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Bell Trail #13 Day Hike
May 16, 2015
by John Richa
  GPS Map 
Jim’s    GPS Map 

Yes, it was a Wet Beaver Creek because the water was running pretty good. The day before and throughout the night, Arizona got a pretty hefty downpour of precipitation. Actually, in the Valley of the Sun we got the most rain in any one day ever during the month of May. In some places 1.5" of rain came down, when you compare this to 4" of rain for the entire year 2014.

As a hike leader, one becomes like a weatherman! You keep a close watchful eye on weather updates and you promptly answer your fellow hikers inquiring emails: is the hike still on? That is why it is important to have everyone’s email address and cell phone number just in case we have to abort the mission at the last minute.

Throughout the day and night before, the weather seemed to be improving: from 50% chance of rain to 20% for Saturday morning. At that low probability, I figured we could dodge a few drops of rain. The hike remained as scheduled.

At 7:00 AM eleven bright eyed and bushy tailed trailblazers met at our usual “corral” at I-17 and Bell Road in northern Phoenix. Three additional hikers, who lived around the Payson / Strawberry area, were to meet us at the trailhead. Carpools arranged, we set off on our drive north to Sedona to the turnoff of 179 and 1-17 but not before stopping at our usual watering hole at Camp Verde’s MacDonald’s for a quick morning coffee relief. Although the drive north was uneventful, we nevertheless were driving up a plateau at 4,000 feet in elevation, up from 1,000 feet in Phoenix. Throughout our drive north, the skies were threatening and ominous, covered with heavy rain bearing clouds, and in some places the clouds were so low that mountain tops seemed to disappear from the view. At one point we even drove through some heavy fog hugging the highway with visibility of less than 100 yards. That is a short distance when you are traveling at 70 mph. Luckily, this was a short stunt.

Hazardous driving! [photo by Lin]
Seems to be letting up as we approach Camp Verde. [photo by Lin]
Whew! We made it. [photo by Lin]
You are here.

In a few short minutes we arrive at the Sedona exit and we link up with George, Rudy and John D. at the trailhead. We exchanged greetings, shook hands or hugged and saddle up.

14 fabulous and excited trailblazers were ready for an adventure. Some of us had hiked this trail before, but most of us had not.

back: George, John D, Lin, Corinne, Jeanne, Scott, Jim, Dave, Doug, Barry, Rudy, Karen
front:  John R, Bill
John R., Jim, George, John D., Corinne, Jeanne, Scott, Doug, Dave, Lin, Barry, Bill, Rudy, Karen
Let’s get organized.
Now, let’s go.
The rain left a few puddles on the trail.
O.K., but we’re just hiking.
Those clouds still look ominous to me.

We paused for our traditional group pictures and at the gated trail entrance we made the formal introductions of the parties’ names, heeded a few last minutes instructions, did a quick check of our two-way radios, set the GPS’ and, ready, set, go. The hike is on. It was 9:10 AM and a cool morning, with a starting temperature of 50 degrees. The trail was wet and in some places even a little muddy due rain from the night before and the early morning. We came across many puddles and here are a few of them.

water water
Step carefully around those puddles.

Everything along the trail was lush dark green and in bloom. The prickly pears cacti were in full bloom and so many other desert plants. After all, this is springtime in Arizona.

Prickly Pears are out in full bloom.
Dew, that wakens the sweet buds. [photo by Lin]
Ocotillo brightens the hillside. [photo by Dave]
Prickly pear blossom. [photo by Lin]
Now don’t be shy. [photo by Dave]
Cactus apples look good enough to eat. [photo by Dave]

Sedona is known for its “red rock” landscape; hence the trail and all the rock formation along the trail were of this sandstone red color.

Red rock stovepipe. [photo by Lin]
The trail hugs the edge of a cliff. [photo by Lin]
Yes, we can get through. [photo by Lin]
Threading our way toward the pool. [photo by Lin]
Of course there’s some climbing. [photo by Lin]
Egad, here’s a cairn. [photo by Dave]
Doug pauses reflectively. [photo by Dave]
Now here’s a picture spot. [photo by Dave]
Jim is making good time. [photo by Dave]
The rocks hold still for Dave to take a picture. [photo by Bill]

So far so good! No rain but still dark clouds covered the skies and seemed threatening. The clouds kept moving, dark ones crept up and then disappeared when lighter colored clouds moved in to replace them. Although we had our ponchos, we preferred not to hike in the rain especially if the rain was accompanied by lightning. Our aluminum hiking poles could become like lightning rods and that carries a grave danger to the hiker. Our round trip hike would consist of some 7.6 miles over some four hours of hiking. We needed to make sure that we do not encounter rain or lightning and for that we needed an “intercessor”.

We turn to an important hiker in our party who seemed to have a direct link to the “One” above and asked him to perform an intercessory miracle on our behalf. Lo and behold, he stood up high on a boulder, raised his staff and looked up heavenly towards the skies and with a firm voice ordered the skies to rain no more,

Those clouds sure look like rain.
Now hear this!
and for the clouds to break up and move away. And the “One” from above found it to be pleasing and scattered away the clouds.

Behold now and look up to the skies and see the blue skies and the sun shining down on earth. There will be rain no more.

The clouds have parted.

This natural and miraculous phenomenon lasted throughout the duration of our round trip hike. See some of our hikers:

We’ve reached a juncture in the wilderness.
I am waiting! [photo by Bill]
Hmmm, which one do I follow? [photo by Lin]
This way, Lin! [photo by Dave]
Lin on the march. [photo by Dave]
Karen on the march. [photo by Dave]
Jim by the Wet Beaver Creek. [photo by Lin]

We soon reached our furthest most destination point on this trail and descended down towards the flowing creek waters. It was beautiful to see the water flowing and cascading over small rapids and around boulders amidst thick foliage and trees canopy. Water in the desert is precious and it designates life for the fauna and flora and for those of us who live in Arizona we appreciate every time we come across any level of water flowing in a creek.

Wet Beaver Creek sparkles in the sun.
Rapids beside the trail.
Water of life.
water water
The woods are lovely, dark and deep.

We stopped for lunch at the red rock platform overlooking the pool which was the deepest point on the creek’s path. The “pool” was cradled by a high red rock formation. The sun was out by now and as we sat on the flat rock eating our packed lunches and minding our own business taking pictures of the pool, the surrounding area, and of each other,

Idyllic picnic spot.
Trailblazers enjoy their lunch.
A little corner of paradise.
The Ol’ Swimmin’ Hole
Great place for philosophical discussions.
Don’t you wish we could stay here forever?

Behold, a group of young hikers, a much younger group than us, appears on the scene. Their primary objective was not necessarily hiking of the Bell Trail but for jumping in the water from a protruding rock formation some 30 feet above the water surface. And what a show they put on for us! We were all entertained by these young boys and a few girls braving the cold water and enjoying the thrill of the jump from 30 feet above the water.

Our young companions have arrived.
Are you ready to take the plunge?

Splash, splash, and splash, one after the other, boys and girls were jumping feet first and disappearing below the water surface, only to reappear three seconds later yelling: “Oh my God, cold water!” Some would jump with their arms spread out so as to make greater splashing noise effect when they hit the water; some would jump in tandem for even greater noise effect and a splash; some would jump “cannon ball” style, with their knees pulled up to their chest; others would jump “pineapple” style with one knee pulled up to the chest, for greater “thumping” noise. They really were “dare devils”. One jumper said that last year they jumped from the higher elevation rock formation above the pool, which can be seen located to the right of the pictures. These young kids were having a great fun and seeing that we were entertained and interested in their prowess, they started to taunt us to take more pictures of their stunts. We all obliged them, as we stood on an opposite rock above the pool and snapped pictures as quickly as they could restart the jumping process. This was an unexpected fun show for us.

I will if you will.
Watch me take a flying leap!
Let’s both jump.
Brrrr! This water is cold.

Rested up, energies recharged and fully satisfied with this side show, it was time to head back to the trailhead but not before we took another group picture in a cave like hole in the rock formation that could have served us as a shelter had it not been due to our intercessor’s divine power.

One more group shot for posterity. [photo by Bill]
hikers hikers
Returning to the trailhead.

Having said that, ironically, no sooner than we left the trailhead on our return trip to Phoenix, we drove through two minutes of rain on I-17. The next phase of our thinking process, was: where to eat our traditional after hike dinner? We had a few options. Not wanting to backtrack to Sedona, we decided to try this new restaurant in Camp Verde which would be in the direction of our return trip to Phoenix.

Trailblazers unwinding before heading to Camp Verde. [photo by Lin]

We ate at the Verde Brewing Company, a recently opened restaurant in a historic building. It was a typical small town restaurant, with no ambiance, but equipped with a bar, several type of picnic style dinner tables, ideal for large groups of patrons, like in our case, 14 hungry hikers, where you could join the tables end to end and monopolize on a third of the restaurant’s space. The restaurant walls were peppered with an artist’s paintings for sale with outlandish asking prices. Needless to say, we did not buy a single painting but we did order our dinners which took forever to serve.

Hungry hikers and a long wait for food is not a very good mix. Nevertheless, we were gracious and patient and sipped on our “brew” and visited. One of the waiters/waitresses was sick and hence for the delay. Finally, the food was served and of course we had our group picture of breaking bread together. The menu was extensive but here is one sample platter.

When is our food coming?
Enjoying a good meal after the hike.
Verde Brewing Company
There’s a real burger! [photo by Lin]

At the conclusion of our dinner hour or two, we bid our goodbyes and headed back to Phoenix.

Jim Buyens is our record keeper and statistician and here are his hike statistics:

Hike Statistics, by Jim Buyens
Total Distance:7.65miles
Starting Time:9:12AM
Moving Time:3:21hrs:min
Stopped Time:0:47hrs:min
Finishing Time:1:21PM
Avg. Speed Moving:2.3mph
Avg. Speed Overall:1.8mph
Starting Elevation:3,842ft
Minimum Elevation:3,842ft
Maximum Elevation:4,233ft
Total Ascent:803ft
Starting Temperature:50°
Finishing Temperature:63°
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updated June 19, 2020