It’s true! I even bought one of those badges to prove it.
Background info: Sedona is a picturesque town in northern Arizona, set in about 300 acres of spectacular National Park. It’s famed for its amazing red rock sandstone formations and Native Americans used to live there back in the day. It’s one of those places that you apparently have to visit if you’re in Phoenix, especially if you’re into all that spiritual mumbo jumbo. Since Eoin had Friday off (another reason to love Thanksgiving) we decided to head up in that direction for a little cheap ‘n’ cheerful mini break.
Day 1: Phoenix to Cottonwood
After a slightly late start, we hit the road at 10am on Friday. Because accommodation in that area is mega-expensive, and we’re on a budget, we decided to stay in a place called Cottonwood, about 15 minutes this side of Sedona. Cottonwood. Who wouldn’t want to check out such a cute-sounding town?
So off we went, with the intention of stopping somewhere en route for brunch. (Sidenote: travelling in America is a breeze thanks to the amazing infrastructure and interstate freeways. However, if you want to stop for food your choices are pretty much limited to McDonald’s, Wendy’s, Denny’s and all the usual fast food suspects.) After about an hour and a half we spotted a sign for Byler’s Amish Kitchen in a place called Black Canyon City. Now I don’t know about you, but I’m really interested in the Amish, so we decided to take a short detour in the name of fodder and general nosiness.
Byler’s, a quaint and slightly tatty little diner, was jammers so while we waited for a table I read up on the family. Unfortunately (for me) the brothers who own the restaurant left the Amish years ago but apparently still like to stick to some of the traditions. The place was full of locals and the fare was all home-cooked and rustic. Oh and the pies! They looked divine.
I ordered fried fish in a bun with sweet potato fries and Eoin went for the “country special”, which seemed to be an open beef sandwich with mashed potatoes drenched in gravy. Look see!
Unfortunately I didn’t have room for dessert after all that, as much as I wanted a slice of pecan pie, so we got back on the road. At this point we were only about 40 minutes from Cottonwood, so we decided to check out Montezuma Castle on the way.
Background info: Montezuma Castle is a really well-preserved cliff dwelling where members of the Singua tribe lived in the 12th Century (thanks Wikipedia). It’s basically a house built into a cliff face, that would have been home to around 50 people when it was inhabited. Unfortunately the house itself has been closed to the public since the 1950s but it was cool to see it from the outside. Also, since Native Americans had a bit of cop on, it was built above a lovely river (called Beaver Creek – ha!) in a really scenic little spot. I had forgotten how nice it is to walk around under trees and see non deserty vegetation. The grounds were very pretty and autumnal, most un-Arizonalike.
See? Deciduous trees! Leaves! Shade! Montezuma Castle has it all going on. Now here’s a shot of the castle itself (below). Less a castle and more a gaff, I’d call it. It’s five stories tall though and has around 20 rooms. I like what they’ve done with the place, don’t you?
After hanging around for about an hour, we set off towards Cottonwood. As I mentioned earlier, we’re on a budget so we booked a motel for the night. Staying in a motel was on my list of Things I Want To Do In America and it didn’t disappoint, although I won’t be repeating the experience any time soon. Why? Well, for a start it was freezing. (I should mention that Cottonwood, Sedona et al are at a much higher elevation than Phoenix which is in the Sun Valley.) Freezing room aside, it also stank a bit and the walls were like paper. Still, it was only for one night and I’m glad I did it.
After checking in, and getting changed, we went off to find a bar in which to have a little pre-dinner tipple. We found one, called Kactus Kate’s, which looked exactly like Moe’s Tavern from the outside – and was fairly identical on the inside too. Not very cosy and needless to say there was no fire to side beside (I know, I know, that’s an Irish thing). Still, the pitchers of beer were an affordable $6 so one mustn’t complain. Isn’t Cottonwood cute?
Over our beers we decided to have dinner in a Mexican place called Concho’s which came highly recommended (well, had 16 reviews) on TripAdvisor.com. Off we went into the night, shivering away, but when we found it at 7.30pm it was closed with a sign outside that said food finished at 8pm. At this point we were freezing over, and marvin’, so we legged it down the street to a place called The Tavern Grille, which looked damn cosy. Weirdly though, the sign outside said it closed at 9pm. I started to realise that Cottonwood was not a happenin’ town and after a cheesy and delicious broccoli alfredo, and a massive eclair, I was all tucked up and asleep by 10pm. Aw.
Day 2: Cottonwood to Sedona
Unable to wash the smell of cheap motel out of my hair, we left for Sedona at about 10am on Saturday. We got there within 30 minutes and after a quick wander around town found a cute place to get a massive pre-hike breakfast. The town itself was jammers with tourists and is quaint and adorable. The red rocks provide a pretty nice backdrop too, don’cha think?
After stopping at the tourist office to get a Red Rock Park pass and some maps, we decided to drive right up into the mountains before we got to grips with finding a hiking trail. As we climbed up it got colder and colder and by the time we got to Oak Creek Vista, at about 7,000 feet, we had found little bits of snow. The view was amazing, completely different to the red rock we had been seeing all morning. From here it was all about evergreen trees and it went on for miles.
A short drive down the mountain later we were at Cathedral Rock, the starting point for a hike Eoin had chosen. Being a boy, he’d gone for a “strenuous” one (not “easy” or “moderate”) despite the fact that neither of us is even slightly outdoorsy. So instead of a long, leisurely walk, which I would have enjoyed, he decided to squeeze any pleasure out of it and we basically climbed up a big red rock on our hands and knees. It was hell. THANKS, EOIN. Below is Cathedral Rock, and we got to the big flat green part about half way up. No easy feat.
The view from there was nice, I SUPPOSE.
After sliding back down on my arse (it was the safest way, trust me) it was my turn to choose a hike. I went for an “easy” one that, according to the map, was about one mile long. The perfect distance. Unfortunately, we took a wrong turn and ended up walking for five miles through, in my opinion, rough terrain. Thanks to a pair of punishing Converse my feet have been reduced to bloody stumps.
This is where we went wrong. Turning right was a bad idea. D’oh.
But we got back to the car well before the sun went down so it’s all good. And that concludes my trip to Sedona. Horrific mountain climb aside, I loved it. It’s not every day you get to experience this kind of landscape, is it? Bring on the next place.