SnowBird Diaries
Wilson Canyon
Fri, 5 May 2006 19:00:26 -0700
Dear Virginia,

Wilson Canyon runs east/west, so it is a shady paradise in which to walk even when it is warm. It enters Oak Creek Canyon about three minutes by car south of our Indian Gardens Coop parking space. The parking pulloff on the north end of Midgely Bridge is usually overflowing with photographing Sedona sightseers until late in the day because of the spectacular vertigo-generating views from that point down the steep red rocky slopes to the water below.

But by 5 o'clock there is usually space to pull off safely, and the sun is dropping below the peaks.

Several trails take off from the covered picnic tables and forest-service map area near the road. Bill usually starts by climbing up Wilson Mt. I prefer the less strenuous trail that follows the north side of the canyon. It, too, climbs up but in an undulating, less strenuous rise. Each time it crosses the mostly-dry creek bed one is stunned by the dry waterfalls of blue, purple, pink and green as if someone had been doing batik and emptied the dye pots over the red sandstone ledges. Striking red, pink, wine and rust colored Supai sandstone rocks and gravel dominate the trail and canyon walls. The occasional yellow or cream colored boulders must have tumbled down from the Coconino limestone close to the crest - but where do the beautiful blue-gray boulders in the creek bed come from?

Recent rains have left a few small pools, and wildflowers are springing up under the trees. The Cypresses, junipers, pines (mostly pinyon, here - ponderosa further up Oak Creek) and deciduous oaks are small here, each so beautifully shaped by the combined effects of winter ice and wind you are convinced a team of master Japanese gardeners have preceded you up the canyon making bonsais of the new growth and carefully shaping the larger older trees to permit maximum light and air flow, while artistically preserving the sense of dense forest. The ground supports a thick growth of flowering manzanita, oregon grape, occasional agave, opuntia or yucca, a shrubby holly-leafed evergreen oak, sugarbush and other Rhus spp., tall graceful clump grasses and dozens of other familiar desert mountain bushes and forbes the names of which I keep forgetting.

The young foliage of the Arizona cypress is a bright blue-green, the young bark shows ribbons of dark red or yellow, quite dramatic. Farther up the canyon Alligator cypress appear more and more frequently - even the young trees have a checkered trunk.

When we first arrived few birds other than cactus and canyon wrens and the raven could be heard. But now the warm weather is bringing a density of bird songs in from the elms, catalpa, willows and cottonwoods, ashes and boxelders leafing out in the main Oak Creek canyon, and they seem to be slowly infiltrating Wilson Canyon too, along with woodpeckers and a myriad of other birds I can hear but not see. Lots of courting and nesting going on everywhere. Today I watched a house finch from a few feet away as she slipped in and out of her nest in a topiary ivy plant on the shaded patio of the Sedona Safeway market. The male repeatedly flew off, then returned and perched on the ledge of a nearby column and sang and sang.

We start walking around 5:30 and stumble back to the jeep around 7:30. I have my head lamp and two walking sticks to steady me on the darkening path. The news I received last week from the C-T scan, that two blood vessels leading into my heart are 80% blocked has left me anxious not to get myself too exhausted on the trail, so I sit down periodically to rest along the way and marvel that I am alive and able to enjoy this marvelous place.

Love, H

PS What Helga misses by not climbing up the Wilson Mt trail is the long view looking southwest over the bridge down Oak Creek toward Sedona and the high spires of Cathedral Rock behind the city proper. From up there one wanders deep into the canyon just above a ledge-like outcrop until the path forks at a sign that says Red Rock Secret Wilderness - the sign alone tells a great deal about this special area. The secret could be that beauty and beautiful areas are all around if one takes the opportunity to look-- and in wildness lies the preservation of the world. The trail down provides famous views of sculptured red rock formations and eroded sandstone cliffs above a winding path which drops rapidly to where I usually find Helga wandering trancelike or sitting on a rock with requests I paint specific views for her that I wish I could bottle and drink from forever. Alas, my art cannot reach my desires yet, nor get close, but I will get it someday. B.