The beautiful forest and the red rocks drew all of us to Sedona. Hiking the trails is just something that feels right. It seemed natural to us to get involved with the Friends of the Forest and help to preserve the wonderful area we live in. The purpose of the Friends of the Forest (FOF) Trail Patrol is to hike the trails, interact with people that we see, and report on trail conditions that we recommend need to be fixed.

For some trails this generally means downed trees. Think of the top of Wilson Mountain. If you’ve never been there, it has wonderful views back over Sedona. To get to the top, it’s a climb. Go in the spring or fall and you are treated to the wonders of the maple forest that the North Wilson Trail cuts through.

After a good rainy season, which we missed this winter, our trails can become quite overgrown. Trails that require brush removal are reported to the Friends of the Forest trail maintenance group to keep the trails clear. Some of the trails can become overgrown quite quickly, and hiking through desert plants such as catclaw isn’t pleasant when it intrudes on the trail.

On other trails the trail patrol might report on signage needs. Have you ever hiked the many trails around Bell Rock? The signs have improved greatly over the years, and for tourists, getting back to their cars has become easier (assuming they remember which parking lot they parked at). To figure out signage needs, the Friends of the Forest trail patrol tries to look through the eyes of a first-time hiker to the area.

Sometimes the summer monsoons wash out trails. That’s when our trail patrols generally find drainage issues to report. Have you ever hiked a trail in Sedona and found yourself starting to walk off on the drainage instead of the regular trail? Well, these drainage pour offs help to keep our trails from eroding too much. These pour offs fill up with sand and mud and require maintenance to be effective, so we report the need for maintenance.

Unfortunately, we also find graffiti in the forest – most often in the form of “Jack loves Jill”. Getting rid of this graffiti as soon as possible helps to preserve the natural state and to discourage copy cats. We let the FOF Graffiti Removal group know what category of graffiti, most frequently scratched on rocks, but sometimes painted, and we forward a picture of the graffiti to the Graffiti Removal group. Then they can address the removal of it.

When you join the Friends of the Forest Trail Patrol group, you can hike by yourself, join us on group hikes, or both. Group hikes can range from easy and relatively short, in the 3 to 4 mile range, to more difficult and longer. We hike both the most popular trails and those less often visited. Sometimes we find nothing to report, other times we keep the Trail Maintenance Group busy. Luckily, we now use a new phone app that makes the reporting easy. It’s our way of helping to maintain the trails around our wonderful area.

We welcome you to join us by getting involved with the trail patrol group. We are currently 138 members strong. By participating in our group hikes, you give back to this wonderful area we live in, get a health benefit by hiking, enjoy our beautiful red rock scenery, and meet new friends.

Serving Sedona, written this week by Terri and Jon Petrescu of Sedona Friends of the Forest, appears Wednesday in the Sedona Red Rock News.