Sedona Westerners in the Red Rock News

January 10, 2014

History and Stratigraphy


by Louise Gelotte

Tis' the season for Black Friday, Cyber Monday and a 2-fer special for the lucky participants in the December 18 Tracker hike. These hikes normally have one leader with a particular field of expertise, but today's hike had two leaders enthusiastically sharing their knowledge of Sedona pioneer history and Sedona stratigraphy . Unger, this year's Tracker Boss, left the Chuckwagon Trailhead at a brisk pace.

Our first official classroom stop was initiated by geologist and author, Wayne Ranney. We walked by an obvious contact point between the Hermit Formation, the rock layer that Sedona is built on and the Schnebly Hill Formation, the rock layer that provides most of Sedona's beautiful monuments. Ranney, a master at simplifying things for the geologically challenged, said that stratigraphy is just a way for humans to organize what we see in the rock layers. The Hermit is more salmon colored, has some siltstone and clay, has eroded into slopes and is below the Schnebly Hill Formation which is more orange, has more sandstone and forms cliffs.

The walking classroom now moved to Earl Van Deren's log cabin. This provided Sandy Unger , who has an insatiable desire for learning everything about the Sedona area, with the perfect opportunity to share stories of the town's early pioneers. In 1926 the Seip family drove one of the earliest RV's, a flatbed truck with a homemade shack on top, through Sedona on their way to California. They got stuck on Schnebly Hill Road and were rescued by two cowboys, Ira Smith and Earl Van Deren who took a liking to the Seip sisters. In 1929, Ira offered to send Elsie Seip a bus ticket back to Sedona, if she would marry him. Earl's cabin was used for their honeymoon. The success of this relationship inspired Earl to offer a bus ticket to the other sister, Leah, if she would marry him! Once again the cabin was used for their honeymoon. And in the 1990's the grandson of Earl came here on his honeymoon to see the cabin. Unger showed photos of the three couples.

The classroom now traveled to a slick rock area below a small dam that Earl had built. Morning snack was accompanied by another fascinating pioneer story. In 1943 Fannie Belle Gulick, after working her way up to Madam in a Las Vegas bordello, discovered Sedona while visiting her sister in Cottonwood. After getting a severe case of "red rock fever", she began buying up property in Grasshopper Flats (West Sedona) and Big Park (Oak Creek). Land was cheap because experts felt that there was no water under Sedona. Carl Williams, geologist and well driller, relocated to Arizona because of an arthritic condition. Fannie Belle offered him six acres of land if he found water. In 1947 he found water in the first well he dug . Carl became a local hero. The numerous wells he drilled after this resulted in a Sedona land boom and Fanny becoming a millionaire.

Next classroom stop was a classic Unger viewpoint for lunch. Marcia Lee passed around delicious homemade molasses cookies. From this vantage point Ranney was able to point out more of Sedona's stratigraphy. We also learned that anytime you see sedimentary rocks like this anywhere in the world, there is a 99% chance that they were deposited at sea level. The rocks we sat on for lunch may have come from Ancestral Rocky Mountain or even Appalachian sediments. Because the earth is always recycling itself, these same sediments are now on their way to the Gulf of California. Before leaving this beautiful setting, Unger told the story of Carl and Sedona Schnebly .

The final classroom stop offered a chance for Liz Sweeney to share with Unger the story of early settler, Jim Thompson. Candied pecan treats were provided by Sweeney. 7.5 miles later, with brains and bellies full, the satisfied hikers completed their adventure.

If you are interested in joining the club, please go to our website at or just come to one of our monthly meetings. The next one will be on Thursday, Feb 13, 2014 at 7 pm at the Sedona Elks Club, 110 Airport Road.