Pt. 2 - Slippin' into Sedona
"Forest will always hold your secrets, for that's what forests are for. To separate and hide things. To protect, to comfort, to hold, to envelop, to demonstrate, to slow down, to hold, to teach. Go to the trees to explore your questions and dreams. Go to the trees to desire and seek. The world will listen as you walk, watch, soften, and breathe." - Victoria Erickson
In case you missed it, here is Part 1 - Zion.
Sedona has long been on my watch list as a place that I was dying to go. How can you not love the idea of Sedona? The red rock canyons, the picturesque views, and the immense and perplexing and intriguing vortexes of energy that the canyons radiate.
With one free day now open in the travel itinerary, the possibilities were endless. After looking at our options (Bryce Canyon (too close), Moab (too far), were all considered), we decided that breaking up the boring trek to the Grand Canyon was best accomplished by heading the 4.5 hours south to Sedona.
On our way through, however, we made a stop at Horseshoe Bend. The inlet is incredible. It's hard to describe how blue/green the water really was, especially in contrast to the rock formation around it. Horseshoe Bend was interesting, too, because it's very close to the roadside (1 mile walk round trip through the sand dunes), but completely easy to miss. It's also full of tourists, so getting a solid picture without a thousand selfie sticks in the frame is equally as difficult.
After a short pit stop at the Bend, we headed back on the road through some beautiful, but altogether unremarkable Utah/Arizona wilderness. Having come from a small town in Illinois, I understand that there are large, desolate areas of farmland and field. However, driving through southern Utah and into Arizona, was true isolation. Miles and miles of field and desert stretched out in every direction and very rarely did we come across a house or a farmstead. Occasionally, we would pass a roadside stand offering Indian jewelry or fruits and vegetables, but more often than not, they were boarded up and closed. It was eerie, truly.
As we edged out of Flagstaff, we hit a stretch of road that I'm lovingly calling the 'Sedona Squiggles.' Squiggle has become my go-to term for road switchbacks. Also, squiggle is another term for 'I need to drive unless you want me to puke in your lap.' But the squiggles were equally as gorgeous as they were lush, green, tree-lined streets. In the middle of Arizona. It baffled me that a state I saw as desert could be so lush!
Rolling into Sedona immediately made me think of Fredericksburg, TX. Adorable, but quaint, stretches of old-timey downtown, complete with old ice cream parlors, vintage storefronts, and of course, tourist information booths.
After snagging a quick lunch at a hidden burger joint (They put pickles in their potato salad!!! Just a pointer in case you want to make the best potato salad of all time...), we headed over to the Visitor Center to make sense of the immense trail network throughout the canyons.
One thing I absolutely loved about Sedona was the easy access to trails. From the main street downtown, you could go 10 minutes in either direction and find yourself at a trailhead. But there were so many options! After spending far too long in the tourist throngs at Zion, we were looking for some easy, but more remote hikes to scramble to. The time was short, too. We were looking at the very most of a day and a half of hiking, so it was important to see everything that we could.
Enter Devil's Bridge. Immediately upon seeing the pictures, we realized that this was where we needed to go. It was close, it was a relatively short hike (or so we thought at the time!), and we were going to see it!
Devil's Bridge is just what it sounds like. The canyon had eroded away much of the rock and what was left was a small rock bridge, floating majestically up in the air from the canyon and forest floor. We set off from the trailhead, looking for a quick two mile hike. What we didn't realize was how much farther from the first sign the actual trailhead was! Oops! Oh well, a five mile hike never hurt anyone!
From the top of Devil's Bridge, you could see the whole valley stretched out below and it was much calmer here than at Angel's Landing, so I felt comfortable going out on a ledge (haha, get it!) for a couple photo ops.
As we headed back down, trying to beat the sunset, I couldn't help but smile that we had so spontaneously crept into an area so beautiful. And this was just day 1!
In the morning, we decided that the best course of action was to hit one of the remaining trails as we were headed out of town. The Grand Canyon was about 1.5 hours away, so we estimated that we could stay and play in Sedona until around 1pm and still leave ourselves with enough time to drive and set up camp in the new campground.
One of the trails I was most interested in was one that we had passed on the Squiggles as we descended into Sedona. The West Fork trail was high on my list as I had done some research the night before and was incredibly interested in seeing this green Arizona.
Easily one of the quietest, most scenic trails that we had been on the entire trip, the West Fork was a luscious garden of serenity. The weather had gotten a bit cooler as a cold front was about to come into the area, but it played perfectly with the shaded trees and cool water. I couldn't believe how insanely green the vegetation was here. Numerous times I caught myself saying, "This can't be Arizona."
I could have easily spent the rest of the day exploring the trees and the rock formations, but unfortunately, we were able to hike about 2.5 miles out (ahhh that mile I missed, I will see you one day again!) before we decided to get on the road again.
I wistfully said goodbye to Sedona as we went back up the Squiggles into Flagstaff and headed the last hour northwest to the Grand Canyon.
Sedona is heavily on my list of cities to go back to. I felt that I left a lot of stones unturned (I'm so pun-y today!). There was also a huge variety of different exploratory options (Rent an ATV for the day!) that I would love to have had the time to inquire into. Not to mention, for the sake of time and adventure, we left many of the more famous hikes behind, in favor of something different.
But, it was all about the spontaneity, and it was time to move on to that big canyon out west!