Six Trailblazers gather above the Transept Trailhead. [photo by Dave]
Dave, Chris, Lin, Chuck, Debbie, Michael
We know we’re on the right track now.
After a five-week hiatus and shutdown period to help deal with the coronavirus,
the Arizona Trailblazers are up and running once again, although not firing on all
cylinders just yet.
[photo by Debbie]
Woo-Hoo! Back in the Saddle Again, as that famous cowboy crooner, Gene
Autry, would famously sing. All of us old enough to remember that song are now
officially old-timers in the Arizona Trailblazers. Those of you who never heard the
song before are just young whippersnappers, still a bit wet behind the ears as they
used to say. Sorry, no offense intended to either generation here. It’s just
good to be back out on the trails, hiking and exploring once again with the Arizona
We’re not out of the woods quite yet, but we’re slowly getting there
little by little.
After a slight blip in driving directions, we all finally arrive at the small trailhead
parking area on the south side of Verde Valley School Road in the Village of Oak
Creek. Under clear and sunny skies, with a cool and comfortable temperature of
66 degrees, we hit the Transept Trailhead across the road on the north side of
Verde Valley School Road and start hiking at 7:45 AM.
Hedgehog cactus in full bloom. [photo by Chuck]
Closeup of hedgehog bloom. [photo by Chuck]
One careless move or slight misstep along the worse stretches of either of these
two Transept trails could send you on a quick one-way trip to the bottom.
In a hurry at one point to catch up with the other hikers in the group, in an
instant my left foot started sliding out from under me along a particularly bad
stretch of trail with loose gravel that was right on the edge of a deep drop-off.
Thankfully I caught myself just in time, shifting my weight and digging in my
right hiking pole to avoid a potential disaster.
That was just a bit too close for comfort. Most of the trail is not really that bad,
but you need to be extra cautious and diligent along the sheer drop-off sections of
edge-hugging trail. Being careless here is just asking for both trouble and disaster.
Opened to the public for the first time in 2018, the Transept Trail was recently
described by Mare Czinar in one of her weekly hiking columns in The Arizona
“…the north-south running ridge line known as the Seven Warriors is home
to a pair of trails known for their edge-hugging exposure. The Transept Trail is one
of those two trails that traverses the less congested western side of the Seven
Warriors ridge line.”
Flowers are blooming everywhere! [Debbie]
In every shape, size, and color. [photo by Debbie]
Some we can’t even identify. [photo by Lin]
Such as this delicate species. [photo by Lin]
Today marks the very first time the Arizona Trailblazers are experiencing this new
trail in Red Rock Country. Our goal for today is to hike the Transept Trail for 3.2
miles to its junction with the longer Hiline Trail, take a rest and snack break
somewhere along the way, then reverse course back to the trailhead.
The first mile or two of this trail is a mix of gradual and then more aggressive
climbing, but a steady and almost relentless ascent through typical Red Rock
Country of Sedona, with a mix of shade and sunny exposures, through Arizona
cypress, shaggy juniper, Manzinita, and Arizona madrone.
This trail also features dozens and dozens of ancient skeletal remains of some
of the most gnarled and twisted tree trunks imaginable, primarily juniper and
cypress, that we’ve ever seen before on almost any other trail in the
Sedona area. The arid weather here can probably preserve these ancient
specimens for decades, if not centuries. Some of these trees, like the one in the
last picture set, were very likely young saplings well before the Civil War began.
Arizona Trailblazers are hiking in paradise. [Lin]
Strange-looking beetles are working these flowers.
[photo by Lin]
[photo by Debbie]
A kaleidoscope of colors highlights this section of trail. [photo by Lin]
We all arrive back at the trailhead close to noon, with the temperature still in the
mid-70s. This has been a perfect day for hiking Red Rock Country.
The normal procedure at this point is to discuss where to stop for lunch before
the drive back home. Being this close to Sedona, we would probably stop at one
of our favorite Sedona area restaurants and watering holes, like the Hideaway
or the Javelina Cantina, but unfortunately these are not normal times right now
with all the restaurants across Arizona closed to inside dining. So we take a short
break in the parking area, bid one another goodbye, and head back down the
long and winding road toward home.
As seen in this last picture by Lin, north of Black Canyon City we see a towering
column of thick smoke billowing high into the air, more than likely a brush fire
caused by a careless motorist tossing a cigarette butt out the window into dry
grass along the road side. As we get closer, I imagine we’re all thinking the same
thing—hoping the fire will be on the northbound side instead of on our side.
And, thankfully, that turns out to be the case. With multiple pieces of fire-fighting
equipment along the roadside, northbound traffic grinds to a complete halt and is
backed up for mile after mile, as we sail along on the southbound lanes. Had the
fire started earlier in the morning, all of us would be sitting in that long line of
traffic. Some days you just get lucky.
Brush fire along the northbound lanes of I-17 on the drive back home.
[photo by Lin]
Hike Stats by Dave:
6.6 miles, 4:24 hours, 1,013' cumulative elevation change,
4,173' to 4,643' elevation range.