Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Oh Sedona! (I sing this in my head to the tune of My Sharona...)

We spent the last week of March in Sedona, Arizona with my parents, and I was reminded of how the desert can reinvigorate a tired soul. Sedona's one of my favorite places and I would move there in a heart beat if it worked out. The week leading up to Sedona, I was dragging. Every run felt like a chore, but at least I had something to look forward to. Saturday the 23rd was my birthday and we planned to leave after work, but due to a snow storm, we didn't get to leave until the following morning. After seeing many stray dogs in New Mexico, we finally made it to Sedona. Instead of telling this like a story, I'm going to break this up into 3 sections: The trails, the food, and the shops (really the shop).

The Trails

Monday 3/25
AM: ~9 miles. Went from the Chamber of Commerce to Schnebly Hill Road (dirt 4-wheel drive road), up 2 miles and back down to Huckaby trail out and back.
This was a very runnable route with a bit of elevation change. You can also go up to Schnebly Hill via Mund's Wagon Trail, but it is rockier and harder to follow. The 4-wheel drive road is beautiful with water running alongside of it and plenty of shade. There are lots of Pink Jeep Tours that go by, but it's a kick to run alongside and show the passengers that you are having a lot more fun than they are and that you are going almost as fast. The Huckaby Trail is also beautiful and a little more technical. You wind down some rocky canyon edges and come out at Oak Creek.
My dad and Cory enjoying the views while mountain biking up Schnebly Hill.

Tuesday 3/26
AM: 5.5 miles Bear Mountain
Cory and I planned to run Bear Mountain, but we soon learned that very little of it was runnable. It was very technical and steep. Fortunately there are cairns marking the whole route otherwise the trail would be difficult to follow. About 1/3 of the way up you reach a plateau with great views, but it gets even better. Another rocky scramble brings you to another plateau and finally you can see the top of Bear Peak where you are headed. At the 2nd plateau I hit my head on a tree branch hard enough to see stars, but we were so close so we continued on. The view at the top is worth it. 360 degrees and a glimpse of the snow-capped San Francisco Peaks. I found the way down to be more difficult and twisted my ankle badly. I think we were the first up the mountain for the day and it was worth it. As we came down we there was a lot of slower traffic.
We ran into my parents and Mayla on the way back down, just under the first plateau. Mayla was so happy to see us! 

Mayla pensively gazing across the valley. 

PM: ~6 miles Marg's Draw and Broken Arrow back to Marg's Draw and back to the campground
These trails are probably the most under-rated trails of Sedona. I rarely see other people, probably due to heavy off-road jeep traffic nearby. Even though these trails are relatively flat, the views are stunning and the slick rock is invigorating. In my opinion, the best time to run this route is just before sunset.
View near the Marg's Draw trailhead.

Wednesday 3/27
AM: 11-12 miles West Fork Trail
This is probably the most stunning hike in all of Sedona. Plenty of water and lush vegetation surround you with steep canyon walls on either side. The trail map says that round trip should be about 6.5 miles, but it is difficult to know when the trail terminates and every time we've done this hike it has felt longer... not to mention that it takes a lot longer than a 6-miler should. My dad brought his GPS watch and it said that we hiked 12 miles. Not sure if it was quite that long but Mayla was about at her physical limit by the end. We always bring extra socks or water shoes so that we can go an extra mile or so at the end. Most people turn around when the dirt stops, but we wade through the creek. There were still patches of snow so the water was so cold it made you want to pee your pants. Mayla, the anti-water dog, actually seemed to have a great time (probably because we let her off leash).
Family photo on the West Fork Trail.

The water was freezing, but it's worth wading through for these views.

PM: ~8 miles Campground to Marg's Draw to Broken Arrow to Chicken Point and back.
If I lived in Sedona I would probably run this route every day

Thursday 3/28
AM: 3-4 miles Cathedral Rock
This trail is beautiful, but because it is one of the town's major "vortexes" it is annoyingly overcrowded. The problem is that this hike is very technical and a lot of people make the climb who simply shouldn't be on the trail. Near the top there is some class 5 scrambling and nearly everyone heads for the easiest crack which causes a bottle neck. People just keep coming down while people at the bottom anxiously await their turn to get up. There is no organization and nervous dads try to help their crying 6-year-olds while old couples nearly die of a heart-attack hand in hand. As a WFR I might add that it would be extremely difficult to do an emergency rescue on Cathedral Rock. Anyway, if you can get over all of these annoyances, this hike is amazing. The view from the saddle is stunning and it is fun to climb up some of the "harder" cracks and routes and get past the masses. Oak Creek meanders past the trailhead and it's nice to splash around and cool off at the end.
With dad at the Cathedral Rock saddle.

After Mayla stole a little girl's snack, the dad offered to take a family photo for us...

PM: 4 miles Huckaby Trail
While Cory and I ran, my parents enjoyed their last hike with Mayla.

The Food

We have tried a few restaurants in Sedona, but there's one we just keep coming back to: The Oak Creek Brewery. I come from beer country and this brewery makes my favorite beer. All four of us (Cory, me, mom, dad) go nuts for the Orange Blossom beer. Fortunately it is popular enough that they have made it a permanent seasonal beer. It is the most flavorful "light" beer that I have ever tasted. Though they garnish it with orange slices, the beer itself doesn't taste like oranges. It has a robust blossom taste with a smooth vanilla after-taste. I'm salivating thinking about it. The food here is also excellent!
We like sitting outside so that we don't have to wait for a table.

Orange Blossom beer in the moonlight.

If you are doing a hike along Oak Creek Canyon and you need some lunch for the trail, you should stop at Oak Creek Market along 89A. They serve delicious sandwiches, coffee, beer, and pastries (some of my favorites like Rugulach and Hamentaschen). There is a nice garden to sit in in the back and the people take pride in what they make.

The Shop
Sedona has a lot of tourist shops. Skip them and go to The Hike House. The Hike House has a selection of both technical and lifestyle clothing as well as a few hardlines like shoes and packs. They also have a great energy cafe where you can load up on some of the world's best (and biggest) oatmeal cookies, make your own trail mix, and get some smoothies in a hydroflask to enjoy during the heat of the day. But what really makes this place great are the people. Owned and operated by Greg and Gracie Stevenson, a dynamite couple full of life and energy, they go out of their way to provide a great experience for tourists and to make an impact in their local community.  Greg recently came out with a book detailing his favorite trails in the area and they have a well-designed website where you can also find great descriptions of local hikes. If you stop by and Mike is there, he can whip out a map and give you some dynamite route ideas... he used to do more trail-running before he injured his knee and he can tell you where to get in a great run while avoiding the masses.

Bonus Videos of Mayla Being Hilarious
Mayla prancing around like a cat in the bath...

She somehow thinks rolling around on the rocks will make her dry.

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