Wednesday, May 16, 2018

Sedona - Chicken Point and the "Hog" Trails

 (This is an ongoing series recapping my March trip to the Sedona, Arizona area)

After a wonderful hike on Sedona's Hangover Trail, I was relaxing in my friends Hans and Lisa's RV when Lisa gasped "Oh my gosh - look at this!"  On her laptop was a YouTube video showing some mountain biker riding across an extremely steep redrock cliff.  The "trail" (if it could be called that) happened to be in Sedona, and was called the White Line, after a prominent white band in the rock.  (See the video here.)

Guess what?  That particular place happened to be on tomorrow's hiking agenda.

Another great morning in Sedona!

Besides the fantastic scenery, one of the things that blew me away about Sedona was the sheer number of hiking and biking trails surrounding the town.  Routes fanned out in all directions from the city limits.  On the final day of my trip, Hans and Lisa took me to explore the Hog trail system on Sedona's southeast side.

Scenery on the Broken Arrow Trail

Hans parked their truck at the Broken Arrow Trailhead.  Although it was early Monday morning, he had to squeeze into one of the few remaining spots.  As I soon found out, this trail system was wildly popular with the locals.

Pink jeep giving customers a thrill ride

The Broken Arrow trail wound through scrubby forest, emerging onto a wide, sandstone plateau.  As we climbed along the foot of several tall rocky pinnacles, I noticed a couple of Sedona's famous pink Jeeps roaring over a primitive road below.  Jeep tours are big business here, and the judging by the number of them I saw that day, pink Jeeps seem to have a corner on the market.  My friends and I stopped to watch one of them navigate a steep downhill, much to the delight of their passengers.

Approaching Chicken Point

After traversing more red sandstone, about a mile and half later we came to the famous "Chicken Point." - a rocky formation jutting out over a broad valley.  Rising up from either side were near-vertical sandstone walls.  Perched high on one of these walls was the "White Line" biking route, of YouTube video fame.

It's a popular place!

Chicken Point was an extremely popular place.  Not only hikers, when we arrived two pink Jeeps were also parked nearby, their passengers fanned out across the wide mesa.

Astounding scenery here!

Luckily, the Jeep tourists didn't linger very long, and after a few minutes everyone packed up and left.  Much to our delight, my friends and I found we had the place nearly to ourselves.

Hans and Lisa take a break

Hans, Lisa and I hiked to the very end of Chicken Point's outcrop, had a seat, and enjoyed the view and a snack.  Rocky spires and flat-topped buttes rose in all directions.  Totally breathtaking - break spots just don't get any better!

Mountain bike group

Naturally, our solitude was short-lived.  Five minutes later a large group of mountain bikers wheeled up.  Most of the pack dismounted several feet away and sat down on a nearby ledge.  But a few of them decided to ride onto the vantage point where my friends and I were relaxing.

Ridin' the rough trail

We struck up a conversation with the bikers, and discovered they were from Scotland and Ireland.  These young people were delightful to chat with (loved their accents!).  Hans asked if any of them were going to attempt the White Line trail above us, and they all shook their heads emphatically.  No one was that crazy!

The famous "White Line" mountain bike trail

As we sat taking in the scenery, more hikers and bikers arrived.  Then another pink Jeep pulled up, and its passengers wandered out onto Chicken Point.  The place was getting awfully crowded - time to move on!  But just as we started to pack up, someone mentioned they'd seen a mountain biker heading up to attempt to ride the White Line.  Should we stay and watch?  Lisa put it best when she commented it would be amazing and nerve-wracking at the same time.  Although such a feat would be incredible to see, if things went wrong none of us wanted to witness a biker falling to his death (considering the White Line was 200 feet above the valley, any slip would almost certainly be fatal).


After waiting several minutes with no sign of a biker (which was sort of a relief), my friends and I decided to move on.  Back down the Broken Arrow Trail we traveled, retracing our morning's steps.

Photo op

But the scenery was so spectacular, I didn't mind in the least!  A good opportunity to capture anything I'd missed the first time around.

Heading towards the Hog trails

Instead of heading back towards the trailhead, after about a mile, my friends led me onto another trail.  After following small red rock canyon we came upon the first of the hog-themed mountain bike trails, "High on the Hog."

Large sandstone formation

I discovered an entire network of mountain bike trails with pig-themed names.  As with all the Sedona area mountain biking paths, these wandered up, over and through huge sandstone formations.  Again, some of the terrain was so steep and rocky, I couldn't believe people actually rode bikes on it.

The views of distant pinnacles

But oh was the scenery spectacular!

Cool pattern on the sandstone

I lagged behind Hans and Lisa, snapping away.  Luckily, Lisa kept looking back, and waiting at key junction spots to ensure I didn't get lost.

More follow the dots

The next trail was named "Hog Heaven" and like the previous it wandered through the redrock, in and out of washes and down steep slopes.  I even got another chance to perfect my butt-sliding skills on some of the more gnarly spots.

Hidden water pockets

Another view of Sedona

Rounding a bend, the city of Sedona once again came into view.  I was very jealous of the townspeople, living so close to this amazing trail system.

More redrock formations

Although these trails were meant for biking, the only people on two wheels we met were a young boy and his grandfather.  And they definitely didn't look experienced enough to navigate these routes!  (The grandpa was riding an old ten speed)

I loved all the pig themed trail names

The next junction took us to the "Hog Wash" trail.

"Pigtail" was my favorite

And then to my favorite trail name of the hog system - "Pigtail."

Lisa on the trail

Finally, a short jaunt on the "Peccary" Trail brought us back to "Hog Wash" and then the Broken Arrow Trail once again.  It was here near the end that we met a couple more mountain bikers (looking much more experienced than the grandpa and his grandson).

Interesting rock formations

Pinnacles in the distance

Today's trek was shorter than the two previous hikes, a route of only 5 miles.  But the weather was much warmer than previous days.  By late morning the sun was beating down, and coming from cold and rainy Oregon, I wasn't used to this at all.  It wasn't super hot (maybe mid-70s) but it was enough to wear me out.

This trail had lots of interesting rocks

By the time we arrived back at the trailhead, I was hot, thirsty and hungry.  But a tasty pizza at one of Sedona's local restaurants and several glasses of water revived me nicely.  I was ready to tackle another short hike.

One of many mountain bikers

For the afternoon, Hans and Lisa had one final hike planned to complete my whirlwind tour of Sedona.  Which I'll cover in my next post!

Wednesday, May 9, 2018

Sedona - The Hangover Trail

(This is an ongoing series recapping my March trip to the Sedona, Arizona area)

On the third day of my Sedona visit, I awoke to cloudy skies and chilly temps.  But that was okay because my friends Hans and Lisa planned to take me hiking and I'd much rather be cold than overheated.

Sign models!

Our day's destination was the famous Hangover Trail, located on the edge of Sedona's city limits.  A route not only for hikers, Hans and Lisa said mountain bikers also traversed it's steep slickrock slopes.  But, as I soon found out, this trail was definitely not for novice riders.

Heading out on a cloudy, cold morning

To reach the Hangover Trail, my friends and I had to first follow the Munds Wagon Trail for a couple of miles.  So we bundled up (it was cold!  I never expected to have to wear my knit hat and gloves to hike in Arizona!) and headed out a flat sagebrushy trail.  Tall, partially-red mountains rose before us, giving a sneak peek of views to come.

Unique tree bark

The Munds Wagon Trail crossed a couple of dirt roads (frequented by jeeps and off-road ATVs) and then followed a dry creek bed as we gradually climbed higher.

View of Sedona

There was lots of photo opportunities - interesting tree bark, colorful cacti, and a few peek-a-boo glimpses of Sedona nested under towering rock formations.

Purple cactus

Slick rock scrambling!

The sandstone rock common in this part of the country is very grippy when dry.  I discovered, much to my surprise, that I could climb fairly steep slopes and my hiking boots held fast.  But during rainy times, I'm told this rock earns it's nickname of "slickrock."  (Luckily we had dry weather for today's trek so I didn't get to test this out.)

Picturesque pool

Our first true junction was with a trail called "Cow Pies."  I thought "What kind of name is that to give a trail?"  But Lisa told me as the path climbed, we'd pass by some large circular sandstone formations that resembled - you guessed it - what cows leave behind in the pasture. 

The "Cow Pies" trail name made me laugh

And, when we passed by, sure enough those rocks did indeed look exactly like meadow muffins.  Yes, very much appropriately labeled - Cow Pies is now my new favorite trail name ever!

Spectacular scenery!

Hans, Lisa and I slowly climbed towards the base of a series of tall, red sandstone spires.  So picturesque - it definitely seemed like the sterotypical desert scenes you see in the movies (I joked to my friends I half expected to see the coyote and roadrunner race by!)

Agave plant

We had a quick lunch at the base of some tall redrock cliffs, partially sheltered against the blustery weather.  But the wind was getting awfully cold, so we didn't linger long.

Some desert color

Soon after our lunch spot, my friends and encountered a sign announcing the official start of the Hangover Trail.  Yahoo - we'd made it! 

Spires in the distance

From here our route meandered over expansive areas of rock.  There was no trail - hikers and bikers followed blue dots painted at intervals over the rock's surface.

Can you believe bikes ride this?

Some rock was wide and flat, but a lot of it was steep and narrow.  Hans and Lisa mentioned several times that mountain bikers rode this route.  I couldn't believe people would be brave (or foolish) enough to try!  Although I was hoping to see some bikes, and watch them navigate the Hangover, sadly we didn't meet any.

Lots of cacti

Our route meandered along the base of linear wall of towering red rock formations.  Supposedly, we'd cross over to the opposite side, but I didn't see where or how.  So I kept following Hans and Lisa as they moved from one blue dot to another.

Line of red rocks

One thing for sure, although it was cold and windy, the scenery was absolutely jaw-dropping!  I'm sure my friends got tired of waiting for me as I kept stopping and taking photo after photo.

Approaching the saddle

Finally our route began to switchback up a particularly broad rock slope.  At the very top was a large opening in the stony wall.  This was a saddle bisecting the red rock formations rising from the canyon.

Stunning views from the saddle

We finally reached the saddle, and oh my were the views stunning!  Cliffs dropped away on both sides, and I could look across to Sedona's green valley.  We spotted the main road heading into town and an elegant highway bridge spanning a nearby canyon.

The "hangover" portion of our hike

Although the saddle was an amazing place to hang out, it was extremely cold and windy here, so my friends and I didn't linger long.

Looking back at the saddle

Time to traverse the rocky wall's other side!  From the saddle our "route" dropped down across another red rock slope and then began following a narrow ledge perched in the middle of a steep cliff.  Although hidden by vegetation, the slope dropped steeply off the downhill side.  Above, the rock wall "hung over" our dirt path - thus giving our trail it's name.

Another hangover rock

And - yes - mountain bikers ride this trail!  I couldn't believe anyone would attempt to ride a bike on such a narrow path so close to a steep drop off.

Hugging the cliffside

But my friends and I didn't meet any bikers on this portion of the trail either.  As a matter of fact, we didn't see anyone else, hikers or bike riders.

More fantastic views

When not trying to keep an eye on my footing, the adjacent valley and towering rock formations took my breath away (and kept my shutter clicking).

Some steep downgrades

Our path wound below several rock formations before finally contouring around the base of a particularly tall and pointy one.  Again, the blue dots led us down an extremely steep slickrock slope.  It was so steep, Hans, Lisa and I decided to be safe and scoot down on our rear ends instead of trying to balance on our feet.  And, yes, according to my friends, people actually ride bikes down this!

Sedona Valley spread out below

Another high saddle led us back again to the other side of the tall red red wall.  I got one final glimpse of Sedona before descending.

Heading back down the other side

Then it was down, down, down, winding through juniper forests and cactus.

More tall spires

And a few more fabulous sights.  I didn't tire of seeing these amazing redrock pillars.

Lisa admires an old twisty tree

As we neared our junction back with the Munds Wagon Trail, I began to see more and more people, and even a couple of mountain bikers.  After seeing hardly anyone for most of the Hangover Trail, it was kind of sad to have our solitude interrupted.

Multicolored ridge

But Sedona is a popular hiking and biking destination, so I guess we were lucky to have a portion of this trail to ourselves on such a fine day.

Tall rocky peak

Although cold and windy, the clouds cleared to lovely blue skies for the last couple miles.  As we approached the parking area, I took advantage of perfect late afternoon light on nearby rock formations for a few final images.

Back where we began our day!

Total distance covered was about 8.5 miles.  Total number of photos on my memory card.....well over 400.  Total number of brews enjoyed post hike....two (or maybe three...)

Thanks to Hans and Lisa for taking me on such a wonderful hike!  But I had one more day, and my friends had saved a final favorite trail for the occasion.  Stay tuned for my next post!