What the Devil?
Devil’s Bridge Trail, Sedona, Arizona
Saturday, April 14, 2018
Where do I begin?
I suppose it’s safe to say you should trust the pastor’s wife when, after her husband informs the hiking group that this week’s trek is “relatively easy, with gentle inclines” and a round trip of two or three miles, she simply adds in, “times three”, and goes on to the next topic of conversation, without missing a beat.
It is wise to bring that extra bottle of water, so you’ll be prepared when you have to walk the extra miles to and from the trailhead, already overflowing with traffic – which is also lining the roadway – because apparently, it’s Spring Break, and not everyone goes to Florida.
It is also safe to say that this is Arizona, and that means USE SUNSCREEN because, well, it’s Arizona, and the sun might shine bright on Stephen Foster’s old Kentucky home, but it’s pretty strong here, too.
USE SUNSCREEN. Wear clothing – you know, shirts with sleeves, pants with, well, pants. Don a hat.
Assume the person who posted the “Be sure each person has a gallon of water” if they’re heading toward Devil’s Bridge – some miscalculated leagues ahead – knew what s/he was talking about.
If you have a dog, be sure there is a gallon or more of water for the dog, too.
Be smart. Take food. “Two miles” isn’t always “two miles”. And there are no road side cafes in this part of Sedona.
And, yes, gentle reader, there were “See the West” jeeps and other ATVs stumbling by as we walked the trail heading to the trail that headed to the trail that went up. While you may grimace and think snarly thoughts about their intrusive and – Shoot. What is that condescending word that implies they are a lower caliber of outdoors person because they didn’t hike? – while heading toward the Bridge, you might also, on the way back, come face-to-face with your haughty self-righteousness – and the aches in your hips, knees, ankles, oh, everywhere – and consider leaping in front of one of them, begging for a ride.
All this to say, I had an absolutely excellent time on Saturday. The Fellowship Team at Peace Lutheran organized this trip: Meet at the church. Car pool. Hike. Stop for ice cream. Come home.
But that set of telegram instructions says absolutely nothing about the giggling in the car, both coming and going. The story telling. The groaning. The admiration of the incredible beauty of a landscape that merged from scrub desert brush, to lush Oak Creek Canyon with clear running water (I do so love brooks and rivers of clear running water) and acres of Ponderosa Pine, then turned the corner to red rock spires, and washed out ocean floor canyons of yellows and reds with greys for “color”.
Sure, we had to go through the commercial district of Sedona – three of our caravan were heading to a day of strenuous shopping (and eating ice cream…), but this allowed the rest of us to fantasize about the next several trips we might take, and which restaurants we would visit after the next day of hiking. You know, just to be good citizens and support local trade, and all that.
We did have to park a mile away from the trailhead to Dry Creek Trail. From there, we had to walk the dusty road to Devil’s Bridge Trail – or the signs for it, anyway. As we got closer, there was another sign post, informing the panting hiker that the Bridge was a mere .7 mile ahead.
Right. It might be .7 mile ahead until you could see the switchbacks heading up the cliff wall. But if that was really .7 miles from the sign to the Bridge… well, let’s just say I doubt it.
In between, we were overwhelmed by the number of people on pilgrimage with us. All ages. A variety of nationalities. And yes, some scantily clad “photo op” muscular young men who, I am sure, suffered dearly later that night.
Clear sky, the perfect blue to complement the red and yellow rocks.
A washed out trail that is not where I want to be in the monsoons.
A minimum of shade, but some of the largest prickly pear ears I’ve ever seen – Oh. I learned a thing about prickly pear. These don’t cluster and reach toward the sky. Nope. This variety topples over, and lines themselves out like a proper lawn edging.
Not so many birds. Not even the occasional vulture – which, considering how many people were wandering around with no water, was sort of a relief, in a sideways sort of way.
What can I say? It was hot. Some of my thinking was kind of skewed.
The majority of the group ambled ahead, while I meandered with new friends. Eventually, we also parted ways, and I was left to enjoy the grandeur on my own.
It is no small thing to be able to take one’s time without insults and ridicule from more capable hikers.
I paused occasionally to snack on my banana-wheat pancakes with almond butter and honey. I sipped water regularly, lest I dehydrate, or suffer heat stroke. While the morning started out a brisk 38 degrees, by mid-day, the temperatures had gone over and into the 70s, maybe higher. Occasionally, a gentle breeze whisked the dust from my skin, but overall, it was downright spa-like. Simply lovely, actually.
I approached the final “leg” of the hike – the ascent up the switchbacks to the bridge.
My left knee (parts missing) has its own ideas about clambering up and down over chipped rock, sand, and ledges with no guardrails (see Walnut Canyon, Easter Sunday re: guardrails).
I had a look at the Bridge through the binoculars.
People were queued up, taking their turns in twos and threes to walk out onto a stretch of rock, and pose for some unseen photographer. A ravine of various bumps and twists waited below.
I know me. There was no way I was going out on that Bridge anyway. Hu-huh. Nope. Not me.
So, I found a lovely shaded spot along the trail where the steps allowed me to sit graciously, without having to curl my beleaguered legs into a knot. I considered playing Troll, exacting tribute from hikers and they traveled by.
I nibbled on the pineapple pieces from my sack. Then, I headed back toward the first trailhead.
The way I was creeping along, I figured the others would catch up with me soon.
Eventually, most of us appeared – two others, with dogs, had already made other plans, and would not be returning with the group. We were slightly crisp on the edges, and wondered seriously if we’d be able to walk the next day.
I cautioned Pastor that while I may be able to kneel for Communion on Sunday, I might need help getting up.
We all showed up for church this morning, all sore, all satisfied, all giggling.
Yes. Sometimes the trail is longer than we thought it was going to be, but if you’re traveling with the right companions, it is a ton of fun… times three.