A Walk on Bear Mountain

May 8, 2015


by Bill Brown

When I've been away from Sedona for a while, the first days back are always a spectacular reminder of the beauty of this place and my love of the high desert. So today, after a few months’ absence, I'm especially happy because I'm doing one of my favorite hikes with the Sedona Westerners Mustangs. I gather with old friends – and some potential new ones – in the parking lot at the trailhead. To most, this is “yet another” day in Camp Sedona. To me, though, it's a day full of anticipation of the beginning of a season of great times. The red rocks are brilliant, the cliffs magnificent, the weather superb, the chatter animated.

The Mustangs are the Westerners Thursday hiking group, which specializes in challenging hikes at a moderate pace. We're hiking today under the always able leadership of Brad Bell, assisted by co-leaders Dave Vanderwarter and Bill Johnson.

We warm up with an easy walk across some gently sloping grassland. It's a relatively dull start, but I'm stoked. I've missed the sun, the dry air, the high-desert landscape, the red rocks, and the general ambiance of the world's best hiking environment.

Soon we are climbing the main ascent of the day. The trail is well built but steep. My lungs are starting to realize that I'm not at sea level anymore and I'm huffing. Yet, it feels good to climb.

In a short time, my companions and I reach the broad ledge that we going to explore for the rest of the day. We are going to have some minor ups and downs, but the major climbing is behind us. Views have opened up, back to the cliffs above Sedona, as well as out over the broad expanse of the Verde Valley and the layers of mountains beyond.

We pause until all have caught our breaths and adjusted clothing layers and then set out on a long walk along our ledge. Sometimes we're traveling on wide sculptured slick rock with the valley spread out in front of us. Sometimes, we are on narrower sections with tall cliffs looming over us and steep-sided canyons below us.

Eventually, we come to a geological feature that declares the end of our day's walk. One of the lower canyons cuts too deeply into the mountain for us to continue, But it's not a bitter end. The beauty of this spot is breathtaking. We walk out on a narrow ridge that offers great views and some sitting rocks for lunch. I've been to this spot several times and, as usual, the talk turns to what may lie beyond the barrier canyon. The best sign of a good hike is that you discover a new place you want to explore.

Lunch is over and we shoulder our packs for the return journey. Generally I prefer loop hikes, but on this out-and-back walk the afternoon's return is as exciting as the morning's walk in. There are new sights -- crevasses, spires, windows, and cliffs that I hadn't noticed this morning.

We soon return to the steep trail and descend to the flats where we began. While I walk that last quarter mile to the cars the sun is warm, but the air is cool – perfect hiking weather. The golden light of late afternoon colors the grasses and brush and changes the tone of the red cliffs around me. I savor the warm satisfaction of a venture well taken and the anticipation that this is but the first of many great Sedona hikes I'll be doing in the coming months. I'm back.

The Beautiful Red Rock of Sedona and Bear Mountain.

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