West Fork Trail, Oak Creek Canyon
Prior to the Columbia event we were asked to choose an activity for Saturday. Our options were yoga, mountain biking, or hiking of various difficulty levels. I had a moment of craziness where I thought of signing up for yoga or mountain biking (things I very much do not do), but then decided that I’d go with my gut and spend the time in Sedona doing what I love most: ‘Intense’ hiking. I had no idea what Intense meant, and I had visions of a 20 mile death march in the hot June Arizona sun. And I kind of liked it.
Saturday Hike: West Fork Oak Creek
At 5 am I was down in the lobby with several other bleary eyed folks who had chosen the intense hike. I noticed how similar we looked, all decked out in our matching new Columbia Sportswear gear. Cute!
While sucking down coffee and munching on our boxed breakfast, a few Jeeps pulled up to take us away to our destination. We learned a little more about the hike – it would be about ten miles of canyon hiking and would involve lots of water, maybe up to waist deep. This was sounding fun. I quickly ran back to my room to change into more appropriate footwear, the Columbia Power Drain shoes (review coming soon).
I got in an open top Jeep with one of our guides, Greg, who turned out to be the owner of The Hike House in Sedona. As I learned later, this is a great shop with an excellent gear selection, amazing baked goods, and spot on advice for finding the perfect local hike.
We drove out Oak Creek and eventually reached our trailhead. It was much cooler in the canyon than down in Sedona, and as we gathered at the trailhead I realized I was actually kind of cold. This was NOT the 20 mile 100 degree death march I had envisioned.
The trail follows the creek as it snakes its way between towering red cliffs. This deep canyon, complete with abundant vegetation stays cool and shaded for much of the day, making it a perfect summer desert hike. We followed the trail about three miles down the canyon, crossing the creek more times I than I can count, until reaching what looked like a dead end where the walls narrowed and the dry terrain beneath our feet ended in a pool of creek water.
This is where the ‘intense’ part of the hike came in. Instead of turning around we waded into the cold water and continued ‘hiking’ through the creek. We walked through the narrowed canyon, along the undercut red rock. The creek was almost waist deep in places but it was easy to stay on shallower ground by walking on the edges.
Slowly, we continued about a mile down the creek, staying in water about 90% of the time. At one point our guides warned us about some darker shadows in the water – they were deep cuts in the rock that would be easy to fall into!
Eventually we reached our turnaround time and had to head back the way we came. It wasn’t until we were back at the trailhead and waiting in the sun that I realized it was finally getting warm out. I was really pleased by this hike – it wasn’t my definition of intense, but that’s all subjective. It was my definition of fun, though, and I’m glad I chose it as my activity for the day!
We shuttled back into Sedona for lunch and more hands-on time with the new gear from Columbia and Mountain Hardwear. It was much warmer here and I finally got to enjoy the cooling effects of the OmniFreeze Zero. More on that in a later review!
The hot afternoon was spent relaxing around the hotel pool, and then it was back out Oak Creek canyon for another spectacular dinner. As much fun as staying out late would have been, I had to go back to my room and pack up for the next morning’s adventure – we’re heading to Havasu Falls!
Coming Soon: Havasu Falls!