To the north there lies a mystical land where the rocks are red, Jeeps are pink, and the hippies are in touch with nature. This place is called Sedona, which means, "Sweet tourist trap, Brah," in the native tongue.
It's been years and years (more than 12 at least) since we've been to Sedona. I vaguely remember renting a car in Phoenix and driving north after (my first information security) class to catch the sunset and dinner. I clearly remember the "Do not pick up hitchhikers -- Prison" sign and eating under a trellis, but that's it. Amy remembers even less.
This time it was all seven of us in the Explorer. Plus a ton of gear for the next few days of adventure. For us, Sedona would be a pitstop on the way to the Grand Canyon.
As soon as we started climbing above Phoenix the landscape changed dramatically. Goodbye, saguaro cacti. Hello, uh... different cacti. After being in the big city for a few days, the empty expanses to the north were a little jarring. So were the sudden climbs to the tops of mesas followed by midwest flatlands. None of this was what I expected in Arizona.
From quite a distance, we could see the red rocks of Sedona growing in size. Then suddenly we were among them. Bell Rock, of course, captured our attention as though it had been rung. We stopped for pictures.
Courthouse Rock: stop for pictures.
Unnamed featureless rock on the side of the road: stop for pictures.
In fact, we stopped for pictures quite a bit. It must have been Kodak's dream come true back in the day. Now I guess it's heaven for SanDisk and Flickr.
Unfortunately, we weren't scheduled to hike this day. Next time we'll definitely take a swing through some of the trails. They look glorious.
In Sedona itself, I felt a little overwhelmed. It felt a little like Leavenworth, but with a southwest flair. We ate with great views, bought some trinkets, and then headed north. Our next stop was Slide Rock State Park.
When the Oak Creek isn't surging down the canyon Slide Rock State Park is known for it's slidable rocks. The water looks to be so low you can walk across. The bathroom is actually on the other side. Not so this time, though.
Instead of a stately creek with clear water it was a churning monster colored an ugly brown. Yay. I'm glad you got some rain, Arizona, but did it have to happen this week?
We puttered around looking at the river and the rocks. Clara, Henry, and I climbed up a small cliff and found a bevy of lizards cavorting in the cracks. Each time I sat the kids on the edge for a picture I got a little buzzing in the pit of my stomach and pulled them back a little farther. The drop was only 30 feet, but that'd be a bad drop. (For them and me.)
We met up with everyone back at the car and continued driving north, stopping only for a few letterboxes along the way. Truth be told, I think Amy's the one with the incurable letterboxing fever. A couple of times the kids have stayed in the car while she or I (or both... it's a date!) looked for the boxes. Bonus: We were still at 100% at this point in the trip, but no hitchhikers.
At the head of the canyon the road climbs 600 feet in tightly woven switchbacks. The kids are kind of used to this from all our trips to Sunrise in Mount Rainier National Park, but I'm usually driving so all the back and forth got me a little wee bit carsick. We stopped at the overlook at the top for some fresh air and... another letterbox. (Beware. This one was really muddy.)
We were now about 7,000 feet and it was chilly. There were still small patches of snow in the shadows and it was decidedly not desert-like. I guess I shouldn't be as surprised by the diversity in the state as I am. After all, Washington is pretty much two states stuck together at the Cascades.
We made a quick stop in Flagstaff and then continued north, always north. (Well, I guess technically we went west a bit, then north.) We pulled into our hotel just in time for a late dinner. It was a Best Western, but not your typical Best Western. It was more like a Better Western, but "Best" is already a superlative so it's hard to make sense of it. Amy described it as being just like the Howard Johnsons outside Disneyland, which isn't at all like a Howard Johnsons. (I'm not sure if that really helps.)
The next morning we were headed into Grand Canyon National Park so I could hardly sleep. It must have taken me a whole five minutes to lose consciousness. Worst case of insomnia ever.