Thursday, March 27, 2014

Exploring Sedona with New Friends

We were thrilled to learn that Bill and Christine, whom we met in Tucson a few weeks ago, would be coming through Cottonwood during our month here. These two are avid mountain bikers, like to hike, and have a Montana fifth wheel too.

Our first outing was a visit to the Palatki Heritage Site. This site preserves an ancient cliff dwelling and pictographs in the red rocks just outside Sedona. Hans and I looked down into this beautiful site last week when we hiked to the top of Bear Mountain. Though it's free to visit the site (with an Interagency or Red Rock Pass), you must make a reservation in advance as they limit visitors in order to monitor the fragile site.

The ruins are located in a huge alcove that protects them from rain. It is estimated that 60 - 90 people lived here for a period of about 100 years. The ruins are over 95% original. I'm only sharing photos of the dwelling from a distance as the closeup photos were just too close to get'll have to visit the site and see them in person!

Seen from the parking area, the dwelling site is in the round alcove bottom center
Bear Mountain is the white peak top center.

You can see a small portion of the ruins in this zoomed shot.

There were many different colors of pictographs at this site, made by different materials, over many years.
These drawings are black because the paint element is mixed with animal fat
and their placement over a fire pit caused them to turn black.

Following our Palatki visit we drove to the nearby Aerie trail head for lunch and decided to hike up Doe Mountain about half a mile away. The Doe Mountain trail is short but steep and gives access to incredible views of the rock formations surrounding Sedona and points South and West. We were able to walk around the top of the mesa and scope out a future bike ride in the valley below us.

Bill and Christine introduced us to Geocaching on top of the mesa and we had a neat encounter with a collared lizard who let us get very close and observe him for at least 20 minutes without moving a muscle!

Hans living on the edge....

Christine teaches us about geocaching, Hans found the box!

Collared lizard with hedgehog blooms!

What a beauty!

Today we mountain biked the valley below Doe Mountain. There are several miles of interconnecting trails going around various rock formations, crossing washes, climbing short hills and twisting through the beautiful landscape. Some trails were smooth and swoopy, some were rocky and rough. The views were wonderful and the 60 degree temperature made the 12 miles pleasant.

Just one of many fantastic views...this is from the Aerie trail.

Bill and Christine will be moving on soon but we hope to reconnect in Washington this summer. A big thanks for hooking us on Geocaching and for hosting dinner!

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Red Rock Country isn't Free, But it is Priceless

The Red Rock Country around Sedona is so popular that the town is able to charge you to park and visit many of the loveliest sights. Because a lot of the land is interconnecting federal and county land you may use your America the Beautiful Interagency Pass OR a Red Rock Country Pass (available in daily, weekly or annual versions).

There are also a couple of State Parks in this area (Red Rock and Slide Rock) charging the typical State Park entry fee AND there are three local parks charging their own entry fee. It's good to be aware that you could roll up to an entry gate and be faced with a per car or even a per person fee.

We visited Red Rock State Park one day because I had it in my head that it was one of the places included under the America the Beautiful pass umbrella. Not so, as noted above it's $5 per person to enter. We stayed and enjoyed the small visitor center and the riparian landscape of Oak Creek as well as some easy trails, but it's doubtful we'd pay to visit this site again.

From the Eagles Nest trail you get a nice bird's eye view of Red Rock State Park.
Oak Creek flows through the park providing lush riparian habitat,
during our visit in March only the cottonwoods were starting to green up.

Check out those ears!
Lots of mule deer at Red Rock State Park.

We did discover a lush corridor of Oak Creek that would be an excellent birding site and it's FREE: Page Springs Road. The Page Springs Fish Hatchery is located here and has trails among the fish ponds and a small visitor center where you can learn about fishing in AZ. BONUS: there are at least three wineries right near the hatchery visitor center!

This is one of the indoor cold hatcheries...there are also open air ponds for warmer water fish.

Another day we drove several miles North of Sedona to hike the West Fork Oak Creek trail. This is one of the parks that charges an entry fee of $10 per car. It's popular because it's fairly easy and you hike along the creek, making this park a magnet for families in the summer. Don't expect solitude here at any time of the year!

This trail was different from others we've hiked recently because we stayed at the bottom of the canyon and admired the rock formations from below. There's lots of trees in the canyon which were just barely beginning to bud. If all the trees were fully leafed out, the rock views would be pretty limited!

The creek sits at about 5500 feet so we walked through a forest of Ponderosa Pine and mixed deciduous trees.

The trail ends about 3.5 miles in where the canyon narrows considerably.
We watched 3 men don water shoes and continue up stream.

Light plays with rock well in these canyons.
Here, calm water meets curved red rock to create a tunnel effect.

Massive red and white rock walls towered over us.

Sunday, March 23, 2014

Woods Canyon: A Lightly Traveled Oasis South of Sedona

Today being Sunday and the middle of spring break season, we wanted a trail that might be less crowded than the typical Sedona trail on a weekend. Woods Canyon Trail delivered on so many levels! The trail begins at the Red Rock Ranger Station on hwy 179; since we're staying in Cottonwood it was easy to access the trail head without going through the crazy Sedona weekend traffic.

I believe this trail is lightly traveled because it doesn't have the dramatic rock formations that Sedona is famous for. What it does have, at least when we hiked it, is water. Even though rain has been sparse this winter, Dry Beaver Creek was flowing in several sections making this a very memorable hike. In a wet year the flowers must be incredible!

Here's a snapshot of what you'll see on this trail...

After crossing a riparian area at the trail head you enter a rather open meadow that soon enters the lush plant life of Dry Creeks floodplain. Though there was no water for the first couple of miles, it was obvious there was moisture underground and the flora was thriving.

At about 2.5 miles in you hear water burbling over rocks and soon thereafter see water flowing in the creek bed strewn with rounded gray boulders, watched over by naked white sycamore trees just barely beginning to bud.

At about 3.5 miles you reach the confluence of Woods Canyon and Rattlesnake Canyon and you are in for a treat! Here, the contrasting rocks are mesmerizing. Giant red sandstone boulders on the North meet the round gray boulders of the creek bed.

We went just a little beyond the confluence, maybe a quarter mile. At first it seems the trail might be done, but soon it's visible once again. We turned around at a point where we could see some beautiful red rock in the distance.

This trail had so much going for it. Gentle ups and downs, bringing you from the lush creek level to just high enough for canyon views. The plant variety was incredible and at this time of year deciduous trees were just starting to bud. Though it's high season in Sedona we saw one family group that were hiking out after spending the night and one other solitary hiker. It was a wonderful day!

We haven't seen oak trees in months.
Here, they added a touch of yellow to the landscape.

The sight of water at about 2.5 miles was breathtaking.

Today must have been tree day for me, I was entranced by so many of them!
This sycamore looked like it had been through a lot in its long life.

Another sycamore with embedded rocks.

The canyon wall to our North was red sandstone topped with black lava.
The lava slows the erosion of the sandstone.

A close up of one of the sandstone formations above shows that thousands of years from now
this area may look as dramatic as other parts of Sedona.

Looking back down canyon the colors are amazing!

We're approaching the confluence of Woods Canyon to the left and Rattlesnake Canyon on the right.

Here, Woods Canyon wowed us with color...
I was fascinated by the contrasting stone!

This was our turn around point.

Another gorgeous oak tree!

I loved the spooky look of these naked sycamores.

The end of a truly gorgeous day on the trail!

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Beautiful Soldier Pass Loop in Sedona

Amazing trails are commonplace in Sedona and the loop we chose today was no exception. Located at the North end of town, access is easy, yet parking is limited. Luckily, though the blocks right outside the trail head were marked "no parking" just a couple blocks away there were no restrictions...and the vehicle was still there when we were done!

We hiked the following trails: Soldier Pass, to Brins Mesa, to Cibola Pass, to Jordan Trail. We added on about a mile while on Brins Mesa taking a side path to the edge of the was a worthwhile addition.

We were joined today by Butch and Carol, fellow RVers whom we first met briefly in Wilcox, AZ last year about this time and again at Roper Lake. These two active Utahans spend at least half the year on the road so the chances of meeting up again are very good. We love meeting fellow hikers on the road!

Today was the first time I forgot my camera so all photos were taken on my Android phone. It has its limitations but did a decent job overall. I'll let the photos take you there...

7 Pools; this was the only place on the trail where we encountered jeep tours.

On Brins Mesa it's worth it to take the trails along the East rim.

Abstract female tree?

At the end of the Brins Mesa edge trail we rounded these cool oozy looking rocks...

We were treated to some wonderful spires at the edge of the Mesa.

Happy hikers: Hans, Lisa, Butch and Carol.

One wild Manzanita!

We love Sedona!