Sedona Westerners Scouts - Scouting Hikes

January 29, 2021

By Ernie Pratt

Photo courtesy of Sue Taylor This wintry photo was taken in February 2020 on one of the scouting hikes of the Sedona Westerners Scouts. It is solid proof that each trail and hike that the Westerners do must be scouted and verified as safe and achievable. The s

People need to realize that hikes do not just happen; there is often a significant amount of background preparation and soul searching to be done by a leader and trail bosses prior to hitting the trail.  In the end, it is all about safety, fun and comfort. Even if a leader has volunteered for a “done-this-a-lot hike” they still want to conduct a well-run, successful excursion, working with the plan enough to make a different experience. They can research the area history, the geology or the botany adding to the overall enjoyment.  We always have a cross section of hikers that need to be pleased: from those “first timers” on the trail, to those that have done it many times before.  So, every hike needs to be scouted.   

An example of this preparation came to light as the call went out for volunteers to scout a hike called Sycamore Bluffs in the Casner Mountain area.  A small group went out to check out a route previously put together by one of the Westerners.  This is a remote area, so there was concern relative to road conditions and vehicle capability. The last section of road to the trailhead was very rough, which resulted in a feeling of superiority that washes over a Jeep owner as he reaches the end of the mountainous, rutted lane. Of course sitting in the parking lot on this day was an ordinary panel van that somehow negotiated the same terrain—this must have been luck, as opposed to the skilled driving that brought us to the trailhead.  We checked out the trail conditions, respectfully skirted numerous dwelling sites, marveled at the scenery, added and subtracted various bluffs, and collectively improved the hike.  Despite that preparation, however, it rained on the day the hike was scheduled and it was postponed. 

Another recent scouting ‘mission’ involved a planned hike in Loy Canyon.  Here the concern again was the condition of the road going to the trailhead coupled with the amount of Jeep and ATV traffic regularly using that road.  The hike up the canyon follows a wash for a considerable distance and lately none of these streambeds have been dry.  After the scout trip (a fun and insightful day), it was concluded we could conduct this hike given the amount of sandy soil along the trail and a low flow of water.  

Whenever we scout, we have to consider that there is a notable difference between one small group of hikers as compared to one with two or three larger groups of hikers.  More planning is needed for a larger party, especially if the rain-drenched trail is susceptible to damage with our passing.  The hikes are often a combination of system trails that have been adapted and connected to make the resulting day hike seem new and thus more interesting.  Scouts need to be wary of the fact that our groups share these trails with others.  Recently, our group was passing a line of tourists at the Devils Bridge when we were verbally accosted by a lady in the line who misunderstood our desire to move past; this was not a relaxed Sedona attitude on her part, but as trail ambassadors we try to take the high ‘road (or ‘path’?).

When we scout we also have to consider parking at the trailhead, factoring in the lot size and condition and timing of our arrival. 

Trail scouting is volunteer work that is sometimes done by the club’s more willing hikers (scouts), but generally they work on the higher level, longer and technically more difficult hikes.  They are finding new trails and links and helping to rate hikes as to group capability.  Scouts must have the flexibility to scout hikes and then do the same hike with the regular group a few days later. Scouts with the talent and desire to do both are sometimes hard to find. 

So behind most successful days on the trail are a scout and a group of itinerant hikers and leaders. We keep on moving, enjoying the Sedona area in a fun, well planned, safe, environmentally conscious manner.

If you are interested in joining the club, please visit the Sedona Westerners website at  Monthly meetings are only facilitated via Zoom at present until the Covid 19 restrictions are lifted

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