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Girdner Trail Day Hike
October 14, 2017
by Chuck Parsons
  GPS Map 
by Tom Simonick
27 Arizona Trailblazers gather at the Girdner Trailhead. [photo by Michael]
First Row: Chuck, Renee, Gabe, Deirdre, Barry, Carl, Lin, Terry, Karen, John, Mimi, Ann, Li.
Second Row: Roy, Marilyn, Susan, Mark, Scott, Dave, Tom, Dorinda, Kari, David, Yanis.
Hidden from View: Krista, Barbara, Michael (behind the camera).

At 9:45 AM on a bright and sunny Saturday morning in mid-October, 27 Arizona Trailblazers gather at the Girdner Trailhead for a group picture. That all-important task completed, we put boots to the trail and start yet another exploratory hike in a record list of exploratory hikes being chalked up this year for the Arizona Trailblazers. We seem to do so many of the same hikes over and over again, year after year, to the point where they begin to get stale, and our hikers start wanting to see something new and different. At the same time, though, it becomes more and more challenging to keep coming up with new exploratory hikes, of a reasonable length, that we’ve never done before. There are only so many of them out there yet to be discovered.

The Girdner Trail lies within the Dry Creek Basin of the Sedona area, and the trail crosses Dry Creek (appropriately named since it’s normally bone dry most of the year) about 12 times altogether before it terminates at Dry Creek Road, opposite the Vultee Arch junction. On those rare occasions when the creek is running full, this hike would not be possible. But that’s certainly not going to be an issue for us today. In all the many years I’ve hiked in the Dry Creek area I can remember flowing water in the creek maybe two or three times.

Junction of Girdner and Centennial Trails. [photo by John]
What? Huh? [photo by Carl]
We are here and we need to go there.
[photo by Tom]
You know you’re close to an airport when
you see this sign. [photo by Tom]
Trailblazers gather at the Girdner Trailhead prior to the hike. [photo by Tom]
Houses come into view on the initial part of the Girdner Trail. [photo by Tom]
Trailblazers are moving out on the Girdner Trail. [photo by Carl]
Stopping to read the interpretative signs along the way. [photo by John]
Dave and Dorinda deep in discussion.
[photo by Li]
Another ash tree sporting its fall colors.
[photo by Tom]

The trail starts from the north end of the large parking lot on the right side of Cultural Park Place, less than 100 yards after turning off Highway 89A, and immediately crosses Centennial Trail, another hike to explore at a future date. The temperature is a very pleasant 77 degrees as we start hiking under a bright blue Arizona sky with a cool breeze blowing out of the northwest.

Mark is doing a quick head count. [photo by John]
First Dry Creek crossing and not a drop of water in sight. [photo by Lin]
Fall colors are starting to arrive in Dry Creek Canyon. [photo by John]
Beautiful backlighting highlights the colors in this ash tree. [photo by Carl]
More vibrant fall colors in Dry Creek Canyon. [photo by Lin]
We regroup to make sure everyone is present and accounted for. [photo by Tom]

For a while we have a mix of full sun and shade on the trail, along with a cooling breeze that we hope will stay with us throughout the day. For the first quarter mile or so the trail runs parallel with a residential area of Sedona, as it traverses up and down through a series of low-lying hills. As we work our way past the residential area, the trail begins a slow descent to the north before gradually bending to the northwest, with great views of the Cockscomb to the far north and Capitol Butte lying to the east.

Carl and Gabe discussing ... something. [photo by Li]
A long line of Arizona Trailblazers keeps blazing forward. [photo by John]
Over hill, over dale, those Trailblazers just keep rolling along. [photo by Tom]

We stop to take pictures from time to time. After roughly a mile of hiking the trail begins to descend into Dry Creek Canyon, partially shaded at this time of the morning by scattered groves of Pinyon pine, juniper, and Arizona cypress.

After our second crossing of Dry Creek at about 1.5 miles the trail converges with an old jeep road, long closed to motorized vehicles. We follow this road for about two-hundred yards, before the trail branches to the north and rejoins Dry Creek. We continue hiking roughly parallel with the creek for the next two miles, occasionally dipping down into the creek bed itself, where massive Arizona sycamores, with their smooth gleaming white trunks, and towering Fremont cottonwoods over 100 feet high provide a shady canopy and relief from the increasingly warm day.

At this point of the hike, the creek bed becomes the trail. [photo by John]
We continue hiking up a very dry Dry Creek. [photo by Carl]
Time for a bit of R & R. [photo by Lin]
Yet another creek crossing. I forget—is this #4 or #5? [photo by Lin]
Sweeping view of Red Rock Country, with Chimney Rock at the top center of the picture. [photo by Lin]
With a determined look on her face, Kari leads the charge on this stretch of the trail. [photo by Tom]
Close-up view of Chimney Rock. [photo by Terry]

You can always tell where the water source is in a canyon area whenever you see a long green belt. The two predominant trees are typically sycamores and cottonwoods, which both require massive quantities of water to survive and flourish. These trees can send their tap roots over 100 feet deep in search of water.

Spectacular panoramic view from the trail, with the Cockscomb formation to the far left. [photo by Tom]
Close-up view of the south face of the Cockscomb. [photo by John]
Hikers almost disappear into the scenery in this picture. [photo by Tom]
More hikers surrounded by outstanding scenery. [photo by Lin]
Chimney Rock dominates the center of this picture. [photo by Tom]
This would be a really bad place for a careless person to toss a cigarette butt. [photo by Carl]
Marilyn Susan
Marilyn and Susan
Dave [photo by Carl]
Li [photo by Terry]
Ann [photo by Tom]
Tom [photo by Li]
Mark [photo by Terry]
Li [photo by Tom]

As with so many other trails in the Sedona area, including the Baldwin Trail, the Templeton Trail, the Mooney Trail, and the Thompson Trail that we’ve hiked twice recently, the Girdner Trail is named after a ranching family who settled into this area in the late 1800s. Some of these trails named after individuals were originally built specifically to access their property and for transporting goods and supplies between their ranches, farms, or truck gardens and the nearest town or settlement.

About 2.5 miles from the trailhead we pass through a large gate, and after another half mile come to a trail junction with the Rupp Trail, one of many Sedona area trails that were former jeep roads. The Rupp Trail is one of several trails branching off from the Girdner Trail on its last mile or two, including the Cypress Trail and Two Fences Trail. After one final creek crossing, the trail gradually starts climbing out of Dry Creek Canyon to higher ground and more spectacular vistas.

The original goal of this hike was to take the Girdner Trail all the way to its north end, where it links up with Dry Creek Road after 4.5 miles. But we inadvertently branch off on a poorly marked side trail somewhere along the line. Since it’s almost noon and we’ve already hiked a little over four miles, instead of hiking to Dry Creek Road we decide instead to find a shady area and stop for lunch now.

Marilyn, Mimi, Renee, Ann, Gabe, Karen, and Susan. [photo by Terry]
Carl Lin
Carl and Lin. [photo by Terry]
Barry, Chuck, and Barbara. [photo by Terry]
Roy, Krista, Michael, Dorinda, and Kari. [photo by Terry]
Deirdre, Yanis, Tom, John, and Terry. [photo by Terry]
Marilyn, Mimi, Renee, Susan, Karen, and Gabe. [photo by Tom]

After a leisurely lunch break in the shade, we finally link back up with the Girdner Trail and continue following that back to the trailhead the same way we came.

Signs of civilization mean we must be getting close to the trailhead. [photo by Carl]
Need any help with that, Tom?
[photo by Lin]

By about 2:15 PM everyone has arrived safely back at the trailhead. After we stow all our gear away and get cleaned up a bit, the last major decision of the day is where to go for lunch.

Almost half the group has already left for home or will be leaving very soon. I had suggested earlier the Plaza Bonita Family Mexican Restaurant in Cottonwood, and since no one else seems to have a better suggestion, the remaining fourteen of us pile into our vehicles and head back down Highway 89A toward Cottonwood.

We’ve stopped at Plaza Bonita for a late lunch several times in the past, always with a large crowd of hungry Trailblazers, and the friendly restaurant staff has always been able to accommodate us, regardless of what time we show up or how busy they are. Service is relatively fast, the portions are huge, and the food is quite tasty.

As we enjoy our food and the camaraderie centered around a good post-hike lunch, this is really the perfect ending to another great day of hiking in Arizona’s spectacular Red Rock Country around Sedona.

Barry, Renee, and Chuck at the Plaza Bonita Family Mexican Restaurant in Cottonwood [photo by John]
Mimi, Ann, Li, Tom, Dave, Marilyn, Susan, Renee.   Chuck, Barry, Carl, Roy, John.   [photo by Lin]
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Arizona Trailblazers Hiking Club, Phoenix, Arizona
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updated October 27, 2017