Bear Mountain

April 22, 2016

Robert Patterson
By Robert Patterson

On a recent beautiful Saturday morning the Sedona Westerners met for a hike up Bear Mountain. This was one of the more strenuous of the official trails in Sedona.

One is always surprised by the cold of an early Sedona morning in the winter months and this was no exception. Clothing layers were hastily put on as hikers got out of the cars. But, the layers came off quickly as the route up the mountain involved an immediate and lengthy climb. When our group hit a flat stretch the sun was already up and it turned out to be another wonderful Arizona day, particularly sweet to those of us who winter in Sedona to get away from colder or wetter parts.

The view from halfway up Bear Mountain.The back of Thunder Mountain aka Grayback Mountain,aka Capitol Butte. Photo by Robert Patterson.

The early part of the hike involved views over Fay Canyon, scene of an unfortunate fatal plane crash that also set fire to its upper end. There was also a bootlegger cave at the top of a high cliff. How the bootleggers got their water up or the whiskey down had been a bit of a mystery. Perhaps not much remained unconsumed to be taken off the mountain! The balance must have involved considerable mule power. What was interesting was that the equipment was just left to rust away as presumably the end of prohibition killed the market overnight. Some Indian ruins were visible in the distance on the other side of the canyon.

The hike then involved a series of sharp ascents followed by a series of flat stretches that would lull a hiker into believing the worst was over, which it never appeared to be. The hike involved some 1,800 feet elevation gain that gave scope for plenty of uphill moments. The compensation it offered, apart from the fact that the climb was a wonderful workout, was the breathtaking views, sometimes of the Humphreys Peaks, sometimes of the far mountains towards Jerome and the nearer red rock canyons, and sometimes of the Sycamore Canyon wilderness area to the north of Cottonwood.

Because we were sufficiently high enough to have lost some of the warmth, break time raised another quandary. Should we sit in the sun and find it too hot or go into the shade and find it too cold? The compensation was to be sitting on the top of the mountain surrounded by the trees and numerous animal tracks. The wildlife obviously had no problem with routes and tracks up and down the mountain that only a rock climber would have attempted.

All too soon it was time to descend, which was proof of the axiom “it is almost always easier to go up than to go down”. Not only was it easier to slip on the loose rock on the way down, but a trail that was easy to follow on the way up seemed less distinct when seen from above. But, none of these problems were in fact encountered and before long we were on the flat grasslands at the bottom of the mountain. One of theories for the grassland was that they were the farmlands of the Native Americans who were here before, and the deep gullies were originally irrigation ditches that were introduced to the area from around Phoenix, that over the years deepened into sizeable water courses.

Almost at the end, there was moment of excitement when one hiker noticed a larger scorpion on the ground. We circled it with caution and reached the conclusion that it was not moving much. This was not surprising as it turned out to be a plastic replica. It certainly had us fooled. And thus, ended a most enjoyable hike!

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