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House Mountain Day Hike
January 30, 2016
by Mark Purcell
Trailblazers at the top. [photo by Quy]
Sitting: Quy, Becky, Sandy, Christina, Paige, James.
Standing: Laurie, Shaun, Mark, Ken, Dave, Biljana, Mary, Jim, Heather, Andy, Michael, Monika, Louis.
Rabbit crossed with a bull? [photo by Mark]

...as hike leader Mark hovered grasping the last rungs of the ladder extended from the summoned rescue helicopter, he radioed to the pilot asking to be lowered even further towards the ground in search of the two missing hikers. Suddenly, as the shadows of dusk were about to envelop the landscape, he spotted the forlorn participants who had slipped into a narrow ravine. Close enough to reach, while fighting the waver of the ladder, Mark grasped the extended forearm of the first hiker and slowly pulled towards the rescue basket...

Whoa! Don’t get too invested in the fictional narrative (particularly the ridiculously improbable heroics). As a still relatively novice hike leader, I now fully appreciate the effort and communication required to ensure that departures=returns of our rosters. So, it was business as usual on this hike in that respect — let’s move on to review of the journey.

Originally scheduled for exactly one year earlier and rained out, a reprise of that result was feared as the weather forecast inched a chance of weekend precipitation into the day of the hike. Fortunately, further deterioration of that prospect halted, and 15 from Phoenix and 3 from Flagstaff met at the Forest Road turnoff and followed Mark the last mile over unimproved roads to the wilderness area where the vehicles were parked.

Intro and briefing before departure. [photo by Quy]

After introductions, upon the start of the hike all appeared comfortable with their chosen garb in the cool morning temperatures. However, as the sun rose further many hikers shed a layer in the warming temperatures and also as exertion increased with the periodic steeper inclines on the intermittently rocky jeep trail. As described in the pre-hike briefing, the first 3/4 of the trail route provided few encounters with memorable scenery and none with other users other than a lone ATV with a ranch hand perhaps journeying to check on cattle that graze in the area.

Rancher on his rounds. [photo by Quy]
Wilson Mountain and Sedona’s Red Rock Country. [photo by Mary]
On the final stretch. [photo by Quy]
I’d say the outlook for us is good. [photo by Shaun]
Mark scaling to the highest elevation.

Towards the summit, we veered off onto a Forest Service side road that would take us that last mile. Although notable horizon views of the Verde Valley from Camp Verde to Jerome grace this section, the final impressive and expansive vision of most of Sedona did not reveal themselves until the final hundred feet.

The group was further bushwacked a short distance to the final jagged collection of large summit rocks that could be scaled for the best photo-ops. Exacerbated by an approaching storm front that added to the instability, the usual wind and cooler temps at the 5100-ft elevation prompted some to reapply the layer of clothing they had shed earlier in the hike. A small disappointment was that the snow covered San Francisco peaks, which are easily visible and quite majestic from this location, were generally obstructed by cloud cover.

Let’s take it from the top, looking westward. [photo by Shaun]
The summit wears a rocky crown. [photo by Shaun]
Yes, I can get all the way up there. [photo by Quy]
Sedona airport towards the left. [photo by Quy]
Trailblazers on the “House”. [photo by Quy]

After we all enjoyed our chosen lunch or snacks, it was time for the five mile return to the transportation. At that juncture, some elected to return directly home while others enjoyed various Mexican specialties and libations at the El Patio located at the I-17 intersection.

The ever-changing sky of Sedona. [photo by Mark]
Bucket list taken too literally? [photo by Mark]
Carry me the rest of the way? [photo by Quy]
Post-hike at El Patio. [photo by Quy]

In summary, good cooperation and experiences with the usual fine group of hikers that gravitate towards events sponsored by the Arizona Trailblazers. Special thanks to Quy for acting as my organizer for the carpool meet in Phoenix.

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Arizona Trailblazers Hiking Club, Phoenix, Arizona
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updated September 21, 2016