I slept in the grocery parking lot with no problems and left early to avoid any. As the forecast was good I decided to go for a hike and asked the visitor center for some recommendations. After considering the options I decided on a loop that went up Munds Wagon road, then took the Schnebly hill road (dirt) to the top of a ridge before coming down Casner Canyon and returning along Oak Creek via the Huckaby Trail. As I set out the weather was exactly what I had hoped for. Revealed from beneath the veil of yesterday’s rain Sedona was stunningly beautiful. It was almost like a world from a scifi movie, or Lord of the Rings. The red cliffs and hill were draped in a forest green and terraced as if by some ancient gardener. Very picturesque.
The hike up the canyon was nice, but coming down the other side was when things got really good. The trail reminded me of trails in California (with the addition of cactus) and the weather/Sun was perfect. It was at the bottom of Casner Canyon that the adventure began. Evidently the trail was supposed to cross Oak Creek, but the recent rain had turned this “creek” into a throbbing, muddy torrent just waiting for someone stupid enough to try to ford it. That person wasn’t me and I searched in vain up and down the bank for some other way across. Eventually I just started walking in the only direction I could: upstream away from town. At this point I had left any idea of a trail far behind and was walking across boulders, over log jams, and through dense thickets of grabbing brambles. At one point I heard some machinery and followed the sound to a gardener grooming a very nice garden just on the other side of the water. The raging river and his loud machine drowned out my cries for help and I forged on, frustrated but motivated by the sight of civilization only a few uncrossible feet away.
Eventually I found some power lines and followed them to a house at the end of a dirt road. A bit farther down the road I found a person who told me there was a bridge a little less than a mile upstream. Once over the bridge I walked down the side of AZ 89A back to the spot where my trail was supposed to cross the river. I found the trail easily and was relieved to be back on the Right and True. Much to my dismay I soon discovered that this trail was supposed to go back across the river for the last leg back to the trail head. Of course I knew this was folly and so I resigned myself to walk along the side of the highway all the way into and through town, out the other side, and up the road that led to where Van Halen sat waiting. I had planned on a nice, 3 hour hike but by the time I got back I had been out for over 6 hours. Woof! I was tired, but all in all it had been a pretty fun adventure.
After resting a bit I went to check out a Christmas festival thing at a local collection of art galleries and shops. It seemed like the whole town was there and the air was very festive and welcoming. The best part was that all of the galleries were giving out treats and candies! And these weren’t some cheap-ass candies either. I gave nothing, yet took everything; a class war fought one Ferrero Rocher at a time. I left with both my stomach and pockets full of sweets.
Breaking with my established routine I decided to camp on some Forest Service land a few miles out of town and this proved to be one of the best decisions I’ve made so far. Returning to the outdoors was nice and I somehow felt less lonely than I would have staying downtown surrounded by people.
After many nights of clouds I was completely surprised at the piercing clarity of the stars. The last time I had seen skies this dark was in the middle of Nevada almost 7 years ago; not even the top of Kitt Peak could compare to that night outside Sedona. I went to bed with aching legs and a full heart.