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Wednesday, May 12, 2010

SEDONA, ARIZONA WOWS! COME PREPARED


Round a bend in the road and suddenly ahead of us is the towering beauty of Sedona, Arizona's Red Rock Country. The world is full of these WHOA!!! moments, so we enjoy the gasp of delight and pause though a bit weary from a day of traveling so we can walk around in wonder and drink in the majesty of these mountains. Little do we know that within a few days, we will call these rocks of wonder by their names, see them from many angles, and walk among them. Now we thin-slice and we are WOWED!

Sedona is built around tourism, and I'm not embarrassed by wanting to do “touristy” things. But Sedona is also a wonderful destination for Arizona residents. We landed in Phoenix and in a less than the two hour drive to Sedona the temperatures were a comfortable 20º cooler. Temperatures were still in the mid 70's but nice in the dry climate. Drive down from Flagstaff, and the temperature might be 20º warmer, and that's nice too on a May day where the Oak Creek offers plenty of fun water opportunities.

Back to our very leisurely ride into Sedona. The pulloffs where we stop to admire the scenery are often trailheads to the many hiking trails that wind their way through, up, and over the red rock. There are a lot of pulloffs, and Rob and I pull off at every one. We walk around, ease ourselves short distances up the trails, and take a lot of pictures. Trails are marked by difficulty and length. All the tourist info I looked at offered info about hiking, and, in fact, warned about water intake. Take a quart of water for each ¼ mile hike.Scenic Sedona's Red Rocks

An important stop along the way on Highway 179 is the Ranger Station at Coconino National Forest. If you read Third Age Traveler regularly, you know we're fans of the National Park System and the Rangers we've met. In my pre-trip research, I learned of the Red Rock Passes needed to visit many of the area's facilities, and I want to get this necessary purchase out of the way. Happily we find that our National Parks' America the Beautiful Access Pass suffices in most cases. The Ranger, a Brooklyn transplant who says he treats New Yorkers very well, helps us map out suitable trails, points out where we would need reservations—at the Palatki Ruins, an archeological treasure of the Southwest. There are roads and the Honanki Ruins that sound very exciting but which require a 4-wheel drive vehicle. In addition to the maps, we leave with other information to enhance our visit. You can get a lot of information by visiting them online at www.fs.fed.us/r3/cocino.Bell Rock, Sedona AZ

We're staying at Los Abrigdos, a lovely suite resort that once again allows us to unpack and make ourselves at home in a one bedroom suite with dining area, kitchen, living room. The balcony allows us early morning views of some red rock formations, and the sun requires broad brimmed hats even at 7 AM. The sun feels very good as it warms our Northeast skins, and we are very aware of the dryness of the air. I love the fact that this part of Arizona is a no-sweat zone!!!

Once again the suite works to our advantage. Our plan is breakfasts in, and for the most part, picnic lunches in one of the many spots the area has available along the roads, and dinners in one of the many fine restaurants in Sedona. If you're looking for exciting nightlife, Sedona is not the venue. We've been warned that stores close early and not to expect to find a lot of restaurants open for a late dinner. It works for us as there's so much to see that we expect to enjoy the quiet, natural surroundings of the evening.

BEFORE you head to beautiful Sedona, read as much about it in as many tour guides (Foders, Frommers, Moon, etc.) and note the repeats between the books. Go to http://www.visitsedona.com/ for a good overview and the address of the Chamber of Commerce Visitor Center—a must place to visit early in your visit--visit their website for information on the National Forests and Monuments that surround Sedona, and if you're heading from Phoenix, stop in the Coconino National Forest Ranger Station en route, get your Red Rock Pass ($5.00 daily or $15.00 weekly), or better yet buy a National Parks Pass, particularly if you are an older citizen or if you're traveling with others. Entry into National Parks is $5.00 per person, and you might find the yearly pass good not only for this trip but for other visits as well. A Ranger will help map trails, point out excellent sunset vista points, and suggest tours, etc. Take the advice on drinking plenty of water. I also took my friend Mary's advice and came with collapsible treking poles. This is uphill/downhill rocky hiking, and I found them very helpful--actually for me, necessary. Why the prep---so you can relish the many, many, WHOA!!!! moments you are going to enjoy.

We've done a lot of planning for this trip, talked to Mary, a friend who wintered here, and also to Nina, a Phoenix friend. I'm anxious to share our experiences with you.

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