After last summer’s big road trip, I mentioned to my sister Leslie that the annual NPS Louie and I had purchased didn’t expire until the end of this summer. She suggested we come out to Phoenix to visit, and take a few days to see the Grand Canyon. She was very generous to offer us their older car to borrow and a bunch of camping gear.
Louie had never been to the Grand Canyon. I had been but not since I was a small child (11 or so). The Grand Canyon is about 3 1/2 hours from Phoenix, which makes for a short drive though not really a day trip. Leslie, who is evidently a wonderful travel agent/itinerary builder, suggested we spend some time in Sedona on our way north, so ultimately I planned our time to have 1 night in Sedona, 2 nights at the Grand Canyon, and then home.
I like to look at the Trip Advisor Forums for advice on traveling, though Louie and I like to hike more than most members of the forums there. I’d found much of their advice last year to be excellent, with the exception of their great love of the Black Hills (it was fine, but we could have spent one night there and been happy rather than two). However, in the Sedona forums, there is at least one member who insists that you must spend 4-5 nights in Sedona in order to make it worth visiting. To me this is ridiculous. Sure, a week in Paris beats a day in Paris, but both are worth it. Maybe not the day if you fly in and out from the US for one day, but it’s a trip from another fairly nearby location, a little time is better than no time!
(I’m overwhelmed by my good fortune in being able to travel sometime, and right now I’m overwhelmed by all the beauty we saw and want to convey it to you.)
Okay, so…first we spent a few days in Phoenix hanging with my little niece Athena, and my sister and brother-in-law.
We rode the carousel and the train at McCormick-Stillman Railroad Park in Scottsdale.
There was a lovely shaded playground.
We took selfies.
And we went to the zoo.
And then on Wednesday of the week, it was time for Louie and I to load up their Honda Civic (with stick shift) and head for Sedona. We piled in our clothes, cooler with food and drinks, tent, sleeping bags, sleeping pads, camp chairs, hiking boots and poles, stove, and more (maybe) and headed to Sedona. The drive was around 2 hours.
One big potential issue for our night in Sedona. The forecast was for rain and storms!
Sedona is known as Red Rocks Country. Once we made the turn off the interstate we started seeing evidence of this. It was so much unlike Missouri!
Our first stop was at the Sedona Visitors Center. We needed the restrooms, water, and lunch. I talked to a really helpful ranger at the desk as well. I hadn’t planned too many particular hikes for Sedona. For whatever reason, I’d found it difficult to get maps or find exact things to do so I’d figured we’d wing it…I love planning things, but as I’ve told you before, Louie enjoys winging them and being more in the moment, so I figured he’d help out with this part The ranger asked how long we were there and when we told him, well, this afternoon and tomorrow morning, he didn’t yell at us that we hadn’t allocated enough time (we wanted to be in the Grand Canyon by mid-afternoon the next day) but instead made a few really helpful suggestions.
We first visited the Bell Rock area, which was just north of the visitor’s center. The sky didn’t look too menacing yet so we took a short hike up and around.
My mom is probably worried about all the red dirt. Back in South Carolina where I grew up she hates the red dirt that we would track into the house. It stains, and she would shout “Red Dirt Alert!” to make us stop in our tracks and remove our shoes.
Hiking: fashion? Those wire trash cans filled with rocks were to mark the trail. There were lots of signs warning us to stay on the trail, which was great until we’d get to a place that was only rock and didn’t seem to have any trail markers at all. It was fun to explore though!
Here you can see the bad weather is starting to move in. We knew we weren’t terribly far from shelter though.
I took this of Louie when he went up a big higher than I felt comfortable doing so. Some of the rock climbing made me fear of heights kick in. Or perhaps my fear of rock climbing.
When we got back to the car, it started raining, and storming, and kept up for a bit. We decided to go to the store to pick up a few things we’d remembered that we’d forgotten (ha, good writing there!). The storms had blown threw by the time we were done (Sedona is full of shops and restaurants and places to stay, not remote at all) and we went to drive around something called Red Rocks Loop, that the ranger had recommended. It was definitely still a little rainy but not bad. We didn’t really feel like hiking though…we are tough, sure but rain hiking is more work. The loop wasn’t that exciting, so we finished and then went to our campground.
I’d booked a night in a campground north of town called Manzanita Campground, run by the Forest Service.
Our first time by the campground we missed the turn entirely, but found it the second time. There’s a steep one lane driveway down to the campground and the sites are along Oak Creek. Other than the rain and the fact that the only facilities are vault toilets, I loved it.
We set out for a short hike before dinner-I’d seen there was a trailhead right across from the campground and we though we’d check it out, just for a few minutes. The rain had stopped, but it was still really wet.
The hike went through an area that had had a fire recently. Later Peter was telling us about it, but now I can’t remember. It was recent, and it luckily didn’t spread too much further than the small area.
(This article I found seems to be about it. We were camping in the Oak Creek Canyon area.)
I wanted to get back to camp before it was too dark, so we only hiked for about 45 minutes. It was neat and we were sorry we couldn’t go further.
It was a cold night. I believe it ended up being close to 40 degrees overnight, hard to believe it was May and Arizona! (Not everywhere in Arizona is hot like Phoenix, but that’s easy to forget). In any case, we made Trader Joe’s Vegetarian Chili with some sides and enjoyed a beer by the campfire. Sort of. The fire was hard to start due to the dampness (we managed, we are used to rain here in Missouri, despite the camp host almost refusing to sell us wood) but the real problem was that the firepits were about 3 feet tall and blocked all the heat. Oh well.
I didn’t sleep that well-first night camping, cold…it was a bad combination. We got up and loaded up the car and headed further north. We decided to hike the West Fork of Oak Creek Canyon.
The ranger had recommended this hike, yes, that’s how we roll (also Leslie and Peter did, but they recommended several hikes that we didn’t get to do either). He’d said he loved it because it was unlike anything else in Sedona. At first that sounded appealing, but then we started to worry, what if it was like Missouri instead? It was lush and green, but luckily it wasn’t really like Missouri.
The trail goes along the Oak Creek the whole way. It crosses the creek 13 times along the way (and then again on the way back). The creek crossings were quite a lot of fun!
It seemed they meant you’d have to walk down the creek for 2 3/4 miles! Maybe in some seasons it would be lower, but that just didn’t sound terribly fun to me.
After finishing the hike we had a quick picnic lunch before heading north (again) towards the Grand Canyon National Park. And that’s where I’ll end today’s blog post, with the two of us in a car, drinking sparkling water, and driving north, looking forward to the next portion of our adventure.