The sky broke bright and blue on a recent January day as the beautiful winter of 2014 continued to offer 'perfect' hiking conditions. The Thursday Westerner hike group, called the Mustangs, mustered up at 9am in the Village Outlet Mall parking lot to prepare for the day's new hike, called 'The Mayan Maid Loop'. The hike leaders for the day were George Witteman, and Tom Pallas, who discussed the day's hike.
Their interest in the area was renewed after reading passages from the Sedona Westerner 1979 publication ' A Sampler of 108 Sedona Westerner Trail Walks', a collection of accounts about Westerner hikes in the late 1970's, including the Mayan Maid.
Particularly impressive was the beauty of some of the slot canyons just west of the rock ridge called 'The Seven Sisters'. Today’s hike itinerary included game and livestock trails, extensive use of canyons and washes, and a few 'social trails' used by local residents. The plan included about 5 1/2 miles of hiking with a total elevation gain of about 1500 feet, an itinerary well within the guidelines for the Mustangs.
The group began by hiking around and over a few of the smaller buttes in the Little Park area which transitioned into a forest of pinion pine and juniper. Soon, the hikers turned into the first of three beautiful, hidden, slot canyons named 'Silver Canyon'. Everyone was amazed with the striking, orange and peach colored, slick rock canyon walls and pour offs, along with the dark green hues of shrubbery silhouetted against the azure blue sky. The canyon air was refreshingly cool, quiet and pure. After appropriate pauses for beauty appreciation, photo ops, varied songs of a western meadowlark, and refreshments, the group continued up and over to another canyon called 'Gold Canyon'. Next they climbed a steep ridge line to a beautiful, slick rock overlook for lunch from which one could see westward towards Sycamore Canyon, and even Chino Valley on the horizon.
After lunch everyone started back in a loop return to the last of the slot canyons called 'Flag Canyon'. Here the trail narrowed to a tight fit between canyon walls and rock dips in the canyon floor. Along the way the leaders pointed out prehistoric check dams, stone basalt grinding stones called manos, and pottery sherds , all of which were artifacts from a prehistoric, ancestral, Puebloan culture we call the 'Sinagua' that flourished in the Verde Valley from around 650 AD to 1350 AD.
Toward the end of the hike Witteman read from the book on 108 Westerner Walks as the author described a "steep, rocky, descent to a sharp, left turn immediately below a rock formation called The Mayan Maid''. Not far from the Mayan Maid was an old, historic, masonry dam about 10 feet high and 60 feet wide blocking a hidden, box canyon. This is where about 20 families tried to homestead in Big Park in the 1920s; only two families remained after World War II because of the lack of water. Ironically, a retired Las Vegas bordello madam by the name of Fannie Bell Gulick purchased 1000 acres in Grasshopper Flats (aka. West Sedona) and 1000 acres in Big Park (aka. Village of Oak Creek). She hired a well digger from Phoenix who discovered excellent well water at 450 feet in both locations! A group of Phoenix investors purchased her land in Big Park in the late 1960s and developed the Village of Oak Creek Association as a planned residential/golf community.
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 Thursday, April 10, 2014 at 7 pm at the Sedona Elks Club, 110 Airport Road.