. Over twenty hikers, eager to walk off the extra pounds put on during the holiday, gathered in the Village of Oak Creek for the Mustang scheduled trek. The goal was a hike called the Twisted Sister, developed a few years ago by veteran Sedona Westerners. It is named for the most eastern peak, more spiralling and less rounded than its sister formations, all extending along the eastern side of the mountainous formation along the western side of Highway 179 just across from Bell Rock and Courthouse Butte. This hike is unique in that without leaving the Village of Oak Creek, one can hike a challenging eight plus miles.
Beginning low in the juniper off Verde Valley School Road, the hikers set off onto gently rising slopes affording broad views of the area around the Village of Oak Creek Country Club and of House Mountain beyond. The climb becomes increasingly steep as the trail approaches the pass. Pausing to regroup and remove jackets after expending the energy to climb, the two groups turned right to follow a narrow path to what is familiarly called the Diving Board, a level shelf that offers a stunning and expansive glimpse of the southern part of the Village and of Big Park and Lee Mountain beyond. Warmed by the morning sun, the hikers snapped photos and took a mid-morning snack before continuing around the eastern side of the trail on their way past the seven sister formations. Winding up and down, this part of the hike is not rocky and gives walkers a chance to peer across at Bell Rock and Courthouse Butte beyond. Thanks to the rain of the day prior, the atmosphere was clear, and the mid-day light set off the diverse colors of our geological formations: red, orange, pink, and gray against the bright blue sky.
Shortly before one o'clock, the second group, led by Phil Robson and tailgated by Robert Paterson, met up for lunch with the first group, headed up by John Avery and with Alan Gore serving as tailgater. Still high above and with a birds-eye view of Cathedral Rock, the Verde Valley School, and Red Rock State Park, the hikers broke out their lunches and put on warm jackets against the still chilly air. From the north end of the mountain, the trail descends steeply at first but resumes the winding up and down character as it proceeds along the western side of the formation. While the previous day's heavy rain was not evident, the path passed through several picturesque washes, home to yucca, hedgehogs, juniper and even a persistent purple aster or two in crannies protected from the cold temperatures.
Having circumnavigated the mountain and rejoined the trail taken in the early morning, the Sedona Westerners made their descent back to Verde Valley Road. Satisfied with the eight mile hike and combined elevation change of 1400 feet, the group looked forward to warming cold hands and ears back at the parking lot.
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 Airport Road.