Anatomy of a Hike

April 05, 2019

By Sue Taylor

Ice on ledges at Mescal Mountain observed during a February 19 scout hike on the Mescal Trail. This demonstrates how doing a scout hike prior to a scheduled hike can reveal suboptimal conditions.


The Sedona Westerners hiking season begins with the selection of a hike boss for each of the seven hiking groups.  The club then votes to confirm each hike boss, usually with a resounding "AYE."  The hike bosses then begin to develop their hike schedule for the hiking season, which runs from September to May.  Each hike boss considers the timing of the hikes, often scheduling early and late season hikes up at the Grand Canyon or in the Flagstaff area, or on more shaded Sedona trails when conditions may be too hot or the trail too exposed.  Once the hike bosses have developed their hike schedules, they find a leader and a co-leader for every hike.  

Most leaders are familiar with the hikes they choose.  Some hikes may be unfamiliar to the leader, who may need to find someone to show them the route during their scout hike.  Each hike group has parameters that they loosely adhere to, such as the length of the hike, the amount of cumulative elevation gain, exposure to ledges and rock scrambles, etc.  Each hike will be listed on the Sedona Westerners website’s hike schedule with this information, so people are comfortable with the level of difficulty.  Hikers may choose any group they feel comfortable with and hike as often as they wish.

The hikes are scouted in advance.  The leader, co-leader, and friends decide when they will meet to do the scout hike.  They enjoy putting their own spin on a hike and are able to tweak it a bit, so it is different from year to year.  Scout hikes are fun and adventurous.  As the leaders try to piece together sections of various trails, the transitions can be a bit challenging.  It may be a bit like herding cats, as each scout heads in a different direction to find the perfect fit.  It may take several attempts to put the final hike together.  It may not work as planned.  The hike may have become too long or difficult for the particular group for which it was scheduled.

As the day of the hike arrives, the weather plays an important role.  If it is raining or snowing, the hike is cancelled, as it may be too dangerous to take a group out in those conditions.  A lot of agonizing goes into the decision to cancel.  Everyone is aware of all the preparation that has gone into the hike.  If cancelled, the hike may be rescheduled, but that can be difficult, as most of the weekly hike slots have already been filled with different hikes.

If the weather looks acceptable, everyone gathers at the designated meet-up point, either Posse Grounds Park or behind the Outlet Center in VOC.  At the appointed meet-up time, the club rules are read to the group.  The leaders then give a short summary of their hike.  The group then carpools to the trailhead, taking as few vehicles as possible.  At the trailhead, the hikers are divided into groups of 12 or less and take off on the adventure.  The chatter on the trail lessens on the ascents. They stop occasionally for "clothing adjustments," which means taking off layers of clothing as the weather warms up or due to exertion.

There is a mid-morning snack break at a location where people can sit and enjoy the views.  After a short break, the leader gives the "2-minute warning," the break is over, and off they go.  On most hikes, there is a longer lunch break.  Again, the leaders will have chosen a good location (usually slickrock with views) for people to sit and eat their lunch, while talking with their friends.  Taking to the trail after lunch, the group makes their way back to the trailhead.  There, the leaders are rewarded with high-fives, compliments about what a great hike it was, how much fun it was, or noting that someone saw an area from a new perspective.  A good day was had by all.

If you are interested in joining the hiking club, please visit the Sedona Westerners website at  You are invited to our next monthly meeting at 7 p.m., Thursday, April 11, at the Sedona Methodist Church, 110 Indian Cliffs Road.  Written by Sue Taylor.

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