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Robber’s Roost Day Hike
October 27, 2018
by Mark Purcell
  GPS Map N 
by Carl Lunde
Trailblazers ready to go. [photo by Quy]
front:  Quy, Diva, Vicki, Eileen, Lin, Carl
back: Dave, Biljana, Marija, Dubravka, Rebecca, Mark, Michael, Andy, Darrell

Bordering the Sycamore Canyon Wilderness Area, Robber’s Roost (aka Shamans Cave) has been a destination for numerous hikers and adventurers over the last century. In fact, its legendary name was used for a 1932 movie filmed in Sedona called Robber’s Roost. Ironically, no scenes for the movie were actually filmed there.

Sadly, this past September vandals brazenly defaced the walls of the Roost with words too objectionable to detail within the text of this report. However, a link to a news report with pixel redaction is provided as follows: Robbers Roost in Sedona defaced with graffiti.

During my five years in Sedona no act or event, elections included, sparked as much discussion and outrage on social media. Fortunately, like several Arizona communities, the Verde Valley/Sedona area has a dedicated group of well trained and equipped volunteers under the direct supervision of a Forest Service archeologist, who cleanse the graffiti and preserve any legacy drawings or petroglyphs affected. Those who were on this hike and future visitors can appreciate the effort by reviewing the “before” via the above link and recalling the “after”.

Colorful rocks and rilles of Sedona. [photo by Lin]

Two weeks before the hike I ventured out to scout but was discomforted by “Road Closed” sign a few miles before the trailhead. Although I assumed it was largely due to poor road conditions due to heavier than usual rain earlier in the month, including remnants of Hurricane Rosa, I was also left to speculate whether the aforementioned vandalism (which also occurred on the nearby Dogie Trail) had caused authorities to elect to limit access. However, later scouting treks indicated opening of the primary forest road, although one of the access point options for commencing the event was still shut down.

We’ll walk FR 9530. [photo by Carl]
As has been the pattern for I believe all the Sunset Sedona hikes I have led, Lin Chao ably organized the carpools in Phoenix and they were on their way. I very much appreciate Lin’s assistance, as otherwise planning these hikes from afar would be more challenging.

After a secondary meeting at the 89A/FR 525 intersection for condensing participants into high clearance vehicles and final transportation instructions, we traversed the 9 miles of dirt roads to the origin of FR 9530. Here we unloaded and started the journey towards the Roost. But not directly. To extend the distance and provide a more varied experience, instead of a half mile hike directly to the Roost we bushwhacked around the hill, spending time at a rocky wash reminiscent of the more famous Seven Pools in Sedona. Coming around the other side, suddenly 100 feet above us was our destination.

How about a swim? [photo by Diva]
It’s an interesting pool, anyway. [photo by Carl]
Pools, but I don’t see seven of them here. [photo by Quy]
We found plenty of water. [photo by Lin]
Let’s reflect on this. [photo by Lin]
One giant step. [photo by Mark]
This slickrock isn’t slick. [photo by Mark]

Ascending through prickly pear cactus populated landscape, we follow the path to the Roost. Shortly before arriving, hikers were given direction at a Y intersection on paths to both the advertised endpoint and the mesa above, which provides unique scenic topography and a secondary approach to the Cave. Initially, the first 10-15 feet appears daunting as the only reference you have, other than the rocky wall and the 1-2 foot ledge, is the distant horizon. However, you soon turn the corner and the Roost appears in front of you with only a short narrow shelf to step across or hug from below.

In the hike description, my mythical prose referred to “forming an alliance” with other “adventurers” at the Roost. As predicted, that actually transpired as we were welcomed by a group of visitors from Florida, which facilitated mutual advantage particular with photo taking exchanges of our respective members. Some Trailblazers eventually migrated towards the mesa above the Roost, which provided an expansive palate of sandstone rocks that were arrayed in a layered fashion reminiscent of volcanic lava settling.

We’re going to climb up there. [photo by Carl]
Starting the climb. [photo by Carl]
Watch your step! [photo by Quy]
We got here first. [photo by Mark]
Stepping right along. [photo by Mark]
Yes, we made it. [photo by Quy]
Trailblazers at the cave. [photo by Mark]
Ah, this is the life. [photo by Diva]
Just one more step ... [photo by Diva]
Let’s look around. [photo by Carl]
View from the top. [photo by Lin]
What a view! [photo by Carl]
Victory! [photo by Lin]
We should talk this over. [photo by Lin]

Eventually, all of our group gathered there and enjoyed the expansive 360-degree sunset views of the edge of Sycamore Canyon, Mingus Mountain, and Sedona landmarks such as Capital Butte and Cathedral Rock. Small indentations hosted pools of water from recent rains, which provided additional fodder for the digital archives of our more dedicated shutterbugs.

Robber’s Roost, from below. [photo by Quy]

As dusk approached, we returned to the Forest Road adjacent to the Roost and walked the last mile to our vehicles. Per usual for sunset hikes in Sedona, due to the later conclusion, a formal post-hike meal was not scheduled. Even though the total distance only tallied 5 miles, this event did offer some challenges and thrills for participants, albeit at a more relaxed pace. After all, occasionally the fatigue should result more with sorting through memories (mental and digital) rather than the legs and feet.

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updated November 5, 2018