Archive for the ‘Sedona hikes’ Category

Sterling Pass / Vultee Arch

Thursday, March 9th, 2017

Originally hiked October of 2010, solo, this was a straightforward hike where nothing really failed or went wrong. I started at 10am or so, and made it back before 5pm. You will not see my car in the video because I left it at Manzanita campground, where I was camping, about a quarter mile down the road.

All of this, of course, in research for Five Star Trails: Flagstaff and Sedona.

While I wrote the hike as combined trails, but that was for convenience. If you have to make a choice, suffer the climb and take the Sterling Pass trail. Sterling pass is steep on its way up and then down from its’ namesake, but it has by far the better scenery, and is more easily accessible by vehicle, having some limited parking right on the side of 89A.

Vultee Arch trail, in contrast, follows the drainage up the canyon, which is not unpleasant, but not really five star. Plus, you have to bump all the way down Dry Creek Road which test both patience and suspensions.

The Forest Service has this to say about the trail:

The trail dead ends at a bronze plaque placed in memorium for Gerard and Sylvia Vultee who lost their lives in an aircraft crash on January 29, 1938. The actual crash site is more than a mile north and at a much higher elevation, on East Picket Mesa.

There’s a You Tube Video:

Wilson Mountain

Friday, December 12th, 2014


Wilson Mountain  and North Wilson

DATE: 10/30/10



END TIME: 5:30p




Ben and I hiked up North Wilson Trail  #123 to its juncture with  Wilson Mountain Trail #10, which we took to both look-out points up on the top of the mountain, then down Mount Wilson Trail to the Midgely Bridge Trailhead. My wife (and Ben’s mother) was kind enough to drop us off and pick us up.

Mount Wilson Trail goes up the south side of the mountain and North Wilson Trail goes up the north side of the mountain. They meet near the top, making this an easy car shuttle. I have been surprised by how often I have to back up and explain that we did not climb the mountain twice.

North to south is acceptable in the winter time. North Wilson is the steeper of the two, and I prefer to go up the steeper side and down the gentler side. In hotter months, though, North Wilson has shade, so that’s where you want to find yourself come afternoon.

As the You Tube video will painfully demonstrate, there was a lot of wind up top, and that did not help my nasal congestion at all. Also, some locals call it Mount Wilson, but its Wilson Mountain on any map.

Ben is now taller than I am.

Here are some notes and photos on the You Tube:



Slide Fire vs Oak Creek Canyon – an update

Thursday, July 17th, 2014

Now that the smoke has cleared (No, ‘m not proud of that – but what would you write?) on the Slide Fire in Oak Creek Canyon, we can begin to survey what is left. It appears that no actual structures were lost (though some by literally inches), and that some or all of the Wset Fork of Oak Creek Canyon might have been spared. The area is still closed, so we don’t really know yet, but the initial surveys seem promising. The forest service flew a plane over the area shortly after containment in late May:


In related news, in my ongoing quest to circumvent the bandwidth storage restrictions on this website (which severely trunctae how many pictures I can display), I havce started a tumbler:   Now you know.

Slide (sigh!) Fire Update

Friday, May 23rd, 2014

So Oak Creek Canyon north of Slide Rock State Park is essentially on fire. This includes the West Fork of Oak Creek, and the famous and popular hiking trail that follows it.

Wilson Mountain and even Sterling Pass are not within the known fire boundaries, which starts just north of Slide Rock State park, and continues north up the canyon. At this writing, though, local particulate levels are listed as “Unhealthy”, AZ89A is closed, and very likely any local parking within hiking distance will be monopolized by service vehicles.

The press release says:

The Slide Fire, reported just before 4 pm May 20, is burning in Oak Creek Canyon just north of Slide Rock State Park. Closures include Highway 89A from Sedona to Fort Tuthill in Flagstaff and Forest Road 535 off Highway 89A. Power has been shut off by APS from Slide Rock, north through the canyon.   An approximate 2 to 3-mile stretch of area from Slide Rock State Park north toward the Sterling Springs Hatchery has been evacuated, as well as the East Pocket Forest Service Lookout Tower. Evacuees are being relocated to Sinagua Middle School in Flagstaff.

Photo from the US Forest Sevice

The InciWeb site can provide updates better than I can:


West Fork was chock full of gorgeous foliage of all kinds, but also of deadwood and dry brush. It will be decades before it becomes anywhere near the kind of scenery it was five days ago.




Fire and Construction updates from Coconino NF

Tuesday, April 15th, 2014

First, a press release about the Fisher Fire.

Fisher Fire – 8:00 a.m. update

 Flagstaff, Ariz. – The Fisher Fire, reported at 3:00 p.m. on April 11th, is located near Fisher Point in Walnut Canyon approx. five miles southeast of Flagstaff in the vicinity of the Fisher Fire from last year.

The fire remains at 175 acres and is 50% contained.  Today, crews will grid and mop up as topography and fuel conditions allow.  Terrain is steep with rolling rocks and snags.  No growth was reported on the fire and all lines held.  No structures are threatened.

Today, temperatures today could reach 71 degrees with winds becoming westerly and increasing in strength with possible 45 mph gusts this afternoon; the relative humidity is forecast between 10-15%.   The National Weather Service has issued a red flag warning for today in effect from noon to 8:00 p.m. MST due to strong winds and a low relative humidity.

The public should remain aware of area closures around the vicinity of the fire which include some of the trail system.  Reducing the risk to firefighters and the public is our first priority in every fire management activity.

Local, state, tribal, and Federal agencies support one another with wildfire response, including engagement in collaborative planning and the decision-making processes that take into account all lands and recognize the interdependence and statutory responsibilities among jurisdictions.


DATE OF DETECTION:  April 11, 2014

CAUSE:  Confirmed human-caused, specific cause undetermined; investigation ongoing.

CURRENT SIZE:  175 acres


LOCATION:  Fisher Point area, Flagstaff

AGENCY:  USDA Forest Service

RESOURCES:  7 Hotshot Crews, 3 Type Two Crews, 2 dozers, 5 water tenders, 1 lead plane, 1 Air Attack, 1Type 1 and 1 Type 3 helicopter, 10 engines, and numerous fire personnel.





Heather M. Noel

Public Affairs Officer (Acting)

U.S. Forest Service, Coconino National Forest

1824 S. Thompson St., Flagstaff, AZ 86001

Office (928) 527-3490  Cell (406) 370-7370



Some of those trails are in my guidebook (Five Star Trails: Flagstaff and Sedona). I revisited the area last summer.

Several hikes in that guide’s Sedona section originate or pass through the  Midgely Bridge Trailhead, which has been closed  for construction:


Sedona, AZ – The Midgley Bridge Trailhead and parking area will be temporarily closed for construction activity from Monday, April 21st – Friday, May 2nd.  A fenced enclosure will prohibit public access from 89A to the parking area in an effort to reduce risk and exposure to construction activities.  There will be no access to Wilson Canyon and Wilson Mountain Trails from Midgley Bridge.

During this closure, an accessible toilet will be installed and an accessible path will be built from the parking lot to the restroom.  As there was no toilet previously at the trailhead, this addition should assist in reducing pollutants from reaching the Oak Creek Watershed.  This work is possible through a grant received from the Oak Creek Watershed Council, administered by Arizona Department of Environmental Quality’s water quality improvement grant program.

Plan accordingly during this time period if your recreation includes this area.

For more information concerning this project, please contact the Red Rock Ranger District at (928) 203-2900.


A toilet here would be a welcome addition.


Wet Beaver Creek Wilderness

Tuesday, August 20th, 2013

New thing: I have a tumblr going – Travels with Bongo – where I post photos, many from hikes.

Old thing: Another behind-the-hike from Five Star Trails in Flagstaff and Sedona.




Hike #1

DATE: 4/26/10

COMPANIONS: Steve (an adult friend), his son, and Ben.

START TIME: 12:30p

END TIME: about 5pm



Hike #2

DATE: 5/7/10


START: 9am




Yes, it really is called the Wet Beaver Creek Wilderness. I’ll pause now so you can make the inappropriate comment my publisher would never allow me to make myself.




Done now? OK.


Easy hike to do – hard hike to write. The biggest reason was that this was hike #2 – and the first hike I knew For Certain would make the guidebook. (Airport Mesa – hike #1 chronologically – was in and out of the line-up for a while).  I had imagined that I could cover every possible spur and alternate route, and the guidebook would be Epic and Exhaustive.


Turns out that even if I had the time and energy to document each hike that way (and no one does), I have a word limit. It’s a guidebook – it’s not an encyclopedia.


But that’s why I had a second hike – to cover the Brockett and Weir spurs I didn’t get to on the main hike. The Weir spur is totally worth it – by the way.


The publisher was also spooked about the crossing through private property, and I had to show them the Forest Service language that explicitly authorized this. It’s cool, kids. Just stay on the trail.


The photo on the back cover of the book is from this hike. The boys are Ben and his friend – my friends’ son.




upload a video of you at the Brockett trailhead, giving your most dramatic reading of Brockett’s poem. If your reading of the poem is better than mine, I’ll send you a copy of my book.

Brins Mesa / Soldier Pass Loop

Friday, November 2nd, 2012

Been a while, I know. If I made a bunch of excuses, would that interest you? Me neither.

So here’s the behind-the-hike for the  Brins Mesa / Soldier Pass hike in the book (Five Star Hikes in Flagstaff and Sedona)


HIKE DATE: 5/7/2010


START: 1:30P

END: 6:30P

8.4 MI TOTAL – 5hrs and 5miles by GPS

One of the first hikes I did for the book, and one of the best in terms of both the quality of the experience and lack of disaster. All of the recording gear worked and I finished in daylight with a swallow of water left.

All of the well documented vortex sites in Sedona are conveniently located within a short walk from a parking lot. My efforts to find any additional documentation on the “vortex” around the slick rock on the side trail to the arch caves came to naught. I have no sense for these things.  The published material is all about the parking lot sites. If you want anything deeper, you’ll have to pay a guide – which was well outside my margins, and a crap-shoot in any case.

The arch caves are cool, but they are no more than a few feet deep.  You won’t need a flashlight.

You Tube notes are here:

Cathedral Rock

Wednesday, February 29th, 2012

I have nothing really clever. My hike suggestion is Pass Mountain (or Fish Rock Pass if you want a little adventure, both from the same trailhead in Apache Junction.

And now…

Behind the Hike: Cathedral Rock


Featured in Five Star Trails – Flagstaff and Sedona


Hike 1

DATE: 8/23/10



END TIME: 6:45p




Hike 2

DATE: 9/10/0






I spent a month in Sedona in relation to my day job, and got one hike in. One. This one. And I couldn’t really use it – I had to come back.

(I have written about this earlier).


The first hike started from the near trailhead and went right up the rock – the easy hike that tourists do in sandals. Nothing wrong with the experience, I had a good chat with a  Forest Service volunteer, but it wasn’t enough.


The second hike, with Ben, came in from the north along Baldwin Trail, and simply adding that short section doubled the quality of the experience.


You need a Red Rock pass for either approach.


Ben and I met a local woman on that hike who was very helpful in explaining vortex phenomena, and described herself as a film-maker. I wrote her contact info in my little notebook that I have since lost. If she’s reading this, [how to contact]


The extra mileage on the second trip came from Ben and I following a spur trail along the creek towards Moon’s Crossing – not part of the hike.


Easiest of the Must Do Before You Die Sedona hikes. Also, a vortex site.

You Tube Video:



Bell Rock and Broken Arrow

Friday, January 20th, 2012

It’s going to be highs of room temperature in Phoenix for the foreseeable future. I may never wear a jacket in daylight in this city ever again.

This weekend: go to the Superstitions – anywhere in the Superstitions.

Need specifics? Go do Bluff Springs Loop

From the Tonto Guide (Day and Overnight Hikes: Tonto National Forest).

(The cover photo was taken somewhere in that area.) (Not by me.)

Now, the behind-the-hike for Five Star Hikes in Flagstaff and Sedona:

Bell Rock and Broken Arrow


DATE: 10/23/10

COMPANIONS: Ben + his friend


END TIME: 7:45p


OFFICIAL MILES: 10 mile car shuttle


HIGH ELEVATION: 4600 at 9 miles


2nd Hike on 11/17/10

This was originally conceived as a single hike car-shuttle – and if you do that it’s 5 hours of awesome – but start in the morning. You can intuit from my end time what happened.

We started at Bell Rock Trailhead south of Bell Rock, and ended the day (or rather started the evening) at Morgan Road Trailhead at the north terminus of Broken Arrow.

The reason this became two hikes in the book, though, is that both trails are popular enough and cool enough on their own to warrant separate entries. And the format calls for easier hikes rather than adventure marches.

We got lost at Chicken Point. I mention a side trail in the Broken Arrow description called the Jim Bryant Trail. I discovered that because we went a good mile into the wilderness following those scattered cairns across the ravines before we concluded that whatever trail this was – it wasn’t Broken Arrow. I found its name on a map later.

By the time we found our way to Chicken Point, the sun was going down in one direction and clouds were gathering in the other. We ended up following the jeep road back to the trailhead – roads are much easier to follow in the dark than trails.

A few weeks later I came back for Broken Arrow, and other than some camera difficulties (my camera died completely soon afterwards) the hike went well.

Why yes – there is a you tube video, mostly chronicling the hike between the two trails.


Bell Rock to Broken Arrow on YT


Airport Mesa

Thursday, December 8th, 2011

“Need anything from me this weekend?”

“Nope. Can’t think of a thing…”

“GREAT! I’m going hiking.”

“No! Wait! You know, there is this one thing – or maybe six…”

So I didn’t hike Bluff Springs or anywhere else that weekend.

If you can tear yourself away this weekend, go to Estrella Mountain Regional Park. Not from my guidebook, but there will never be better weather for it.

Now, as promised, more behind-the-hike stuff from 5 Star Trails Flagstaff and Sedona


DATE: 15 April 2010


START:  1pm             END: 3:35pm

ACTUAL TIME: about 2.5 hours

ACTUAL MILES: about 4.

This was the first hike I did for the guidebook, with the old DVR and the old GPS and the old logic about how hike descriptions should go.

Most sources do this hike counter-clockwise, but I did it clockwise. So there!

Airport Mesa is properly known as Tabletop Mesa, but everyone calls it Airport Mesa for obvious reasons.

As of this writing, there is no functioning restaurant at the airport. I mention this because a few older guidebooks mention one.

The Table-Top sidetrack is totally worth it.

As mentioned in the text, you can see Red Rock High School from the trail. I spent the better part of August 2010 working there as part of my day job. You might think this make hiking around Sedona easier, but I was the only one of 4 crew guys with a car, and we were camped at the Super 8 in Cottonwood, so by the time I got those guys settled I had less than 2 hours of daylight left. It actually set me quite a bit back.

But we discovered the Red Planet Diner, and that made the guidebook.

This is the You Tube companion piece.