11 Reasons Autumn in Sedona is So Cool!

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10: Sedona Westerners

Autumn is our favorite season for hiking in Sedona and it seems we’re in good company. The Sedona Westerners, a hiking club with more than 300 members, begins its hiking season right after Labor Day and continues to hit the trails through early May. The club’s “trail boss” (or president) Al Vander Peut says September hikes mainly take place in Flagstaff and Oak Creek Canyon – Sedona hikes aren’t in full swing until October. The Westerners include six hiking groups based on hikers’ skill levels and the length of scheduled hikes. Groups range from the Amblers, who favor shorter hikes and lots of socializing, all the way up to the Rough Riders who cover eight to ten miles in a hike with few stops. Scheduled hikes take place Sunday, Tuesday, and Saturday, with two hikes every Thursday. One Wednesday hike a month focuses on geology, history, archaeology, geography, or photography.

Club members pay $20 a year for unlimited hikes – a package Al calls “the best deal in Sedona.” Many hikes take in trails not found in the popular hiking books, leading to hidden caves and Native American ruins. The Westerners also host several social events each year, including a cook-out at Red Rock State Park on Oct. 9 at 11 a.m. Al encourages anyone interested in the Westerners group to get in touch and join them at a hike or social event to find out what its activities are all about. Anyone can hike twice with the Westerners before officially joining, but guests must be familiar with Westerners’ rules, such a wearing lug-soled hiking boots, carrying adequate water, and signing a release of liability before heading out.

The Sedona Westerners launched in 1961 as a social club enamored with western lore. Hiking was added as a social event in 1965, and in 1971 the group developed the first Sedona hiking map. Since then, the club has worked closely with the U.S. Forest Service to establish many of Sedona’s best loved trails. The Westerners hold monthly meetings at the Jewish Community of Sedona and the Verde Valley, 100 Meadowlark Dr. The Westerners have 23 hikes scheduled for October and 22 in November with more than 200 hikes in the 2008-09 season.

Al says the group primarily exists to “promote friendship through hiking,” and agrees that fall is Sedona’s magical season. “I love the fall,” he says. “I’ve lived here nine years and we usually have great temperatures with the beautiful fall colors. Hiking in the fall is more about the flora rather than the fauna because the wildlife is always there, though the elk are in rut in the fall so you probably have a better chance of seeing them.”

 The Sedona Westerners include several hiking groups based on a hiker’s skills and the lengths of the hikes. An annual membership costs $20 – potential members may participate in two hikes before joining. For more information, including a schedule of hikes, visit www.sedonawesterners.org.

9: NAU Football

For many, fall means one thing: Football. While we have to trek two hours south to catch the NFL Arizona Cardinals in action, a pleasant 45-minute drive north leads you to the Lumberjacks, Northern Arizona University’s gridiron gladiators. After coming in third in the Big Sky Conference last season and with a new playing surface installed at the team’s home base, the Walkup Skydome, the Lumberjacks, under the tutelage of head coach Jerome Souers, stand as the team to beat in 2008. The Lumberjacks play three home games this month: On Oct. 4 they face off with Sacramento State, Oct. 11 sees Portland State come to town; while the Oct. 25 homecoming game sees the Lumberjacks tackle Weber State, and gets the entire Flagstaff community involved. This year’s theme is Superheroes: Your Lumberjack Power Revealed. Aside from alumni events, from auctions to dinners and concerts, the Homecoming Parade starts at 11 a.m. The NAU Alumni Tailgate begins at 1 p.m. in the Skydome parking lot and lasts until the game’s 3:05 p.m. kickoff. An awards recognition ceremony will take place at halftime.

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