Sedona’s third major eco-zone is the tall forest that lines the Oak Creek Canyon and extends atop the highest formations. Sedona comprises the southern portion of the world’s largest ponderosa pine forest. These towering conifers can reach over 200 hundred feet.
My favorite part of the ponderosa is their bark. Stick your nose in between the splits of it and you’ll get a delicious scent, somewhere between vanilla and praline pecan. Long needles come from the branches, which are a good source of vitamin c in a survival situation.
These forests were threatened by Sedona’s eight year drought that ended in 2008. That dry period led to major forest fires in 2006, one in the Village of Oak Creek and the other in west Sedona. The latter, did not reach any homes, but spread across the top of Wilson Mountain. Once it crossed the top of the formation, it threatened Oak Creek Canyon.
In spite of hundreds of drops of water and retardant by planes and helicopters, the fire continued for days. The canyon was evacuated, and hundreds of fire fighters waited below, as the flames approached. To fight it, they used what I would call, “The worst method of all…except for all the others.” They set the west wall of the canyon ablaze, creating a backfire which ended the conflagration. These actions burned the trees of the high canyon wall to a crisp, but they saved famous places such as Slide Rock State Park, Garland’s Lodge and private homes.
For more information on ecology, check out the award-winning Sedona's Top Ten Hikes.