Red Rock Country!

Trip Start Mar 20, 2010
Trip End Aug 25, 2010

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Flag of United States  , Arizona
Saturday, May 15, 2010

We arrived in Sedona, AZ last Saturday and stayed for the week.  Our friends Mark and Steffi were very generous and let us use a time share that they had but could not use which was going to expire by the end of May.  It worked out perfectly - (thanks Mark and Steffi!!).  As much fun as we had in New Mexico, we were also excited for Arizona, home of the Grand Canyon.  Once we crossed over the Arizona state line, we were surprised to see how quickly the terrain and sky lines changed, and to learn that we had entered the Pacific Time Zone, kicking us back 3 hours from our native homeland (NYC).  

Petrified Forest
Upon leaving Santa Fe, NM, we were faced with a 5hr drive to Sedona, AZ.  To help cut the drive in half we stopped at the Petrified Forest, just over the Arizona border.  This park contains a 28 mile road that offers various overlooks and vistas of the Painted Desert, and offers a handful of hiking trails here and there.  Some points of interest provided views of historic pueblos, petroglyphs and colorful petrified logs.  We were blown away with the overlooks and the various colors that you could see for miles.  The highlight of this afternoon was the Blue Mesa overlook and Blue Mesa Trail that took us to the bottom of a some badlands (Bruuuce) canyons.  The pictures we took will show the unique color palate of the badlands which are just stunning.  Another interesting point was the point where the historic Rte 66 use to run through the park, this highway is no longer used in Arizona, or other states, as now replaced by a grander interstate.  
About 2 to 3 hrs later, we finally reached Sedona, AZ.

Sedona, AZ
When we originally arrived in Sedona, it was night time, so we obviously couldn't see the surrounding area/colors, however, what we could see were the outlines of the mountain tops which were illuminated by the quarter sliver of the moon.  It really was a breath taking scene, one that our camera couldn't capture.  However, the morning greeted us well, when we opened our shades we realized that we were surrounded by 360 views of Red Rock!  As you make your way anywhere in town you have the assurance of having a huge red rock mountain looking down at you, any way you turned the views were amazing.  We didn't really know much about Sedona so didn't really have an expectation, however, we soon learned that Sedona is home to numerous shops, restaurants, galleries, spas and new age/holistic enthusiasts as well as over 100 hiking trails, mountain biking connoisseurs, and numerous adventure/outdoor activities.  The question then becomes, what should we do first, and how much can we get in while we are here!  We basically spent the week hiking, eating, swimming and relaxing.  

Sedona Hiking
Sedona is this small town that sits in the middle of Red Rock Country consisting of Coconino National Forest, Oak Creek Canyon, Munds Mountain Wilderness, Red Rock Secret Mountain Wilderness and Sycamore Canyon Wilderness.  Each area offers different trails across different types of terrain and different levels of elevation.  On the first morning, as soon as we got a chance we kicked on our hiking boots and hit the trails, each day we did a little something, some times more than others.  

Day 1:  We did trails up and around Midgely Bridge, between Sedona and Oak Creek.  These trails led down to the bottom of the Oak Creek Canyon where people were hanging out on the slick rocks and cooling off in the Oak Creek (Huckaby trail).  We also took trails that led us through more wilderness ultimately ending at a fall that no longer fell... all dried up (Wilson Canyon Trail). 

Day 2:  Now more confident in the trail map, we expanded our horizons and took a more lengthy trek, about 6-7 miles that encompassed a few different trails up and around Sedona Red Rock (Brins Messa, Soldier Pass, Cibola Pass and Jordan Trails).  These trails were great because they offered different types of terrains and levels.  On the way up to the mesa Brian yelled "SNAKE!" and when we looked back there it was along the trail bright blue and green just looking up at us..Brian had almost stepped on it.  We had no clue what type of snake it was, but, later on our last day of hiking we learned it was a Garter Snake (non-poisonous thank God).

Day 4:  We explored lower part of Oak Creek and Red Rock and did a very red trail around the Bell rock and the Courthouse Butte (Bell Rock Pathway and Courthouse Butte Loop).  This trail was interesting in that there was no relief from the Red Rock, where our other treks provided mixtures of wilderness, creeks and red rock, this was 100 percent red / desert like with the sun beating down on us.  The view were worth it though.  On this day we did about 7-8 miles, it was long, but nice.

Day 6:  We took a drive up to Oak Creek Canyon.  We first went to check out Slide Rock State Park.  Here you walk down to the creek where you will find slick rock, layered on top of one another and the creek flushing through like a whirlpool, and people sliding down the rock into the ending quarry.  Really cool.  A school bus had just unloaded herds of kids that monopolized the area, it was fun to see them run-a-mock, down the slide and cliff jumping into the quarry.  After a bit, we continued further up in hopes of finding one of those unmarked trails which was right off the highway, but it was impossible to find.  The thing is, Sedona is covered head to toe in hiking trails, some are easy to find where Trail Heads pinpoint entrances and provide guidance, however, there are other trails that you need to kind of know they are there etc.  None the less, we ended up at the Red Rock Secret Mountain park and took the West Fork Oak Creek trails, and this was a great trail through the wilderness that led us through canyons, flat rocks and creeks, really beautiful.  Given the hot day, the shade of the wilderness gave us comfort!.  We did about 5 miles or so, and the terrain wasn't too hard, but the scenery was great..we need to save our energy as we are headed to the grand canyon next.

On days that we didn't hike we chilled by the pool and took drives here and there.  One day we took a drive south to Jerome and Prescott AZ, nothing too exciting.  Jerome was a small old mining town that was set on the Cleopatra Hills of AZ, this reminded me more of something that you would see in Europe.  It was kind of creepy to have this town that just rested on the cliffs, where one road was literally just one top of the other road, zig zagging upwards, where stairs would just lead you to one road then another.  After a quick walk around, we jumped back into the car and headed to Prescott.  This town was larger and had more of a vive.  Prescott's town center was a square, that use to be home to western saloons known as "Whiskey Trail".  After lunch at the Firehouse Kitchen, we headed back to Sedona.  On the other off day, we took a short drive to Crescent Moon State Park, this was a cute park that had short trails here and there, but was most known for the creek it offered where, similar to Slide Rock State park, you could rest on the flat rock, walk along the creek or jump into a quarry.  This park was much smaller than Slide Rock, which made up part of the attraction on going there, there weren't bus loads of kids running-a-mock.  

Places where we ate which were worth mentioning:
Picazzos:  Excellent pizza and pasta, serving organic alternatives This was really really good!
Joey's Bistro:  Basic mafia run Italian restaurant, can't go wrong, delicious
Oak Creek Brewery & Grille:  Little happy hour action
Szechuan Sedona: Chinese and Sushi - Of course we needed our sushi fix. - we watched the LA Lakers and Phoenix Sun basket ball playoffs
Fire House Kitchen - Prescott, AZ, very good, excellent Mac-n-Cheese
May 15 - 22
Starting tomorrow we have our work cut out for us.  We begin our trek of what is known as the Grand Circle, all the well known national parks within AZ, UT and CO.  Given that everything is a "Must See", we had to hone in on our Wall Street skills and make some ruthless executive decisions and prioritize, especially with Memorial Day upon descending upon us (limited availability).  We were never in a position to make plans beforehand because we were not quite sure when we would be where, and to be frank, how best to tackle the situation.  But, it wasn't until after we arrived in Sedona, that we finally got to finalize our plan.  So, we are hitting the Grand Canyon tomorrow for 2 nights, then Monument Valley for 1 night, Moab for 3 nights, Bryce Canyon for 1 night, then finally Zion for 2 nights, after which, we get ready to party in VEGAS BABY!.  Stay tuned.

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