Come with me, if you will, back to those early, hope-filled days of 2020 . . .
Fresh from our first trip to Southeast Asia (fresh once the horrid jet lag subsided) and readjusting to normal life in the Central time zone, we had no inkling that an invisible boogeybug had already begun its global rampage. After unpacking, I Tetrissed my suitcase into it’s basement storage spot with a wink and a wave and a “See you in March!”
Soon thereafter, “novel coronavirus” entered the lexicon of every human on earth. Though I managed to evade viral contamination (as far as I know), my 2020 solo spring break trip to Sedona, Arizona, wasn’t so lucky. Missed travel is hardly the worst consequence of the worldwide pandemic, but for the travel-obsessed, it hurt.
At first I resisted cancelling, refusing to hit the abort button on my plans as I enviously watched friends and acquaintances with earlier spring breaks squeeze in their trips. But as March wore on, the rising caseloads chipped away at my stubborn denial and made room for rising dread. Sars-CoV-2 was upon us and nobody was going anywhere for the foreseeable future. I raged a bit and almost certainly shed a few tears but ultimately pulled the plug. Still, I vowed with righteous indignation and a raised, shaking fist that my Sedona trip was merely deferred, not dead.
Then, last month, a good two years later than originally planned and with lots of virus-tainted wastewater under the bridge, I found myself bound for Sedona at long last.
To be honest, the general outline of this trip wasn’t markedly different from the Phoenix trip I took six months earlier: hike in the mornings, chill in the afternoons. What was different was the scenery. The two-hour drive from Phoenix to Sedona was beautiful, but in a way you’d expect from Arizona: Sometimes flat, sometimes hilly, but always shades of brown studded with prickly green things.
Until the end of the journey . . .
Rounding a bend, I was met with this breathtaking wall of magnificence.
Upon seeing this majestic sight, a stream of jubilant expletives followed by a torrent of tortured questions spilled audibly from my mouth: Holy shit! Damn that’s beautiful! Oh my freakin’ Lord! Why oh why don’t I live here?! What possessed me to choose a life in the upper Midwest?! How soon can I move here?! Surely they need ESL teachers down here?! What are the housing prices like?!
This continued unabated for two or three minutes, until I came upon this . . .
. . . at which point I came to my senses, thankful that I live somewhere few like to visit. Even some of Minnesota’s worst features—its winter temps and its state bird (the mosquito)—weren’t seeming so bad right about then.
Grateful that I have the means to escape to places like this from time to time and then escape back home, and newly reassured that the stress and upheaval of cross-country relocation was not in my immediate future, I made my way to A Sunset Chateau B&B, which instantly validated the excitement I had felt upon booking it.
The interior was like being in an art museum—an eclectic mix of Native American pieces, Asian art, and random others that somehow managed to meld beautifully in a way I could never pull off at home.
The view from the balcony revived those “Why don’t I live here?” feelings, which ended up being a recurring theme of this trip.
The room was matched by grounds that were strewn with tasteful décor and delightful whimsy.
Frankly, I would have been perfectly happy staying at the B&B all day every day, but since I’d waited two years and flown 1200 miles to enjoy Sedona, I figured I’d better get out there and do just that.
So I did some hiking, first on the Airport Mesa Loop, a lollipop route that only a doofus like me could get lost on (equally to blame were unmarked tributary trails and my poor sense of direction). This may or may not have led to several calls to the husband who, from the living room couch, may or may not have used the Find My i-Phone feature and a map on the laptop to locate me and, after several false starts, get me heading in the right direction.
My confidence shaken but not stirred, I nonetheless set out on two out-and-back trails—Little Horse and Soldier Pass—neither of which caused any navigational embarrassment. They did cause, however, many instances of what I like to call Dropped Jaw Syndrome.
My final hike was to Devil’s Bridge. I hemmed and hawed for several days over whether I should even bother with this hike. Probably the most famous hiking destination in Sedona, it is known to be overrun with people at all hours. However, it’s famous for a reason—not only is it the largest sandstone arch in the area, but it can also be walked upon . . . for a price.
That price is time. Though there were probably only a dozen or so parties ahead of me, that line constituted an hour’s wait to walk out onto the arch (the tacit agreement is that the person in line behind you takes your picture, the person behind them takes their picture, and so on). Deciding that the thing of beauty was the arch itself, and that me standing on it didn’t enhance its beauty in any way, I forewent the Insta-style photo shoot and just admired the result of nature’s erosive forces.
I also made sure to get in some shopping. The Uptown area is quite touristy and will more than meet your need for Sedona-themed T-shirts and scented candles (though now that we have two cats, I’m in constant need of scented candles), but the Tlaquepaque Shopping Village was something else.
With lots of upscale art galleries, it was more of a look-but-don’t-buy type of experience, but what an experience it was! Paying $7.07 for a tiny cup of chai—that’s an experience. I did manage to find a personally meaningful switch plate cover that was less than our monthly mortgage:
Just walking through the village, which the website describes as “authentically fashioned after a traditional Mexican village” and included “vine covered stucco walls, cobble-stoned walkways and magnificent arched entryways” was a pleasure. In fact, it brought to mind parts of San Antonio’s Riverwalk area.
The food in Sedona was just good, not great. Surprisingly, even the recommended Mexican food I ate here—a mere 240 miles from the border—was no better than what I’ve eaten at Mexican restaurants in Minnesota. But I did stumble upon two gustatory destinations that were worth writing home about. First, perhaps you didn’t know, but I’m something of a donut connoisseur. I’m like a sommelier, but with donuts . . . a dommelier, if you please. It is on this distinguished, self-designated credential that I can recommend Sedonuts, and not just because of its cleverly portmantaued name.
In case you, too, fancy yourself a dommelier:
I also made the ten-minute drive south to Javelina Leap winery for a flight of local flavor . . .
. . . which enabled me to round that scenic bend one more time.
And I paid a brief visit to the well-known Chapel of the Holy Cross, which I might have swung by on a spur hike of the Little Horse Trail if my phone battery, and thus my camera, hadn’t been at 1%.
Even a cold, gray, rainy day in the middle of the trip didn’t dampen my spirits. With plenty of books and crosswords, a spacious room, a jetted tub, and the entirety of Yellowstone, Season 4 on demand, I was cocooned in bliss.
The only downer was getting lost on that first hike and (sigh) taking the right trail but in the wrong direction on the return from Devil’s Bridge, adding two miles to my overall hike. Oh, and this got me down, too . . .
. . . but it also put some oomph behind my Visit Here, Don’t Live Here personal contract, which wavered constantly.
In the end, Sedona was definitely worth the wait. With at least 196 trails left to
get lost on hike, I’m sure a return visit is in my future.
Rare piece of useful information: If you intend to hike Sedona’s trails and have a national parks pass, bring it. Some of the trailheads require you to buy a special parking pass (which you can get in town) and leave it on your car’s dashboard, but a national parks pass can be substituted.