Two friends share uplifting adventures on the Prescott Circle Trail

by Katie Farley and Kristen Kauffman

The two of us have been friends for years. A mutual friend connected us because of our love of writing. It turns out, we were already acquainted; Katie was a student in Kristen’s online Historical Fiction class.

Katie works for an oral surgeon, consulting with patients on the financial aspects of treatment. The unique interaction she has with patients is the highlight of her week. Kristen teaches creative writing at Yavapai College, and English at Tri-City College Prep High School. She loves to show students the deep connection between reader and writer, to restore empathy in a fast world.

We have been hiking together for two years. Like everyone else, we had to get creative during the pandemic, social distancing and getting fresh air. Our first hike was supposed to be four miles around Willow Lake. Seven miles later, thanks to the high water level covering the trail, it was dusk. Knees deep in mud, we got back to the car feeling adventurous.

It was Kristen who mentioned the Prescott Circle Trail (PCT). This 56-mile loop is split into 11 segments. We did a segment each Saturday as an out-and-back. In October 2020, we hiked Segment 6, which is a 9.1-mile trail that spans P Mountain to Senator Highway. We hiked the 20 miles in ten hours, leaving us feeling accomplished.

Some of the PCT segments are great hikes for hot days. Our shortest hike was the 3.5-mile Segment 9, from Willow Lake to Watson Lake. We did this on the hottest Saturday in September, the orange sunrise glowing in the haziness of early morning, deer in the foreground.

In January 2021, we viewed a new year from Mount Wilson, the highest peak in Sedona (elevation: 2,637; miles: 9.5). When hiking P Mountain, it was dry with the leaves of two summers carpeting the trail. But Mount Wilson was slippery and navigating the switchbacks along the north side was tricky as we hiked to the plateau – a false summit.

There are false summits in life and in hiking. You trek just to realize there is more work ahead –but at the top of the actual summit, you realize, the view is worth the work.

We still hike every Saturday and have learned so much: what type of clothes to wear in any weather condition, and how we need three-liter Camelbacks, electrolytes, and hiking poles. We have learned how diverse and beautiful our area is. Most importantly, we have learned how uplifting the hiking community is. The people we meet smile, say hello, and tell us we have done a good job. We enthusiastically reply with the same.