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  • Writer's pictureInger and Jeff Latreille

A Fork in the Trail

~Thursday, March 17, 2022~

☘️Day 641 ☘️

Happy St. Patrick’s Day everyone! For us, Ireland holds a very special place in our hearts especially after visiting the island around 20 years ago. It’s even more special for Jeff, with his Irish heritage. Hope your day included a little Irish fun too, whether it was eating a traditional corned beef and cabbage stew, drinking a fabulous Guinness, or simply wearing something green in tribute.

We’ve got to take advantage of these amazing hikes that make Sedona so special. So today, we were off to the Soldier Pass Trail. Wow! If the neighborhood just to get to the trailhead was this gorgeous, we couldn’t imagine what was in store on the actual trail. Once again, we arrived at a small parking lot, with few options to park elsewhere. So we decided to just get in line and wait our turn like everyone else. 15 minutes later, we were in! The gated trailhead is open only from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. so I wouldn't consider this to be the best sunrise/sunset trail. Within minutes, we were led into the Red Rock Secret Mountain Wilderness. Near the beginning we were greeted by a vacant off-road Jeep parked on a large slab of rock that clearly had maxed out its trail to let its passengers off.

About ¼ mile in was the Devil’s Kitchen sinkhole. This was created by the collapse of giant underground caverns

in the Redwall Limestone. In its infancy, the actual size of the underground cavern below Devil’s Kitchen was 200 feet wide x 180 feet tall. The ceiling was about 660 feet below the surface, with the ceiling unable to support itself, thus collapsing. Ever since, the hole continues to change with the largest collapse occurring in 1989, which increased its size by 40%. Surrounding the sink hole were plenty of signs to deter people from getting too close to the edge. So watch out for those little ones.

Just a little further up were the “Seven Sacred Pools”, half full of rain water that appeared to have been there a while. During a nice rainstorm, this section of the trail would be quite lovely to see cascades of water drape over these pools. At about the 1-½ mile mark, we came to an ill-signed fork in the trail. Was it left or right to get to the caves? Kind of strange that at the fork there was only one sign that pointed left to the trail, when clearly, there was another way to continue. Since the caves are the biggest feature of the trail, it’s strange that it doesn’t direct you there. Our only clue was to follow everyone else. As we got closer to where we thought the caves were, we ran into several hikers who had done the trail before, confirming we were headed in the right direction. At the end were 2 choices, the arch to the left which offered plenty of shade,

or the cave to the right where most hikers ended up. For us, the arch gave us the perfect views and the perfect spot for a light lunch. Looking at our surroundings made me a bit nervous since you could tell large pieces of rock had fallen and wedged themselves above our heads. With things ever changing, you just never know. The cave intrigued us too, so we went “nextdoor” to take a look. There were about 20 hikers descending on the area, with most wanting to go up inside. The only way to go up was a very narrow 10’ high passageway where you had to pull yourself up to get to the next level. Jeff decided to try it, minus the backpack, a wife and a dog. There is a spot at the top, a ledge opening from the tunnel, to take in the views. But because it was so crowded, Jeff decided to turn around after about 5 minutes. Our favorite part of the hike, aside from the good workout it provided, were the amazing 360-degree views of the Red Rock region.

Rather than put our evening energy into a fancy Irish dinner, we instead played an overdue game of Cornhole. It had been months since we last played, so of course that was my excuse for not doing so great. As the sun set, with the full moon rising, it was the perfect backdrop to a fun evening, complete with Irish music and horderves. If our neighbors had been back earlier, we would have invited them over too. They’d been gone all day with their families at the nearby Cottonwood Recreation Center, full of fun activities for the kids. Hopefully tomorrow night will work out for a little friendly competition.

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