Sat, June 06

Be Fit Fit! My Personal Evacuation Plan

Bear Mountain. Photo by Magdalena Romanska

Bear Mountain. Photo by Magdalena Romanska


Magdalena Romanska

The other day, my friend told me that he had attended the fire readiness meeting in the Village. He felt that there was not much hope for his survival, in case of fire.

Somewhat resigned, he still decided to work on his evacuation bags, to keep one in Sedona, one in his car, and one at his other home elsewhere.

I did not attend the meeting, but, given the road situation during the summer 2019 when the chunks of the 179 were repaved and traffic was brought to a dramatic still, I agreed with him that the risk of burning like in hell is rather high.

“Thank you, Ms. Cheerful”, he said.

I decided to take things in my own hands. I like the Arizona heat, but it is not in my imminent plans to burn to death. Plus, I have not sinned much, so I simply don’t deserve to go to hell.

So, as my friend was repacking his emergency duffels and deciding which T-shirt put in which bag, I spent that afternoon on my own evacuation plan.

It goes like this:

First and foremost, train daily, like there was no tomorrow. Realize that my survival solely and simply depends on my physical capabilities and speed at which I can run to escape the flames. Focus on endurance and cardio, and make sure to cover ultra-distances by foot on challenging trails to feel that I am always ready (like the scouts are)! Add a sensible amount of weight training – especially for the lower body. Research says that when you run very far, you cannot rely on your cardio fitness entirely. When you get tired and slow down (and start feeling the heat of the flames on your back), this is the moment when your strong muscles kick in and let you escape the danger. Sort of the same as when you run from a grizzly bear, you know how that goes.

Eat a well-balanced and healthy food. Never feel hungry. You never know when the emergency strikes, so having a satiated tummy and adequate energy might be one of the keys to survival.

Don’t go too crazy drinking alcoholic beverages – after all, you need to be alert and in a state conductive to (ultra) running at all times.

Stay aware of your surroundings, report any visible smoke flames, and suspicious haze on the horizon. Meaning keep that iPhone of yours fully charged at all times!

Second, establish your escape routes. To do this part successfully, I used the Emmitt Barks Cartography “Sedona Trails Map” (Vertical Datum dating back to 1929, so it gave me confidence that tis source must be solid for my distance and elevation gain calculations).

Being highly aware that my escape route (and my survival) depends on the fact from where the fire comes and from where the wind blows, I came up with the following:

1) If the fire attacks from the north:

A) Grab the car, complete with your emergency prep duffel, and leave by 179 towards I-17 and then to Scottsdale.

B) In case the road is blocked: Run the Verde Valley School Rd west. At the TH, take a sharp turn onto the Turkey Creek Trail. Do not expect any water in the area called a creek. It is dry. Continue 3.4 mile to the trail’s end, culminating at 4,530 feet, complete with some stunning 360 degree views. Bush walk down towards Cornville and the Forest Road 9960A. Continue south and voila, you are in Cornville, sound and safe!

2) If the fire comes from the east:

A) Grab the car, complete with your emergency prep duffel, and leave by 89A towards Cottonwood, or better, Jerome (it is colder there). Book yourself a room at some Haunted Hotel, eat at the Haunted Burger, and try to relax up on the cool hills.

B) In case the road is blocked: Run fast the Brewer Road (uphill). Turn right to connect with the Airport Loop Trail. This will lead you to the Bandit Trail and Carrol Canyon and the beautiful Herkenham Trail. Continue west and eventually, you will end up in Cottonwood, as well (from where just that many miles more to the cool Jerome and its wine cellars – do not overindulge on that vino, as you might still need to run further west, depending on the situation). In case your starting escape point is in VOC, take Slim Shady to Templeton, enjoy creek crossing to cool off, and continue by the Red Rock State Park trails and then west towards CT.

3) If the fire comes from the south:

A) Grab the car, complete with your emergency prep duffel, and leave by 179 towards 89A and then to Flagstaff.

B) In case the road is blocked: Grab your Camelbak with water and your emergency duffel and run the Dry Creek Road. The signs will lead you to the Bear Mountain Trailhead. Take that turn. It is only 2.5 Mile to the top of the Bear Mtn, you will climb and scramble up with your duffel, and the views are gorgeous and very rewarding! Several false peaks later, you will arrive at the Trail’s End (clearly marked), from where you should be able to see the Humphreys’ Peaks. There is no trail from there per se, so just keep bush walking and running, till you get yourself to Flagstaff. Depending on the fitness level, this endeavor might take up to two days. The town of Flagstaff offers a variety of entertainment, decent hotels and motels, and a maze of trails. And a chairlift to the Agassiz, if you have enough of running, but still want to admire some major views.

4) If the fire is visible in the west:

A) Grab the car, complete with your emergency prep duffel, and leave by 179 towards I-17 and then to Flagstaff. Alternatively, grab the car, complete with your emergency prep duffel, and leave by 179 towards 89A and then to Flagstaff (this route might be blocked, though, as we are having the ongoing construction of new roundabouts and some additional fun road work in the Oak Canyon – so call the ADOT (office hours and locations, as well as their phone number, are easily accessible on-line) and find out if this is the way to go. Please note that in some parts of the area, the Internet is not reliable and might not be accessible. In such a case, hike yourself to the area where you can get the connection, and then call the ADOT.

B) In case it is not the way to go and you still need to escape the danger, coming from the west, run east!!!! Here, we have many options! From Uptown and Downtown Sedona, I suggest taking any trail connecting to Jim Thompson and then, either escape by the Wilson Mtn trails and into the Canyon, or take th picturesque Casner Canyon and run uphill to Schnebly Vista. From there, it is only 6 miles of relatively flat road to get you to I-17. At the Schnebly exit at I-17, hitchhike either south to PHX, or north to Flag (towards wherever the wind does not blow from). From the VOC: Run Jacks Canyon Rd till the TH of the Hot Loop. You need to take a sharp right to find that well-hidden trail head. Continue for about 11 miles by this fascinating, but challenging trail. You will pass picturesque, small ponds and some rural artefacts, as well as a water tank. You might run into a coyote or two a bull, cows, javelinas, and some other wildlife which enjoys the presence of water in that area. After the initial few miles, the trail is pretty much not marked, so watch out in order not to get lost. In case you get lost, just go by the sun towards the Schnebly Vista area. From where you escape by the same 6 miles getting you to I-17 (not much of views there, as it is a forest and quite flat).

Anyway, once I reviewed my evacuation plan above, I realized that I better go immediately to the gym and do some serious weight lifting, focusing on my lower body. It might be the “survival of the fittest”, so I better keep training! Stay always prepared!

Magdalena is the owner of the Be Fit Fit Personal Training Studio ( and a Realtor at the Russ Lyon Sotheby’s International in Sedona. Visit her Be Fit Fit blog at

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