Hiking Is Not Just A Walk In The Park
September marks the opening of the official Sedona Westerners hiking season. While the hikers are anxious to get back on the trails and reconnect with their friends, the beginning of the season can present many challenges. Mother Nature is still doling out heat, humidity, monsoons, lightning, and the after effects of fires.
We cannot stress enough the need for hydration for anyone hiking in the hot weather. We witnessed this on a July hike to Phantom Ranch at the bottom of the Grand Canyon. Many visitors hiking the trails lacked sufficient water, proper headgear and clothing to deal with the high temperatures. We assisted a man who had been overcome from the heat and was just about passed out on the trail. But it is not just the novice who can get in trouble. High temperatures, exertion, and other factors, like humidity and terrain, can combine to quickly overcome a hiker. On a recent hike, a number of hikers aborted their trek, and arrangements were made to assure that they returned safely. Incidents such as these demonstrate not only the need for generous hydration, but also being realistic about matching ones hiking abilities to the demands of the terrain. Such occurrences also drive home the point that one should never hike alone. This is one of the great benefits of the hiking with the Sedona Westerners as the group always takes care of its members.
Hiking in September can also mean encountering the tail end of monsoon season. It is not uncommon to have to change a particular hike because scouting has revealed that water crossings are impossible. Conversely, scouting can determine that a route thought to be impassible is now doable because high water levels have receded. One always has to be wary for storms because they approach so quickly. A recent hike in Flagstaff was aborted due to heavy rain and lightning. A stalwart group hiked 1 ½ miles before reassessing and deciding to turn back. Even though they did not escape the deluge, the day was not a total loss as they consoled themselves with food and beverage on Beaver Street.
The Slide Fire has also impacted the Sedona Westerner’s hiking schedule, as several of the scheduled hikes up Oak Creek Canyon have been canceled and more may yet need to be depending on decisions made by the appropriate authorities. Presently, these authorities are concerned with flooding and the amount of sludge and dangerous debris that could be washed downward in such an event. Access to these trails will reopen when it is deemed safe.
The Sedona Westerners, being a seasoned hiking club, take all these factors into account in order to have an enjoyable and safe hike. On a recent hike, temperature and humidity were obstacles for many of the hikers. The hike leader consulted with various folks on the hike, assessed the remaining distance and exposure, and used discretion to shorten the hike by approximately 45 minutes. This distance will surely be made up on one of the longer hikes in the cooler weather.
The shortened hike took place on the trail leading into Jim Bryant Canyon, named after a former member of the Sedona Westerners. Close to Sedona’s center, the canyon is tucked between Lee Mountain and the Gibraltar Ridge to the west. Thought to have been constructed by youth from the Civilian Conservation Corps, the Jim Bryant trail went through a period of disuse, possibly during the war years, and was rediscovered by Jim Bryant while bushwhacking in the area. It has once again become a popular trail for hikers.
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, Nov 13, 2014 at 7 pm at the Sedona Elks Club, 110 Airport Road.