By Deb Caban
If you observe some women around town with that jaw dropped look, they could be one of the Bedford hikers who recently returned from a spectacular scenic excursion to Flagstaff, Sedona, and the Grand Canyon.
The breathtaking views in these northern Arizona locations occasionally rendered the normally chatty trekkers speechless. The members of the Taylor Hiking Group joined a weeklong expedition with Adventures in Good Company in April.
The Taylor group women – six from Bedford (Dotty Blake, Debbie Caban, Morgan Cleveland, Mary Criscione, Birgit DeWeerd, and Jane Taylor) and Connie Matheson (Carlisle), and Barb Attardo (Winchester) joined four other women from the U.S. and Canada and their two guides for the excursion.
One can attempt to describe the Grand Canyon with statistics: it is 277 miles long, 18 miles wide, and one mile deep. It is larger than the state of Rhode Island. Many Indian tribes live in the Grand Canyon area. It was established as the 17th U.S. National Park in 1919.
The panoramic spectrum is nearly impossible to explain with words. The expanse is immense. Three days of hiking along the South Rim and into the Grand Canyon was a bucket list experience for the 12 participants and two guides.
Record breaking snow this spring in northern Arizona resulted in some muddy, ice-covered trails. The always-popular Bright Angel Trail was a challenging hike. Many trekkers were slipping. Even with the spikes wrapped around our boots, the footing was occasionally insecure. But the lovely backdrop made for a fantastic afternoon.
We also experienced the ever-changing nature of Grand Canyon trails. During our return ascent, we had to climb over some large rocks that had fallen onto the trail sometime after our group had descended into the canyon.
The second day at the Grand Canyon was a 1,700-foot descent on Hermit’s Rest Trail. The five-mile trail was deep into the canyon and a gusty wind reinforced the guides’ advice to tighten our hats. The guides treated the group to a picnic dinner next to Mary Colter’s famous Desert Watchtower, a work of art that purposely blends with the canyon background and provides a protected viewing location.
Sedona, an elevation decline of almost 2,600 feet from the South Rim of the Grand Canyon, is located 113 miles south and is known for its magnificent cliffs and red rock canyons. The color of the rocks is created by iron oxide weathering.
The name Sedona was given to the area by an early settler whose wife was named Sedona. The mother of Sedona said that she created the name because it sounded pretty. The area is a mecca for hikers, mountain bicyclists, balloonists, and off-road vehicles of all descriptions. Sedona was also a famous Hollywood film location for numerous western themed movies.
Sedona, more recently, is known for its vortex energy locations. Some describe it as a whirlpool of earth’s energy with cliffs, canyons, caves, wind, and color surrounding you. It is not unusual to observe people meditating next to hiking trails. Some Indigenous people describe it as a spiritual center. We did experience the incredible red rock canyon views during our hikes in addition to exploring caves and pools.
The hikers also spent time at the Chapel of the Holy Cross. It was another architectural wonder, inspired and commissioned by Marguerite Brunswig Staude, a local sculptor and rancher.
Similar to Colter’s Watchtower, Brunswig Staude envisioned a building blending into the canyon. She was also influenced by the work of Frank Lloyd Wright. Some also enjoyed shopping in the southwest themed downtown and an off-road jeep ride.
At Walnut Canyon National Monument in Flagstaff, the guides led us to walk along the paths of the cliff dwelling Sinagua people, the probable ancestors of the Hopi. We explored the caves in the limestone walls while we descended 300 feet near the canyon floor. The cliffside homes were built between 1125 and 1250. The canyon was declared a national monument in 1915 due to the need to protect the ancient dwellings from souvenir hunters.
During the trip, there were also some other viewing highlights. The hikers saw a majestic coyote along the road in the Grand Canyon. A pack of javelinas – rodents that look like wild boars – grazed in a Sedona backyard.
The hikers also came close to the jumping cholla cactus plant. The intriguing moniker describes the fruit’s ability to move as a chain when attaching to an object. Victims are warned to remove the fruit with an instrument and not a hand as the needles will pierce your fingers when you try to dislodge it.
The final dinner was a wonderful display of bonding after a week of sharing fun adventures. The group participants were obviously comfortable with each other while recounting many of the week’s events. After being admonished by the restaurant manager for the high volume, the hikers happily retreated to the hotel for a private performance/testimonial song to the guides for a job well done.
Sad goodbyes were said, but plans were also made to join up once again on another journey in the near future.