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Monday, October 12, 2009

10/12/09 I’m Seeing Red

To finish my vacation adventures (sorry for my acrophobic ‘safety’ issues in the last blog LOL)….

After driving out the East gate of the Grand Canyon, we stopped in Cameron for lunch. We headed down to Sedona with side trips to the Wupatki Indian ruins (we decided we’re not ‘ruins’ people after stopping at several as we thought they all looked the same) and then to Sunset Crater; an old volcano (we both loved the lava fields…my geologist DH was in heaven). We also stopped at the overlook in Oak Creek Canyon to get a great view of the switchback road we’d be driving down and the cliffs.

We checked into our hotel, grabbed a glass of wine and walked to the edge of the mesa the hotel is on where we sat on a rock to watch the sunset overlooking the red rocks of West Sedona and then to dinner.

We were up at dawn to watch the sunrise and hiked around the base of Bell Rock and Courthouse Butte. Got some breakfast and then we decided (well, I picked two and let DH chose) to do a harder hike (labeled ‘Moderate’ instead of ‘Easy’); and he picked Doe Mountain. I thought it would be OK, since the hike was only a mile and a half up about 500’ to the top of a mesa and then several miles around the mesa top…and heck, I’d just done so great hiking into the Grand Canyon and all (what I didn’t know then…).

We arrived at the trailhead and signed in (in case you disappear from the face of the Earth they know where to start looking for your body). We saw some others on their way up and passed a few on their way down. The trail was steep switchbacks on one side of the mesa and was a pretty good, but skinny path.

I was doing OK until about 1/3 of the way up and then as I followed DH the trail seemed to deteriorate. We were suddenly on a VERY narrow path, but we could still follow it, with the cliff on the side and then it got even worse…we were ducking under bushes and near the top we were climbing straight up rock faces and trying to wedge our fingers and toes into the crevices so we could climb.

About this time I’m cursing the Red Rock Ranger station for labeling this a ‘Moderate’ hike…and screaming ‘If they call this ‘Moderate’ what the heck do they call ‘Hard’? I about need some ropes and carabineers to get up these rocks as it is! This is supposed to be HIKING! NOT rock climbing!!!’ Well, I made it up the last steep section with DH bracing me at points and then up the last rock ‘chute’ to the top of the mesa.

The plants here were very spaced out with wide areas between them. We followed the ‘trail’, which quickly disappeared, but it was no problem as the instructions said it circled the edge of the mesa, so we just stayed near the edge. We got to the edge overlooking Sedona and sat for a snack/water and to take some photos.

About that time I had to ‘go’, badly…so I found the tallest ‘bush’ I could to crawl under (about 4’ tall) and had DH be the lookout…we hadn’t seen anybody since the beginning of the trail. Sure enough here comes a helicopter! I scrambled to finish as DH said he was told to lookout for hikers, not helicopters…smarta$$. Off we went to circle the edge back to the trailhead. There was no path to be found, but we knew we’d find the trailhead down if we just stayed on the edge. After another hour and it looked like only ½ the mesa circled to us, we ran into the lady we had seen going up the trail before we’d started. She was completely lost and had been circling the mesa for a long time. After some discussion on not being able to see our parking lot/cars from where we were and our experience from where we’d just been, we decided to forgo the other ½ of the mesa’s edge and cut across it to take a peek on the other side (she was an experienced hiker from Colorado).

We were joking along to each other about how we were glad we’d signed in below…perhaps a helicopter would come by before dark…could we spell ‘HELP’ with rocks (they're all red like the earth)…etc, etc. Another ½ hour picking through some thicker brush and getting stabbed by cactus plants and we came to the other side. We saw the cars far below and set out along the edge to where we thought the trailhead would be.

I swallowed my pride and discussed how much more difficult I’d thought the trail up was (wondering how I was going to get down all those rock faces) and to my surprise she complained as well and described the same problems coming up. Soon we saw another couple and after calling to them, to our relief they were at the top of the trailhead (they had just gone a short way onto the mesa and returned the same way…thank goodness someone had some sense). DH and I then realized it would have taken us several hours more to get here if we had circled the entire mesa…it was MUCH larger than we thought and the top loop could not have included the entire mesa.

We started down the path with our new group and we weren’t 2 minutes down the second switchback when I knew we were walking much further West than we’d been on the way up (I could tell from looking at our cars far below). Just as I thought that the lost Coloradoan said the same thing! Suddenly, we were all describing our rock climbing on the way up and the other couple was laughing at us…apparently, the three of us had gotten off the normal trail! They thought they’d seen the point where we’d made a wrong turn on the way up because they’d almost done the same thing. Well let me tell you, we were laughing the whole way down…it was a much longer trip on the way down then the route we’d taken, but at least I was walking and not climbing! I should have known better than to let DH lead…he’s got a terrible sense of direction, and like any man, he’d never admit he was lost of ask for directions. We were happy to cross our names off the sign-in as we returned and I parted from our company with ‘Thank-you.’ and ‘Happy Trails!’ as they laughed.

We cleaned up back at the hotel where DH and I used tweezers to get out the small cactus needles and he even had one huge one that was about 4” into his thigh…that’ll teach him not to ask for a women’s help!

We drove up to Oak Creek Canyon for our last trail that afternoon. It’s its own microclimate of lush foliage and tall pines along a creek in the middle of that desert. It was a cool, tranquil FLAT hike…just what we needed.

We said goodbye to the red rocks of Sedona and to Arizona as we woke to our first rain (made it easier to part) the next morning for our flight home. It’s a beautiful place.

1- Sunset Crater lava field
2- Bell Rock
3- On top of Doe Mountain Mesa
4- Oak Creek Canyon
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