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Sedona Sunrise Day Hike
November 9, 2019
by Mark Purcell
  Trail Map 
from Kevin
Heather, Kevin E., Jane, Debbie, Terry, Michelle (in shadow),
Mark J.,Kevin C., Ralph, Chris, Dave, Biljana, Dubravka
The Shadow is Mark.

Earlier in this decade, as Sedona tourism continued to expand, trail infrastructure and availability was not keeping pace. This was particularly acute for mountain bikers, which resulted in illegal “user-created” trail construction on USFS and private lands. Instead of further conflict, several years ago the mountain bike, USFS, and other governmental organizations elected to cooperate more comprehensively in addressing the biking trail deficiency in a structured manner.

An example of this partnership recently opened in Sedona called the Western Gateway, consisting of 27 new miles of trails completed or scheduled for the same. Around 1/3 of these are actually “renewed” user-created paths, with the rest being either brand new or rerouted. All hand built—no Bobcats or large pieces of power equipment. Most of the work was privately funded, performed by volunteers, and completed in less than six months. Best to consider sharing this new find before the new editions of Beartooth and other hike guides are published.

Listen, you one-eyed stone alligator. [photo by Kevin]

Having already led a well-received Sunset hike in Sedona, a similar experience at dawn was a natural progression for those willing to awake early for the journey. However, a more practical rationale was that these trails are certainly hikeable but oriented more towards bikers (who tend to be predominant later in the day). So less competition and interruptions in our momentum would result from an early start. And that is what transpired.

Yum! [photo by Kevin]

Around 7 AM, I greeted 13 fellow adventurers at the Girdner Trailhead with Starbucks coffee, juice, and muffins (note to self double the coffee next time—Trailblazers are voracious consumers of caffeine). After visiting for a short time and enjoying sunrise views, we were off on our 11.5 mile journey.

This is the best! [photo by Debbie]
Hot air balloons keep us company. [Debbie]
Dawn, the rosy-fingered. [photo by Debbie]
Balloonists get a fine view. [photo by Kevin]
Many outstanding views. [photo by Debbie]
Ah, the autumn leaves! [photo by Debbie]
Who says the autumn leaves are all gone? [photo by Kevin]
Tunnel of love? Maybe not here. [photo by Kevin]
The trails are well signed. [photo by Kevin]
There are still a few leaves left. [photo by Kevin]
We’re off to a good start. [photo by Mark]
Are you sure this is the right way? [photo by Mark]

Although I prefer to keep hikes I lead under 10 miles, as aforementioned this system is oriented more to bikers and therefore emphasizes longer segments with fewer cross trails. Included were the Outer Limits, Last Frontier, and Ledge-N-Dary trails, all of which presented challenging trails with a variety of high desert, canyon, and Red Rock scenery. Particularly on Last Frontier, a one mile segment was a marvel of construction with the trail literally carved into a canyon wall.

For the first 2/3 of the trek, as projected, we ran into very few fellow hikers and bikers. However, as we approached the last 1/3 of the planned distance, the population of bikers blossomed. Notable was a group of nine 20-something women from Tuscon, who perhaps underestimated the terrain and technical rating and were having some difficulty in maintaining unity. We passed each other several times.

After approximately five hours we finally reached the trailhead, as the temperatures just started to become somewhat more uncomfortable on an unseasonably warm Saturday. From there we drove a couple miles into West Sedona for a great meal and fellowship at Cafe Jose’s.

Cafe Jose’s. [photo by Mark]

BTW, we finished ahead of the biker gang. Well done, Sedona Sun Risers!

Thanks to Debbie for organizing the Phoenix carpool!

→   More pictures, by Debbie
→   More pictures, by Kevin
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Arizona Trailblazers Hiking Club, Phoenix, Arizona
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updated November 25, 2019