My dear ol’ friend, hiking buddy and partner-in-food-crime, Ashley, put on her big girl pants and headed off to graduate school recently. Let me first say, I’m so proud of her for following her dreams but let me also say, I’m pretty sad that she abandoned me before we finished our Arizona Bucket List. So for her last weekend in town we decided to have one last hurrah and go for a big hike. Her one request: something with water. Water? In the desert? So we headed up north to Sedona to tackle one of the pins that had sat untouched on our “Arizona Adventures” board for too long: West Fork Trail.
Well, we wanted water, and let me tell you, we got water. Despite the fact that this trail twists back and forth along Oak Creek (you cross 13 times before the end of the trail—it’s mostly stone-stepping, but in a few places you have to step through shallow water), it also happened to be raining that day. And I’m not talking about a few spits of water here and there, I’m talking four hours of pouring rain. There were a couple breaks just long enough to sit on our jackets to enjoy a PB&J, but beyond that, soaking wet. The fleece jacket I was wearing got so wet, it looked like I was hiking in a leather bomber.
We took our time on the way into this 7-mile out-and-back trail while the rain was light so we could get lots of pictures and enjoy the scenery. (It’s crazy how a two-hour drive north can yield a totally different environment. This hike is full of big and tall trees, plenty of pines, a flowing creek with mini falls and rapids, colorful wildflowers and tons of towering red rock. It was absolutely gorgeous, and with the rain it obviously smelled so fresh and outdoorsy. I honestly felt like I was in Colorado.) However, on our way out it was pouring and we were practically sprinting out of there. As in, I think we actually hiked out in about half the time it took us to hike in.
The hike starts at Call of the Canyon recreation area, you do have to pay $10 to park, but it’s worth it. The other cool thing about this particular trail is the first little half mile to a mile to actually get to the West Fork Trail from Call of the Canyon is a paved path that winds through the ruins of Mayhew Lodge. It was originally a private resort that ended up functioning as a sort of high-profile retreat camp from what I could gather from the descriptive sign, but a fire took to the place to the ground (except for what’s still there today—a fireplace, a few storage coves and one other gutted building). Eventually the state bought it but never had enough funding to rebuild. Something about the eeriness of all that intrigues me (apparently someone was mauled to death by a bear here too I think? I don’t know, there is a book about it), so it was a fun added bonus to what was otherwise a fairly easy, but totally worth it, completely beautiful hike.