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If venturing out on your own still feels daunting, you might want to consider hiring a local permitted guide service such as Sedona Private Guides (583 Circle Drive; 928-204-2201). Owner Dennis Andres has hiked more than 5,000 miles in Sedona during the 15 years he’s called this area home. (FYI – it’s Greg and Dennis who have started calling Sedona the day hike capital of the U.S.)
“Our focus is making the experience about the spirit,” says Dennis. “We lead meditative hikes so hikers feel connected to nature. We’re not trying to help them conquer it – we want to help them connect to it.”
Sedona Private Guides’ hikes last from half a day to a full day and usually include several different locations so that the hikers come away from the experience with an appreciation for Sedona’s diversity. The outings cost $300 to $500 per couple. Dennis also leads weekly hiking clinics that depart from The Hike House; he takes participants on a free hike to teach them how to preserve nature and how to stay safe. For a complete list of other Coconino National Forest permitted guides, visit www.fs.fed.us/r3/coconino.
If you are more the social type and would like to meet neighbors with similar interests, check out the Sedona Westerners. The hiking club has been around since 1961, and it offers weekly hikes at different levels of difficulty. For more info, visit www.sedonawesterners.com. You might also consider volunteering with the Friends of the Forest, a nonprofit dedicated to maintaining and protecting national forest lands in the Sedona area. For more info about that group, visit www.friendsoftheforestsedona.org.
Verde Valley Search and Rescue Posse
In 2010, the all-volunteer Verde Valley Search and Rescue Posse conducted 31 missions in our area and rescued 61 people – two-thirds of the searches were centered in Sedona. Although rare, the team also helped recover five bodies last year. Of the posse’s 40 volunteers, 30 directly assist searches. We sat down with three of these volunteers to find out who is getting lost in Red Rock Country and why.
Mike Ward, Mike Vitek and Al Cornell (who writes for Sedona Monthly) say the majority of the hikers in need of rescue are visitors, not locals. “We are talking about people who underestimate the trail and overestimate their capabilities,” says Mike Ward.
The volunteers say those needing rescue are always underprepared. “I’ve been doing this for 15 years,” says Al. “There was only one case where it wasn’t the hiker’s fault.”
That harsh truth being said, there is no charge for rescue services in Sedona. If you do become lost, you should call 911 immediately. Al says anyone who is lost should practice the “four stays”: stay put, stay calm, stay focused and stay positive. “Hikers who are lost become anxious, which leads to fear, which can turn you into a basket case and lead you to make bad decisions,” he says.
What should every hiker do before hitting the trail? If you saw 127 Hours, you know the importance of telling someone where you are going. Check the weather report before you leave. Call the Red Rock Ranger Station Visitors Information Center for current info on your trail rather than relying on guidebooks that could be several years old. (Remember, trails in Sedona change after seasonal rainstorms.) The visitors center also provides free topography maps. Charge your cell phone and bring it with you, but don’t count on coverage. Even if you do not get a signal on the trail, Mike Ward says numerous people have been located thanks to the glow coming from their cell phone (or the flash coming from their camera).