Mustangs Hang Tight
September 28, 2018
By Deborah Losse
The Hangover Trail circumnavigates Mitten Ridge and provides panoramic views both to the north and south. The Hangover Trail truly has overhanging rocks on a good portion of it. The massive red rock and typical vegetation can be seen. (Photo Jeff Fargo)
Labor Day marks the beginning of the new Sedona Westerner hiking season, so this Thursday Mustang hike brought together hikers for the first time at this level. At the Posse Grounds meet-up point, we all eagerly exchanged news of summer hiking adventures and travel. The choice of the Hangover Trail, so named for the overhanging rocks and trees that provide shade for warm hikers, was a good one for this post-monsoon day with temperatures in the 80’s. Ably led by Trisha Travis and Guenther Pollak, we set off around 8:30 from the Huckaby trailhead parking area, once our hike boss Michael Henry was assured that we were all wearing proper hiking boots with lug soles and had the required three liters of water.
The hike began on a gentle ascent along the Munds Wagon Trail, but then took off abruptly uphill over loose dirt and slickrock. In this first hike of the season, we appreciated the good vertical workout, as well as some breathtaking views of Munds Mountain, Bear Wallow, and the Huckaby Windows. The chatter about hiking in Colorado, on the Pacific Crest Trail, into British Columbia, and even in Scotland, grew less audible as we all concentrated on foot-placement, breathing, and keeping hydrated.
Once we were up on the first saddle near the Huckaby Windows, we paused for a brief snack and then scrambled up the slickrock to Mitten Ridge. We then hiked the north side of the appropriately-named Hangover Trail, which affords a spectacular view of Wilson Mountain, Oak Creek Canyon, and Midgley Bridge. The recent rains had brought to life some lovely, scarlet Indian Paintbrush flowers and bright green moss tucked picturesquely into crannies in the rocks along the narrow pathway. After about a mile or so, we reached the Mitten Ridge saddle and were surprised not to have seen a single mountain biker, since the trail was adopted by the U.S. Forest Service as a mixed-usage trail--one of the most difficult bicycle trails in the whole Sedona area.
The Mitten Ridge saddle allowed us to take in views down both sides, into Oak Creek Canyon or into Bear Wallow and the Schnebly Hill Road area. We paused for lunch, enjoyed the full panorama, rehydrated, and then began the warm descent on slickrock interspersed with large, porous limestone rocks and prickly pear cactus. Gone were the friendly Indian Paintbrush and moss, which no doubt found the exposed slick rock inhospitable.
The Hangover Trail rejoins the Munds Wagon Trail along the wash, which is dry except during winter snows, spring runoff, and summer rains. The breeze that had cooled us while we were up on the saddles had now dissipated. As we made our way back to the Huckaby Trailhead, we were pleased to have done most of our climbing during the cooler part of the morning. It was about noon when we ran into the first hikers not in our group. On this popular trail, it was an obvious sign that the autumn hiking season was just getting started. Back at the Trailhead, those conversations about summer travels came to an end as we all thanked our very capable hike leaders for reacquainting us with some of the very highest parts of our beautiful Sedona red rocks.
If you are interested in joining the club, please visit the Sedona Westerners website at www.sedonawesterners.org/membership. You are invited to our next monthly meeting at 7 p.m., Thursday, November 8, at the Sedona Methodist Church, 110 Indian Cliffs Road. Written by Deborah Losse.