Fall brings the return of free public programs on the Red Rock Ranger District. A lecture series is offered from 11 a.m. to noon on the First Friday of each month at the Red Rock District Visitor Center located one mile south of the Village of Oak Creek on Highway 179. Seating at the Visitor Center is limited to the first forty participants, with no reservation required. Guided walks are space limited and require reservation. Call the Ranger Station at 928-203-2903 for registration and program information including locations for the guided walks.

The First Friday lecture program kicks off on October 4 at 11 a.m. with a talk titled “Fresh Eyes on an Ancient Landscape: Sedona Paleogeology” presented by Friends of the Forest volunteer and naturalist Barry Mallis. Mallis’ interest in the stories earth is telling us began with geology study in college and research on Pleistocene Age geology on Long Island, New York. Now retired from a fifty-year career in education, Mallis says, “my love of geology could not have found a better milieu than that of Central and Northern Arizona.”  He has led geology-focused nature walks at Red Rock State Park for several years. On the October 4th photographic tour of our surrounding landscape, Mallis will examine the forces which have shaped Sedona’s legendary red rocks and how the geology of our region fits into the history of Earth’s development. On this journey from the macro level of our continent’s formation to a micro level look at specific features of today’s Red Rock Country vistas, Mallis seeks to stimulate us to view our stunning landscape with new eyes.

The November 8th First Friday program brings us even closer to home, right to our back yards in fact. Yavapai Master Gardener Jennifer Moreland will present “Backyard Composting”. Moreland believes, “Backyard composting is the ultimate recycling activity that everyone can be doing. We all can participate in building healthier soils by composting yard cuttings and kitchen scraps into nutritious compost to be added back into yard soils.”  Healthy soils contribute to plant health, water conservation, erosion control, and healthy habitat for birds, pollinators and other wildlife. Moreland will discuss how to build a compost pile, what to put in it, and most importantly, she says, “How to cook it by maintaining a proper balance of components – greens, browns, water and air.”  We can all learn successful soil recipes at her presentation.   

Naturalist and birding guide Kevin Harding resumes his popular birding walks on Tuesday mornings: October 22 at 8 a.m., November 12 at 8 a.m., November 26 at 9 a.m. and December 10 at 9 a.m. Harding, a retired teacher, has been birding for forty years and is a trained animal tracker. During his winters in Sedona, he is an active volunteer with Friends of the Forest and Northern Arizona Audubon. Birding Walk participants will have a chance to see a wide variety of wetland species, migrating birds and winter birds native to Arizona. Harding’s birding outings are enjoyable for experienced birders as well as newcomers. Guidance on the use of binoculars and spotting scopes is offered. Participants should be able to walk one mile on level ground, bring binoculars and wear subdued clothing.

For another perspective on local geology, join naturalist Chris Weld on a Red Rock Geology Walk on October 24 at 9 a.m. or November 7 at 10.am. Weld has led interpretive programs focused on Sedona’s geology for fifteen years. Participants will have an opportunity to view the dramatic effects of Oak Creek Canyon faulting. The route of the walk will highlight sedimentary and volcanic rock layers as well as views of splendid erosional land features. Geology hike participants should be prepared for two hours of moderately difficult hiking and standing.

For the latest information about Red Rock Ranger District public programs and registration call 928-203-2903. Program schedules are also posted on Friends of the Forest website, https://www.friendsoftheforestsedona.org/events/