Excited to see more of the iconic southwest, we headed towards a city that has been on my radar for a while; Sedona, AZ.
The scenic byway leading into town was jaw dropping. The red rocks in the evening light were glowing all around as we weaved through the main streets. Right away we noticed this town was a bit different than expected. Most of the streets showcased high end shopping plazas, golf courses, large rich houses, and expensive looking restaurants. Tourist town indeed, but I was under the impression it was more of an adventure lovers destination. The next day proved that wrong as well.
We spent the night in the parking lot outside of the fire station along with a few other vanlife-rs. Waking up at 5am, we headed to the most popular hike in the area to beat the crowds, and boy am I glad we did. By 6:30am the trail head parking lot was full. This is for the picture-famous Devil's Bridge Trail. We knew it was going to be a mad house, but sometimes those insanely popular destinations are fun to see, and even better to people watch at. This trail was gold for both.
The trail and surrounding forest was gorgeous. Since we were one of the first ones on the hike for the day, it was quiet and we could take in the scenery in peace. I could see spending months exploring the vast amount of national forest land that surrounds Sedona, filled with hiking, biking, and 4WD trails that most visitors don't even acknowledge, so it seemed. The red rocks were striking as we ambled down the trail and ascended to the main attraction, Devil's Bridge. With only a few people there at the time we arrived, we were able to walk the bridge and take pictures at our leisure. As time went on, more and more hikers arrived, and a line soon formed for everyone to get their own 'I am an adventurer' picture in the middle of the bridge. It was hilarious.
We observed a wide array of human wildlife, including loud long islanders shouting repeatedly to their teenager that the center of the bridge was “perfectly fine” for them, even though they had a crippling fear of heights. We also witnessed a self important photographer from Las Vegas who, at this point, would win Outdoor's Douchiest Asshat, having his wife (with constant verbal commands from him) take several karate kid-esque photos of him on the arch while loudly discussing the expensive things they have and “important” places they have traveled to, causing both of us to pray that this would be the day and the time that the arch would collapse. I honestly wish we had stayed a little longer to get a picture of the photo line that started to form, but crowds usually make us run, and we did.
On the hike back to the car, we passed by hundreds of people and literally tens of jeeps. The Pink Jeep tours were out in full force. This was around 10am, so it was good to remind ourselves going forward that the hikes that are highly publicized need to be started just after dawn if not before.
We briefly walked around downtown to window shop and watch other people window shop. After the millionth question about the trailer, we became quickly exhausted of people and decided this town was too much, so we headed to Cave Springs campground for the night.
The campground had okay, crowded, close together sites, expensive showers, and a general smell from the pit toilets, but we were at least finally able to have a fire. Typically, I don't feel the need to go into detail about the pit toilets, but these had a very unusual feature. In an attempt to keep the smell out of the toilet chamber, these facilities used a forced air down draft that maybe the initial prototype for those new Dyson bladeless fans. What this meant for the user is that your time on the toilet smelled a bit less, but at the high cost of wind-burned nether regions, and first hand experience of what pooping in a wind tunnel is like.
Onward to Flagstaff. We have visited Flagstaff a few times in passing while moving across the country, and while we had good first impressions, we hadn't spent more than 12 hours in the city at one time. We also needed a fair amount of time to plan the next section of our trip.
Most of our time in Flagstaff was spent in Single Speed coffee shop, which abutted downtown, where we were able to get a read on the general population in the area and get some serious planning done. I also had an over-the-top cold brew coffee with a heaping portion of vanilla ice cream in it....you know, for morale.
Outside of our planning we did walk the city and do some chores in the area. Our overall impression did not change too much, and still consider Flagstaff a great option for a future home. Small-ish city, lots of outdoor activities, access to larger cities, university, small airport, general neutrality to the population, etc.
At night we boondocked in a Cracker Barrel parking lot with a mountain view. This also allowed me to drag Eric in for breakfast and coffee in the morning, which was a huge plus over a Wal-Mart parking lot.
After visiting Petrified Forest National Park, we stayed another night in this comfortable lot but did not indulge in the biscuits 🙁
In the end, we were happy to have time to check out Sedona, but do not plan on vacationing there anytime soon. Although beautiful, there was too much of a 'spiritual instagram' vibe going on around town that I would not seek out this place for a get away. If I lived in Flagstaff, there are definitely some areas to explore. I would also return as a photographer, for some classic desert shots. Other than that, I came, I saw, I ran as fast as I can.
8/10 would NOT park in a Sedona Whole Foods parking lot with trailer again. (old, 'spiritual' white people EVERYWHERE)
Song: Never never gonna give you up – Barry White