A Stellar Morning at the Base of Thunder Mountain

November 26, 2021

By Tina Gia

There are exciting hikes and views on trails very near Sedona. Here is a good shot of Chimney Rock and some of the Thunder Mountain outcroppings.

This past week’s Sedona Westerner Rustler’s outing was one of the best Rustler’s hike I have ever been on.  The adventure at the base of Thunder Mountain was one of those all-in-one-bonus Sedona hikes where you get a lot of sun and a little bit of everything else, like elevation, distance, iconic red rocks, ledges, and neighborhood rooftop views.  It was rated medium for a Rustler hike and that description nailed it. 

Our fearless leader Jean had a wealth of knowledge and the pace was great.  We did about a 5 mile loop starting out on Thunder Mountain, Andante, Teacup, Sugarloaf Summit and then back on Teacup and Thunder Mountain. One of the great things about this hike was the changing elevation and scenery. The ledge kept us on our toes, as did the ground changing from sand to, what I call, ankle breaker rocks.  I’ve learned, when in doubt, bring the hiking poles.  With this hike, I carried them most of the time but when I needed them, I was glad I had them. 

From the trailhead we started climbing up right away.  As Jean said, for some people it’s the wind.  I had no idea what she was talking about until I realized she was breathing heavy and so was I.  We were winded.  She then proceeded to show us how to catch our breath. 

Bend down as if staring at something unique on the ground, like rocks, with your hands on your poles, elbows out like chicken wings. Then, she said, breathe into the back of the lungs.  Huh?  The back of my lungs.  It didn’t quite compute.   However, I did what she said, sort of, but I think I ended up breathing into my lower back instead of my lungs. I quickly figured it wasn’t too far off, however, as I could breathe better. 

 We passed the Thunder Mountain Ranch community to our right and of course the Sedona red rocks on our left.  This trail has beauty all around.  We passed coffee pot and the creamer behind it.  We passed the salt and pepper rocks although that was a stretch of the imagination.  No matter how many times it was pointed out to me, I didn’t “see” them.  It always amazes me how some of these rocks get their names. Salt and pepper?  How about cinnamon and nutmeg?  I digress.

We passed the queen and her princes or queen and her court or something like that.  Basically it’s one tall thick rock standing straight and 3 tall skinny rocks next to it.  I get it, sort of. I had Lasik surgery so I could see long distance without glasses.  Maybe I need a re-do.  

One of the guys on the hike is the gadget guy.  He’s my idol when it comes to hiking gear.   Hiking clothing and gear are about practicality, not a fashion show. Case in point is a foldaway mat for breaks when we sit on the rocks.  At first, when I saw gadget guy with that mat, I didn’t think I needed it, but alas, on my last Westerners hike I sat on an ant and it proceeded to bite me.  So, I began to rethink the practicality of this mat and proceeded to search for one.

I planned to bring my new gadget to today’s hike but of course, I had attached it to my backpack instead of putting it in my backpack and it got loose and stayed in the car.  So, at our break I did not sit, and I did not show off my new gadget to gadget guy.  I ate my snack standing up.  Lesson learned:  Check your pack when you take it out of the car.

One of the best parts of hiking with this group, besides the killer scenery of Sedona, is talking with the other hikers.  I’ve noticed people talk more going than on the return trip, since we’re tired, sweaty and in need of the “facilities”.  The subjects range the gamut but normally we talk about food, where people are from, where they live now, why they moved to Sedona, and what they did for a living BR (Before Retirement).  

On this hike, one of the women behind me asked me if my hair was long.  Strange question, but nonetheless, I took the bait because I love to laugh and hike at the same time.  I chuckled, my hair?  It’s Sicilian frizzy.  Think Chia Pet.  I wear a sun hat and put my hair in a ponytail in my hat, so I basically look like I have no hair.  What a great conversation starter.  Hiking is definitely no fashion show or beauty contest. 

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