Watch out!

Every environment has its own unique dangers, risks… challenges.

My mom was afraid to spend time in the desert because of the scorpions, snakes and spiders… even after decades of living there, she was reluctant to walk far from the pavement.  She was perfectly comfortable, however, traipsing through the Pennsylvania forests where she grew up, …. a place where I find myself distracted by the possibility of encountering a bear or cougar!

I know what to watch out for in the desert… and what to avoid.  Don’t stick your hands under rocks, watch where you put your feet, carry more water than you think you will need and protect against sunburn and the possibility of West Nile Virus from mosquito bites….

When we travel, I want to know what the most serious threats to our safety are before we head out on a trail.  It is often difficult to even know what questions to ask.  What plants are poisonous, what snakes or spiders or animals are most fearsome?  Are there ways to minimize the risks? Are there some not worth taking?

Quicksand, sink holes, prairie dog dens, poison ivy?  Mosquitoes, leeches, icy cold water, sharp coral, gators…. moose?

“Watch out for chiggers and ticks,” we were cautioned when we were spending time in Oklahoma during the summer.  We wanted to head across the field in search of a cache…. looked harmless enough.  I felt reluctant to venture into a new place and realized that it was mere ignorance holding me back.  I just needed to know the real danger, and all of the details.  Use DEET, wear long pants and sleeves and carry a lint roller were the most useful pieces of advice… informative and empowering.

What advice would you offer someone unfamiliar with the risks in your area??  How do you get this information when you are in new locations?


Forearmed with reliable information, it will be easier to say… A new place to explore?……. Sure, let’s go!

Bear Mountain Bliss

Today’s forecast promised full-fledged Arizona spring weather… 60° and sunny.  A visit to the Hike Shop in Sedona yesterday gave us a list of trails we would enjoy.  We tried to pick one that would likely be less crowded with weekend tourists.  Bear Mountain, at 5 miles round trip and 2000 ft elevation gain, looked like a perfect choice.

I read through a few trail reports and knew to expect some crevice climbing that may require some scrambling, and several “false summits”…. with another mountain beyond the one you just got to the top of.  Once we reached the top of this ridge (see below and the saddle area left of the red rock peak above)… we had already climbed 1000 ft and could see Bear Mountain summit another 1000 ft higher and mile and a half farther.

I also knew it was rated one of the most scenic trails Sedona has to offer.  A diversity of terrain, many rock layers and several distinctive life zones.  If we managed to make it all the way to the final summit we would  also be rewarded with a view of Agassiz and Humphreys Peaks …. the snow-covered San Francisco Peaks just north of Flagstaff.

So we packed a lunch, grabbed our hiking sticks, and headed out.

The climb was steady.  We encountered a few people as we neared the top of the second “false summit”.  The views were splendid and the sun was growing warmer.

We walked another half mile to where the views opened up over canyons and sweeping expanses on both sides of the ridge.  Ahead of us we could see the summit of Bear Mountain… and the wind gusted through this open area.

After stopping for lunch we decided to forgo the 800 ft climb ahead and go cross-country a bit here, instead….  enjoying the views and stopping to sketch a bit before heading back down.  You can see the trail below us in this picture from the second plateau:

We hiked about 1.7 miles and climbed about 1200 feet in elevation before turning back.  Ahead of us was another mile and 800 ft elevation to reach the top, which we could see from where we were.  Another time perhaps.

In this panorama Bear Mountain summit is to the far left… Fay Canyon opens up to the west as you pan right.