Driving through Sedona, we find Schnebly Hill Road where just before the pavement ends, reach a large parking lot to hook up with the “Arizona Strong Hikers” group. We were lucky to snag two of the ten available spots for one of the premiere hiking loops in Sedona. The sun is rising as are many hot air balloons, all up to enjoy the brilliant dawn show.
The organizer of our group, Wade, gathers us for the introductions and then we leave, promptly at the designated start time of 7am. Of the many things I enjoy about Wade’s hikes, always departing on time is high on the list. Today’s trek begins on the “Munds Wagon Trail”.
To describe the hiking pace as brisk would be a gross understatement so rather than hold people up, I drifted to the back of the line to take an image or two. Then, to close the gap I’d scamper to the end of the line. Considering our surroundings, I’d have enjoyed a pause now and then to take more pictures BUT….since Wade will be reading this, IN NO WAY IS THIS CRITICISM!! To get on Wade’s bad side means never finding oneself getting off the “Waitlist”. lol.
At trail junctions, we would always pause to regroup but all of us managed to maintain the pace, averaging over 3mph, not counting stops or rest breaks. There are some very fit hikers, actually, better said, there are no unfit hikers in the group. The name of the group, Arizona Strong Hikers, is apt. The trail rises modestly but is almost always rising so soon….
…..with the sun up, the scenery is brilliant. We reach a knob or butte called the “Merry-Go-Round and decide to scramble up.
The slopes of the feature are steep but manageable and we all enjoy our time at the top. Amy especially enjoys the scrambling and on this hike, there is plenty of it.
We resume our hike and soon, looking back, get a good look at the Merry-Go-Round. From a distance, it’s hard to believe that we scrambled, clockwise, around and up it as the slope looks impossible to manage.
Occasionally we would emerge on flat, red rock and enjoy the change while always….
….admiring the views. Just awesome. At about mile 7, Wade signals we….
….can take a lunch break. A large boulder provides ample shade as we look across the valley, soaking in the scenery. Eventually, we gear up to resume our hike but not before….
….the happy couple have an image taken with a brilliant background. Hmmmm, I’m looking kind of paunchy:(. The hike begins anew on the….
….Hangover Trail. The trail encircles, or nearly so, a large butte. Note the cliffs that hang over the trail and do so for a great distance. Soon, our effort brings us within site of our next destination….
….Elephant Arch (note the arch on the left side). The scramble up that is great fun and once inside the arch….
….WOW. Only 1 or 2 people can fit in it at a time so after taking my image, I slide down the other side, work my way back around and able to take an image of….
….Amy, posing inside. Once we finish that visit, we climb down a band or two of rock and….
….hike to the other side and….
…scramble to another arch and above it, the top. Wade and Karyn successfully having summited it. I think I set a new personal record for amount of time “butt hiking” as several times I was more comfortable sliding then standing. We resumed our hike…..
….the track of which is seen above. We finished the hike with 12 miles and a little over 2000′ of elevation gain. Our reward was to drive to the nearby town of Cottonwood where….
….most of us gathered at “Colt 804 Grill” for good food, a beer by the name of “That” and shaded eating. Left to right, Kimberly, Tom, Karyn, me, Amy and Michael. Thanks to Wade for use of this image.