Wednesday, February 09, 2011

Sedona - Day 1

The journey from Spokane was two-legged, a layover in Phoenix and then Flagstaff. When we landed in Flagstaff, there was snow all along the tarmac. Snow? When I talked to the rental car fellow, he said, "Well, it is Flagstaff." Though I have never been to Arizona before, I had heard it is a place where people go to get away from winter. I couldn't leave town soon enough. What I found out is that Flagstaff is 7,000 feet above sea level. And I was relieved to find out that Sedona is 4,500 feet.

We travelled along the windy road in the dark, a narrow road etched alongside rock formations. We got a taste of the red and wished it was light so we could see it all. Even in the dark, the lights of Sedona were striking when we rounded a corner.

When we got out of the car, the temperature was much colder than we had anticipated. In my rebellion against winter clothes, having had more than my share in this long winter, I choose to bring along a fleece as my only outer clothing. I was imagining spending a good deal of my time in front of the TV.

When we woke up this morning, the sun was peering over the mountains and we watched the red rocks glow as the sun shone on them. Sedona is in a valley full of red sandstone formations. And the sun, which there is plenty of here, shows them off proudly.

After finding one very groovy natural food market, New Frontiers, we set off for the Trolley tour. We found out that once upon a time (The Permian Period) this area was submerged in water. With a high iron content, the sandstone ionized which causes the red colour. Some of the taller formations are lighter in colour; these were not submerged under water.

Our tour guide said that in 58 million years, these sandstone formations would be no longer here because of erosion. "You picked a good time to visit here," he told us.

The highlight of the tour was the Chapel of the Holy Cross, completed in 1956, built into the mesas of Sedona. Here it is:

After the tour, we decided to try the most famous hike, the West Fork Trail. The trail is considered to be one of the best in all of Arizona. When we drove up the Oak Creek Canyon, we came across an outdoor market where vendors sold jewellery. Many vendors. A lot of jewellery. We were a bit late by the time we got to the trail. We considered whether this was good timing or to do it another day. In the end, we decided that we would pay our $9.00 parking fee and do as much of the trail as we could.

Not too long along the sandy trail, the sun vanished behind the mountain, and it got chilly. And then, this is what we encountered:

Yep, that is snow AND ice. Oh, we had seen the signs that advised hikers to watch for icy conditions but since we are from Canada, we thought - yeah, yeah. We walked on finding ground when we could and walking gingerly where we could not. But when we came to the part where we had to cross the creek, the partly ice-covered creek, we decided to call it a day. We drove back to Sedona, very grateful for the sun shining through the windows.

Next plan was to go a visit one of the vortexes. Vortexes are energy centres; there are 4 primary vortexes in the area though all of Sedona is known for being a powerful spiritual centre. We decided on Bell Rock. Most of the formations are named because they resemble shapes. Here is Bell Rock:

Often vortexes are earmarked by juniper trees that grow twisted because of the energy. All alongside the parking lot, I saw several twisted juniper trees. The parking lot. Because I did not get out of the car. The wind that raged all day was bitterly cold because the sun had disappeared behind a rock formation. We decided to go and see the sun set.

One of the best views is from a mesa near the airport. We drove up to the top, with a number of other vehicles, found a parking spot and found the lookout point. From this view, we had a perfect view of the sunset as well as the most exposed area to the wind. I had wrapped myself in my pashmina scarf with several layers underneath, but that wind found its way through it all. We abandoned the idea. But not without a picture:

My travelling companion, Rose and I, have drew a list of travellers' tips when coming to Sedona.

1. If you insist on coming in February, bring warm clothes.
2. If you insist on coming in February and doing a hike in a canyon, bring along cleats.
3. If you have a four-hour layover in Phoenix, think about renting a car from there. The driving time from Phoenix to Sedona is 2 hours. Unless you really want the Carvel ice cream they sell at the airport. Which I recommend. Highly.
4. And finally, for heaven's sake, plan on staying more than 4 days.

That's it for now. I am sure we will have more advice. I am going to find my earplugs. The wind is howling outside my door.

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