Travel Stage: After Quartzite and Lake Havasu (take 1), before going back to Lake Havasu and SoCal
Date Range: February 4 – 17, 2017
Summary: We pick up some friends who flew out to Phoenix from our homestate of Michigan and head to Sedona! After a quick overnight at Lake Pleasant, our friends Tyler & Jen and we explore the Sedona area, as well as some other awesome natural wonders in Arizona including Meteor Crater, Walnut Canyon, Montezuma’s Castle, Painted Desert, and more. At the end of our visit we meet back up with Josh & Kali of The Freedom Theory before they head further east and we turn back west.
After leaving our new good friends in Lake Havasu, we headed to Phoenix to pick up some good friends from back home from the airport who we’d made plans with to explore Sedona with for a week! None of us had ever been to Sedona, and quite honestly we didn’t know that much about the area, beside the fact that people seemed to talk favorably about it.
Friends Visit! – Tyler and Jen
Our friends Tyler and Jen were from back where we had lived in Michigan before we hit the road. Tyler was Tom’s best man, and we have been great friends for years. We were SO excited to have them coming out to stay with us and have some adventures together!
We picked them up at the Phoenix airport after dropping our rig at the Lake Pleasant Recreational Area about an hour north of Phoenix, and that is where we spent our first night. This area was actually really cool because of the lake and the thousands upon thousands of huge saguaro cacti that forested the area!
We then drove up to the town of Cottonwood, where we stayed in the Cottonwood Thousand Trails park just south of Sedona for the week we were there. This was great because one of the things we loved to do with Tyler & Jen in Michigan was going wine tasting, and Cottonwood had quite a few wineries for us to try!
We were surprised at the fact that they did grow wine in Arizona – it’s not something you think of much. The Verde Valley (the Green Valley in Spanish) is one of the few regions in Arizona that it is done, the others being Wilcox and Sonoita-Elgin. The harsh climates produces some very complex wines, and we found a few that we really liked.
From our campground we could just barely glimpse some blazing red rocks to the north. We were all so excited to go see what Sedona was all about! From our cursory research we realized there was going to be a lot to see!
We drove into Sedona by way of the west that goes through the Village of Oak Creek. As we approached the red rocks came into view and we all gaped in awe. I couldn’t believe I had never heard more about this place, that no one had said “You absolutely HAVE to go to Sedona because it will blow your mind.”
Now you’ve heard it. Put Sedona on your map if you have been living under a rock like we had been! We stopped at Bell Rock so that we could get closer to the bright red rocks and climb up for an even better view into the valley. Oak Creek and Sedona are literally nestled in the middle of these beautiful red cliffs and rock formations that look like out of a fantasy. It was a great start to an absolutely fabulous week.
Devil’s Bridge Hike
Excited to get out and experience more of these red rocks, we found a hike out to a cool place called Devil’s bridge. It was spectacular! The hike is pretty easy until about the last half mile where you climb up to the natural bridge, but the climb is totally worth it!
Tom unfortunately got sick halfway through the hike and we were not able to explore any more that day, but it passed quickly. The rest of us also appreciated the afternoon of rest after the strenuous climb!
Cathedral Rock Hike
Another famous formation in Sedona is Cathedral Rock. It’s uphill all the way to a supposedly amazing view. The guys were itching for another hike (now that Tom was feeling better), but Jen’s knee was hurting her and a sheer climb didn’t sound that great. So, she and I sat at the bottom of the hike drinking wine while Tom & Ty did all the hard work!
We were told by many that we needed to go to Jerome, so we did. It is a decent drive pretty much up a mountain, and the town is an old mining town that is built into the hillside. Here we did some more winetasting and poked around in some galleries and shops admiring the local artistry.
Montezuma’s Castle & Well
The Verde Valley has a rich Native American history. The valley was home to many peoples, all who developed very unique ways to live in the harsh desert climate and live off the land. The remains of ancient dwellings can be found in many places. The most prominent one is arguably Montezuma’s Castle.
After the Castle, we had to go see the Well, which is really more of an arsenic water spring. Natives lived around the pool in the rocks and built irrigation systems to water crops in the surrounding land, but did not drink the water directly due to its high arsenic content. The water is also carbonated, and is home to several species that are found exclusively in the Well. Click here to learn more about Montezuma’s well.
We hiked around and really enjoyed reading the plaques about the various desert plants that the natives used for natural remedies, food, clothing, and building shelters.
Big Day Trip
One day we decided to hit a few landmarks significantly far away, so we loaded up in the truck for a long drive. We drove up the 89A that climbs up the canyon to Flagstaff and found snow at the top!
Our first stop was a National Monument of yet another native dwelling area. This one was most impressive, and you could actually go inside some of the remaining dwellings! The homes were built into the sides of Walnut Canyon and there must have been hundreds of people living there at one time.
Meteor Crater is a meteorite impact crater approximately 40 miles east of Flagstaff. Despite its importance as a geological site, the crater is not protected as a national monument, a status that would require federal ownership. It is privately owned by the Barringer family since Daniel Barringer first suggested the formation was created by a meteorite impact. It was designated a National Natural Landmark in November 1967.
The crater was created about 50,000 years ago by a meteorite estimated to be about 150 ft long traveling about 26,000 miles per hour. Meteor Crater is nearly one mile across, 2.4 miles in circumference and more than 550 feet deep. The meteorite was mostly vaporized upon impact, leaving little remains in the crater.
Petrified Forest & Painted Desert National Park
Our last stop for the day was the Petrified Forest and the Painted Desert, and we were pushing the clock. The parks closed at 5 and it was almost 4:30pm. The ranger pointed us toward the coolest stuff and off we went!
These tree rocks are amazing! Here is how the petrified wood formed:
During the Late Triassic, downed trees accumulating in river channels in what became the park were buried periodically by sediment containing volcanic ash. Groundwater dissolved silica (silicon dioxide) from the ash and carried it into the logs, where it formed quartz crystals that gradually replaced the organic matter. Traces of iron oxide and other substances combined with the silica to create varied colors in the petrified wood. (Wikipedia)
Petrified Forest National Park was the first and only park we’ve been to that allowed dogs on the hiking trails! We took the pups (who were riding with us for the long haul because we were planning to be gone so long) on the Crystal Forest Trail. They seemed to enjoy the tree rocks too!
We then transitioned into more of the “Painted Desert” section of the park, where the road wound us through striated dunes.
It was a long day of driving, but so worth it to see so many cool things!
Extending Our Stay in Sedona
We were really enjoying the Sedona area, so decided to extend our stay. Plus, we had news that some other friends were coming to the area – Josh and Kali of The Freedom Theory! After parting ways with us in Lake Havasu, they had traveled the north route to the Grand Canyon before coming down to Sedona. We had been in communication and had told them how amazing Sedona was so they decided to work it into their route before heading further east.
More Sedona – Bell Rock, Chapel Rock, Downtown
It was so fun to play tour guide after getting to know Sedona the previous week. We guided Josh and Kali through the town, stopped at some of our favorite spots, and explored a few more that we hadn’t seen yet.
We also did some exploring of the downtown shops. There are so many art galleries in Sedona, it was so fun to just look at all the fun paintings & sculptures. It was nice having the excuse that we live in RVs so we couldn’t take anything home, but we all swore that if we ever had a sticks and bricks home again we’d fill it with fine art like we saw there! (you know….after we’re millionaires…)
We had wanted to do a hike that we didn’t get to with Ty & Jen due to time and weather factors. It is called Soldier Pass and it takes you by the Seven Sacred Pools. The place looked amazing, so we invited Josh and Kali to do the hike with us. Unfortunately Josh had to work, but Kali came with us. To our dismay, the parking lot to this incredible hike was teeny tiny and full, with no overflow parking anywhere. After 15-20 minutes of waiting for a spot to open, we gave up and headed back to a place we knew would have parking and a great hike: Cathedral Rock.
Tom said the hike was so good when he and Ty did it that he wouldn’t mind doing it again. Also, they had found a couple of “vortex sites” and Kali really wanted to see some of those!
The hike was intense – it is only about a mile to the view point, but it is ALL uphill. At times we questioned our cause, but Tom assured us it wasn’t too much further and that it was going to be worth it.
He was, of course, right.
Another Goodbye! Relationships on the Road
We said goodbye AGAIN to Josh and Kali who we definitely were not going to cross paths with again anytime soon. They were heading to the East Coast and we were heading back to the West Coast. We really had gotten so used to hanging out and being close to them – first at Palm Springs, then neighbors at Quartzsite, and then Lake Havasu! One of the many wonderful things that have happened to us on this journey that we talk about often is the wonderful people we meet on the road. We had made some really great new friends during the past few weeks, and look forward to meeting up with them again on the road.
We did a collaboration video with Josh and Kali where we talked about how we maintain relationships, old and new, while traveling. You can watch our discussion below.
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