Time and Water Transform the Lower Hangover Saddle

May 01, 2020

By Deborah Losse

Interesting runoff pool along the Hangover Trail

            March and early April are generally the time for spring holidays that bring families to Sedona for reunions.  In short, residents come to expect crowds and traffic jams as people  gather to admire the red rocks.  This particular advent of the spring season in Sedona brings a different tone.  For those residents who enjoy hiking,  as we make our way along the trail, it is an intense reflection on families far away in urban cities who are self-isolating in small apartments, of health workers who are risking their own health security to contribute to the recent pandemic efforts, and of volunteers who work to feed those in need.  

            The disruption of normal social activities brings with it time to consider the natural beauty that characterizes Sedona.  It is only the solitary hikes, the quiet, the opportunity to explore the trails alone or as a twosome that allows us to focus on this beauty as we respect the space of others we may pass on the trail. 

            Consider an early Sunday morning hike to an iconic site, the saddle just below the elephant-like head on Huckaby Windows—the lower saddle of the Hangover Trail located just above Mund’s Wagon Trail.  There is no one, no one but you on the saddle.  No airplanes fly overhead, no jeeps on the road, it is the silence that makes you stop in place, sit down to contemplate the quiet, natural splendor.  

            Add to this moment the unusual quantity of rain that has come to Sedona in the past months.  As you climb up Mund’s Wagon Trail, you have the fun of jumping from stone to stone to cross the usually dry crossing.  What is the best place to cross?  Should you go upstream or down? What if you get your feet wet? Water courses down the washes and drips over rocks into clear pools.  

            These unexpected encounters with streams and waterfalls give rise to the expectation that wildflowers will appear on the trail.  Suddenly as the trail emerges from the shaded areas onto the slick rock, fringed gromwell and milk vetch, clumped here and there among the rocks and soil, peek out to greet those who make their way up the increasingly steep trail. As the seeps trickle down, the wildflowers are thriving in the mix of sunlight and moisture.

            You continue up the trail, over the slick rock and up to the saddle.  As you  emerge from the last rocks to the broad, expansive view up to the elephant tusk and window, down to 89A and the fast-paced waters of Oak Creek, and over to Schnebly Hill Road with views of Mund’s Mountain, you pause to take in the views and to consider the crisis that has created this quiet, solitary vista.  

            While the pandemic makes us all uneasy, one necessary consequence of the deceleration of everyday life is that we have been given time to stop, think, and reflect on the natural beauty that surrounds us and on what it can contribute to our existence.  

Written by Deborah Losse

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