With Sedona temperatures still warm, the Sedona Westerners typically head to the Flagstaff area in early September to enjoy cooler temperatures and fall colors.
Meeting up at the Posse Grounds in early morning with the hike leaders, Kevin and Barbara O'Connor, the Mustangs drove to the Inner Basin Trailhead and headed out just above the Lockett Meadow Campground off of Highway 89.
The trail passes by two wells, Well #9 built in 1968 at 9,792 ft. and Well # 11 built in 1971 at 9,482 ft. Water from winter storms and spring melting filters through the rich soil and is captured in these wells, making the Inner Basin an important water source for the Flagstaff and Sedona areas. The pumphouses serving these wells make rustic landmarks in the midst of scenic meadows. The same moist soil provides fertile ground for a variety of wildflowers. The frequent rains during the monsoon season encourage the growth of mushrooms, and the hikers enjoyed trying to identify the tan, gold, and red mushrooms peeking out of the damp ground cover. They compared jingles for avoiding toxic mushrooms with those for keeping out of the way of poisonous snakes. Many vowed to learn more about mycology before next season. The group was privileged to be hiking at the height of the mushroom season, but in accordance with the club's leave-no-trace-of-passage policy, all flowers and mushrooms remained untouched for others to enjoy.
The Inner Basin Trail winds up through quiet aspen groves. Cool nights had turned the green leaves a vibrant yellow as the trail ascended. Evidence of large elk, scat and tracks, was visible along the path. Mountain chickadees and Clark's nutcrackers greeted the early morning hikers. Once the group reached 10,000 ft., the aspens gave way to alpine meadows dotted with the stately blue spruce trees that favor the higher altitude. With rain clouds gathering overhead, the hikers snacked among the spruces before making their way back down the Inner Basin trail. They returned to Lockett Meadow impressed with the beauty of the 6.9 miles traversed. Traveling to Flagstaff affords the Sedona Westerners the challenges and rewards of hiking at higher altitude, and the Mustangs returned home pleased that they had covered the 1,600 ft. altitude change with relative ease. By the end of the hike, all traces of rain clouds had disappeared, but for those interested in exploring Inner Basin, rain showers and thunderstorms are a constant in the early afternoons during the monsoon season in the San Francisco Peaks.
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.