Loy Canyon is a remote area, several miles outside Sedona, Arizona. In fact, it is so remote that while our Road Scholar hiking group ( www.roadscholar.org ) was there, we did not see another human being. I hesitated before publishing this blogpost, thinking perhaps it was supposed to be some type of "hiker's secret". However, when I googled "Loy Canyon", there were 519,000 links that appeared. One of those links was the official government website ( www.fs.usda.gov/recarea/coconino/recre ) which can give you the exact driving directions to get there.
Although the access road is not paved, one does not need a four-wheel drive to get to the trail head. Our group traveled comfortably in these two 12-passenger vans.
The trail head is adjacent to the gate to the Honanki Ruins entrance. Our group did not go to the Honanki Ruins, as our leader said that was an outing we could easily do on our own. However, there is limited access to these ruins of the Sinagua Native Americans, so it is recommended that a visitor phone the Red Rock Ranger District at 928-282-4119 to make a reservation for your visit, and to assure that the access gate will be open when you go.
The trail into Loy Canyon has lots of twists, turns, and elevation changes, so our leader, Mike Young, made it a point to go over the trail map with the group, to give us a sense of where we were headed. If you are interested in hiking in the Sedona area, but prefer a less remote experience, there are plenty of easier trails to explore. You can find out more about such hikes (including maps) by clicking on www.VisitSedona.com
At the very beginning of our hike, we saw this yucca plant in bloom, which was the first of many colorful wildflowers and native plants, that we would see along the trail.
Clusters of blackfoot daisies (shown in lower right of this photo) were covering the rocky terrain as we started into the canyon. The fence to the left of the hikers borders the private property of Hancock Ranch. The canyon gets its name from the Samuel Loy family that lived in the area in the 1880's. The trail we were on was used by the Loys to move their livestock to and from summer pastures on the rim.
We saw several bushes of blooming Cliff Rose, and our leader squished up the blossoms between his hands to show how it could be used to form a lather for bathing, or removing odors.
This dog diligently guarded the private property which contained the old homestead and former vineyard of previous residents. The dog was in that exact same spot when we hiked out of the canyon about seven hours later!!
After hiking a while, we were rewarded with some rock art called "pictographs", which means they were painted symbols on the rock face. It seems everyone got out their camera or phone to record these creative renditions of early inhabitants.
Our leader pointed out how the artist had depicted motion of the shaking end of a rattlesnake by drawing several simulated "rattlers" at the end of the snake.
This hike through Loy Canyon took us through several mansanita thickets. My son ( www.grovers-journey-journal.blogspot.com/ ) came up with a term for such maneuvers, which he calls MANZINEERING. I would like to think that the trips to DisneyWorld and Epcot we took him on when he was a youngster, where we learned the word "Imagineer", had an influence on his coining this new mountaineering term. (Perhaps the fact that he has a Master's Degree in engineering is also a factor, however!)
The manzanita plant has red berries that look like apples, hence the name, as manzanita is the Spanish diminutive of manzana (apple). Therefore, the literal translation is "little apple".
Our goal for this hike was to get to the saddle of Loy Butte, and at this point we had just about made it to the first mesa, before going further up to the end of the trail. The reason for this photo was more to catch my breath, as pointing the camera at my fellow hikers gave me an excuse to stop for a moment and rest!
I was fascinated by a type of agave plant we saw growing in Loy Canyon. During the early stage of its growth, it looks like a large asparagus spear (shown on left of collage). A later stage of its growth reminded me of the "Jack and the Beanstalk" fairy tail, because of the extreme height it attained! (right side of photo collage). Our leader told us that the stalk shown on the right side (the inflorescence) is sometimes dried and used to make didgeridoos (a wind instrument commonly associated with Australia). Agave nectar is sometimes used as a sweetener.
Leader Mike Young is shown in this photo telling us about the cholla cactus. Mike is on the staff of Northern Arizona University, that administers this particular Road Scholar program.
Our hike through Loy Canyon included not only manzineering, but also bouldering, as shown in this photo.
This photo shows the variety of packs that various hikers used to carry their water, snacks, and other supplies. The instructional material sent to us when we registered for this Road Scholar program advised each hiker have what is called a "day pack", with both a waist strap and a chest strap. They also recommended it be equipped with a "bladder" connected to a suction tube, so that the hiker is able to access water at any point, without having to search through their pack for a water bottle.
I was SO ELATED when I reached the top of Loy Butte that I asked Mike to take a photo of me giving the victory symbol, to embed in my memory this accomplishment!
This photo shows the top of Loy Butte, where we had our lunch break. It occurred to me that this was a TRUE "Hard Rock Cafe", and we even had a "centerpiece" of red blooms on our "dining table"!
At the section of our hike where there was a natural amphitheater, sheltered from the sun by a large overhanging bluff, Mike told us all to find a comfortable spot, and line up against the wall. I had no idea what he was going to tell us, but it turned out he was leading us in a very spiritual experience. He told us for the next three minutes, we were not to talk, not to laugh, not to move, not to rattle our backpacks or snacks or water, and to be perfectly still---to soak in the experience of being in this remote canyon, away from all civilization. After quieting my mind for several moments, the verse from Psalm 46:10 came to mind: "Be still and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, and I will be exalted in the earth." The period of solitude made me aware that we were truly seeing "the greatest earth on show", which is God's creation. That experience is one I will cherish forever, and will give me "miles of smiles" in the days ahead! Tricia