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Sunday, September 13, 2015 : From Sedona to Phoenix


This morning, the weather is much brighter than last night. We have plans for some hiking on Sedona's famous red rocks. After all, they are the reason why we came.


Are we beginning to get spoiled ? This morning, breakfast is decent, that's all. Rather than having it next to the outside pool, in searing heat, we choose to stay in the air-conditionned room.


Then, as usual, skype with the family, and we leave the hotel.


Red rocks in Sedona, AZ

Red rocks in Sedona


We are in need of inspiration for some hiking on those famous red rocks. We drive up from Oak Creek to Sedona, looking for information. We stop on a parking lot, and I have a conversation with a mountain biker who seems to know the area pretty well. He recommends us Cathedral Rock, while telling us that the parking lot there is very small.


There is also a local curiosity. At each trailhead, there is a box in which each hiker is supposed to put $5, earning the right to hike all day long. In France, I wonder how many hikers would actually make such a voluntary contribution. Here, the system looks like it is understood and accepted by everyone, and nobody seems to be in charge of enforcing it.


On our way to Cathedral Rock, Sedona, AZ

On our way to Cathedral Rock


This is Sunday, and the actually very small parking lot at Cathedral Rock is already absolutely packed. Not a single space is remaining ! There is no way we can park here, we have to give up.


Cathedral Rock is a large rock surrounded by trails, with no shortage of access roads or parking space. We are going to try another side. The place is famous. We imagine that, from the summit, there has to be an unobstructed view stretching miles around, if the weather remains bright, of course.


Cathedral Rock, Sedona, AZ

Cathedral Rock


We drive around Cathedral Rock, looking for another access. Basically, we have to drive up to Sedona, and then back to Cathedral Rock on another side.


After a while, we realize that we are spending too much time driving and not enough hiking. That's too bad, and our frustration is beginning to creep up.


Near Red Rock State Park, Sedona, AZ

Near Red Rock State Park


After crossing Sedona again, we drive down to Red Rock State Park entrance but, since this park does not lead to Cathedral Rock, we do not enter. We are now actually looking for some information office, and, after looking for a while, we find one in downtown Sedona.


There, a very helpful assistant takes time to describe a map of all trails near Sedona. And, after losing some time at Cathedral Rock, her extensive knowledge of all local parking lots is welcome. Kudos to her !


We end up choosing Devil's Bridge, a rather short hike listed as "easy". In the past, I had already expressed reservations about the classification of hikes, and I stand by them. Devil's Bridge "easy" listing is more a reference to its quite moderate length than to its actual strenuousness. But at the minute we stop on the parking lot, of course we have no way to know that yet.


Near Devils Bridge trailhead, Sedona, AZ

Near Devil's Bridge trailhead


The trail to Devil's Bridge is made of two sections. From Vultee Arch parking lot, we leave tarmac for a wide and almost flat trail, accessible to ATVs and SUVs. This first 1.2 mi. section has absolutely no difficulty.


Immediately after, the gentle walk becomes a real hike. Devil's Bridge Trail is not long, only .8 mi., with an elevation gain of about 400 ft, but it is really strenuous, very irregular, with rocks, roots, steps, a flight of stairs, and so on. Of course, Marie's sciatic comes back at full throttle, and she makes it to the top absolutely washed out.


Devils Bridge, Sedona, AZ

Devil's Bridge


Devil's Bridge is something of an oddity. According to its name, it is a natural bridge, but it would be hard to find a river in such a dry place. There is not a single drop of water ! So, is it a natural bridge or an arch ? It looks like in Sedona, otherwise strict definitions may apply in their own way.


Once at the top, Marie takes some rest, while I tell her misfortune to a hiker with one of her friends, with whom I have just started a conversation. I very casually call Marie "The First Lady of Love", and it is the start of a totally impromptu dialogue :

  • I know of only one other man who would call his wife "The First Lady of Love", and that is ...
  • Yes, I know, Bruce Springsteen. Where do you think Bruce took his inspiration from ?


We needed nothing more to start a detailed conversation about the Boss, his music, or the number of concerts we have attended (I have a 13-0 lead). The ice is broken, I have just made a new friend. She is a yoga teacher. If there was only one new age town in the United States, it would be Sedona. The density per acre of yoga instructors and other trendy occupations is absolutely stunning.


Marie takes a few pictures of the two friends, which I email them later.


View from Devils Bridge, Sedona, AZ

View from Devil's Bridge


Devil's Bridge is already quite high along the mountainside, and the view of the plateau where we started from is really gorgeous. However, we notice that clouds seem to be piling up. This does not bode well for the rest of the afternoon.


We have a rest for quite a while. Then, after a few more pictures, we take the way back. The way down is hardly less strenuous than the way up for Marie, who had to take a painkiller. We take it easy.


We see our new friends a few more times and talk again about our trips, and we finally part ways on the parking lot, after exchanging our email addresses.


Red rock near Wilson Canyon, Sedona, AZ

Red rock near Wilson Canyon


When we made it to Sedona last night on State Route 89A, we noticed the landscape was beautiful but, because of dusk, we could not really enjoy it. So we drive back to where we arrived, up to Wilson Canyon.


Sedona is a place for hikers. There are trailheads all over the place, with parking lots of varying sizes. At Midgley Bridge's, we take the very last space.


Midgley Bridge, Arizona State Route 89A, Sedona, AZ

Midgley Bridge, Arizona State Route 89A


As shown on the picture, clouds are piling up quite fast. I have due consideration for Marie's sciatic, so we only walk a few hundred feet along Wilson Canyon. The trail may be flat, steady, without any difficulty, we nevertheless do not insist.


Marie sits waiting for me while I walk some distance to take a few pictures of Midgley Bridge.


Wilson Canyon, Sedona, AZ

Wilson Canyon


I also take a few pictures of Wilson Canyon, quite narrow, but neither too deep nor too wide. Nothing in common with Grand Canyon, this one is not nearly as oversized, it is more of a human-size canyon, if I can say so.


While Marie is still resting, I walk a rather short trail that passes under Midgley Bridge and leads to a viewpoint on Sedona. Clouds are becoming pretty dark, and we have no intention to linger on.


Then I walk back to Marie. While on our way back to the car, we can feel the first drops of water. The time to take the road and cross Sedona again, and a downpour of biblical proportions, as mountain storms often are, is falling on us. Obviously, there is no point in making another attempt at Cathedral Rock. We now just have to take the road, then the interstate, to Phoenix where, according to my friend last night, there is absolutely nothing to see.


With some patience, the storm eventually stops. When we refill the car in Mayer, the weather is again bright, very hot, and very humid, since it has just been raining. We are now in a desert area, and we soon can see our first giant cacti, the famous saguaros (pronounced sa-wa-ro).


After crossing the mountains and losing a lot of elevation (Sedona is 4,300 ft high, Phoenix 1,100 ft high), Interstate 17 takes us to Phoenix, a really vast, flat and monotonous city, without any skyscrapers, with the exception of its financial and administrative (it is the capital city of Arizona) districts. Since our hotel is on the eastern edge of the metropolis, we have to cross it end-to-end, which means about 45 miles and 1 hour of driving. We pass close to the airport where I made a brief stopover in 2002.


Speaking of size, Phoenix is on par with Los Angeles. The metropolitan area has 4.2 million residents, 2/3 of the population of Arizona.


Our hotel is very nice and comfortable, and it's too bad we are staying just one night. Since we made it quite early, we have time to use the swimming pool, where we are the only guests. Marie particularly enjoys the warm water of the jacuzzi, which seems to have an almost miraculous soothing effect on her sciatic.


I found a card in the room, so I order dinner on the phone, lasagna for Marie, and a large sandwich with meatballs and cheese for me. Later in the night, I walk down to the car again, while another otherwordly storm is falling. Well, in theory, we are supposed to be in the middle of Sonoran Desert !

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