The holidays had come and gone and although I had a general idea of what I wanted to do in January, I didn’t have a definite plan, so I waited for a “sign”. Sure enough, on Christmas day I found out that my cousin, who lives in Sedona, had fallen early in December and broke her ankle and foot. The injuries and resulting surgery put her in a rehab center for a few weeks, but by Christmas, she was eager to go home. Since I was planning to go to Quartzsite later anyway, I offered to stay with her for a few days to help her get “on her feet”. Suddenly the perfect plan was born (in more ways than I knew at the time)!
Traveling in the winter always makes me a little nervous, but the weather cooperated with just a few snow flurries in Pueblo as I headed south on I-25. The temperatures rose slowly as I pulled into my first stop at the Bernalillo KOA campground. It’s a nice little spot close to Albuquerque with clean, warm restrooms; hot showers, good cell service, and decent wifi. It was still in the 20’s at night, so I figured it was worth the price to have some comforts (including an electric hook-up) on this leg of the trip.
The next day was clear and calm as I headed west toward Arizona along I-40 and caught a glimpse of hot air balloons over Albuquerque. They reminded me of the part of my life when I was a hot air balloon pilot, many moons ago. I believe I would have chased them – just for old time’s sake – if I didn’t have to make it to the next campground before dark.
Around noon, I stopped at a rest area to grab a quick lunch and restroom break. When I started the van up again, the dreaded check engine light came on. Drat! What could be wrong now? It sounded like it was running fine, so I decided to keep going and prayed the warning light would go off. It does that sometimes.
I-40 West took me all the way to Flagstaff, where I decided to turn south on I-17 rather than take the narrow, curvy SR89A to Sedona. I was trying not to fret about the van’s engine but figured I would have more space to maneuver should anything go awry while I was in transit.
Without so much as a hiccup, I made it to one of my favorite campsites at the Dead Horse Ranch State Park in Cottonwood, AZ. I decided to camp there because my cousin had company in her guest room on New Year’s Eve. Besides, it was a great excuse to visit this special place again.
New Year’s Day 2018
A long time ago I heard – and still kind of believe – that what you are doing on New Year’s Eve is an indication of what the year ahead will be like. If living in my mini-home and waking up to new scenery every so often counts ~ then sign me up! How about you? I hope you signed up for a year full of family and friends; great health, love, prosperity, wild adventures and the time to enjoy them all!
And me? I signed up for all those things too. However…life on the road is never so predictable. You can imagine my chagrin when I started the van on New Year’s Day to find that the check engine light was still on. “No big deal,” I thought to myself. “I’ll get it checked out when I get to Sedona.”
Driving back UP to Sedona from Cottonwood proved to be the litmus test. There’s one 7% incline along the 18-mile stretch between the two villages, and just to confirm that the check engine light was a big deal the van decided to shift into limp mode which only allowed me to crawl up the “mountain” at 30 mph. Yikes!
The good news is, I wasn’t stranded. After I reached the top of the hill, the engine shifted into the regular gear and ran smoothly to my destination. Later I learned that the “limp mode” is designed to protect the engine and give the driver a way to limp into a mechanic to get it fixed. I also found out that you can pull off the road, shut the engine off, then restart it and it will give you full power again. At least for a while.
I’ll spare you the rest of the grimy details in this post. The van is fixed now and ready to hit the road anytime. This won’t be the last time you will read about this incident, but for now, I want to focus on the great time I had in Sedona while my cousin (and the van) was healing.
I found it interesting to learn that this thriving village was named after the first postmaster’s wife Sedona Schnebly in 1902. Unlike many other old west towns, the early settlers came here in the late 1890’s for the climate, scenic beauty and ability to farm – not to mine gold, silver or copper. Sedona was a true pioneer woman who worked hard to help her community prosper in mind, body, and spirit. The town named after her continues that tradition!
My cousin lives in West Sedona where real people live, work and shop. It also happens to be the epicenter of more hiking trails than I had time to set dusty boots on. Right out her back door was a nice little green belt called Sunset Park. One morning I was out exploring the area and found it connected to the Airport Loop Trail, a 3.3-mile hike around the airport and one of the famous vortex sites in Sedona. The hike was gentle with a little elevation gain and spectacular views.
Please forgive me if I overuse the words “spectacular views”. It just comes with the territory. Here’s a bird’s eye view of Thunder Mountain and Coffee Pot (far right).
On this trail, I met one of my cousin’s neighbors, who cheerfully invited me to tag along with her. She comes to Sedona every winter for a few months before going to St. Lucia to teach first aid courses for the Red Cross, then back to Ohio for the rest of the year. Her time in Sedona is spent volunteering at the library, the local food bank and helping folks along the trails. She was kind, smart, helpful and a great indication of the rest of the women I was to meet during my visit.
Another out-the-back-door hike was the 3.4 mile Carroll Canyon Hike. This rim walk skirted Carroll Canyon and presented spectacular views of spires and red rock formations near the Village of Oak Creek, south of Sedona. All the trails I hiked on were well maintained and had good signage. Over the next few weeks, I hiked most of the legs (options) on this trail and was never disappointed!
In case you are getting tired of seeing spectacular views, here is a shot of a couple javelinas browsing on one of the neighborhood lawns. These javelinas appear “cute” and pig-like, but apparently, they smell bad and if provoked, they will defend themselves with their sharp tusks. Like any wild animal, I gave them a wide berth.
One quiet afternoon during the week, I visited the historic Tlaquepaque, home to several boutiques selling everything from fine art, outdoor gear, Sedona-chic apparel, quilts, ice cream and…
sweet cactus cupcakes!
Tlaquepaque’s art galleries offer something for everyone! One of my favorite artists (maybe because of his story) was bronze sculpture-artist, Chris Navarro. He started exploring his creative side as he found himself getting too old and broken from his cowboy days as a rodeo bronc and bull rider.
Many of Chris’s sculptures tell a story, like the (possible) self-portrait above.
As it turned out, I was in Sedona for three weeks rather than a few days. That’s almost long enough to feel like a local. Having walked most of the trails near my cousin’s home, I decided to go farther afield.
One hike I didn’t want to miss was the Devil’s Bridge. It was pretty easy going until I reached the steep stairway to the top. For some reason, I was a little reticent to climb the stairs, but when I noticed a bunch of people my age bounding down the trail – I knew it would be OK. And was it ever! This beautiful and popular hike turned out to be one of my favorites. And yes, the scenery (above) was spectacular!
Another day, the neighbor lady and I hiked about six miles on the Soldier Pass/Brin Mesa Loop. There was a mixture of shade, sun, spectacular views and a heart-racing hill or two to climb. We chatted with several groups on the trail and all agreed it was the perfect day for that hike. Well…honestly, every day I was out was perfect!
On one of my last days in Sedona, I hiked up the Adobe Jack Trail, across to the breathtaking vista on top of the Powerline Plunge, down the Coyote Trail and back to the parking lot. The hardest part was not stopping at the beautiful Mariposa Grill (near the trailhead) to quench my thirst after the long, hot, walk. If you are ever in Sedona, be sure to check it out!
Time moved along quickly and pretty soon my cousin was given permission to start putting weight on the injured ankle so she could get around by herself. As good luck would have it, the van was repaired and ready to go also.
“There’s one more place you have to see”, my cousin said. And since it was Sunday, I decided it was the perfect time to visit the Chapel of the Holy Cross. I parked in the lower parking area and hiked up the short driveway to be greeted (once again) with spectacular views and an edifice that would please whatever deity you worship. I’m not sure if an official vortex is here, but it sure felt powerful!
Speaking of vortexes (or the proper, but seldom used vortices), I’m not sure I could sense the boosted energy where I was supposed to. All I know is that I loved being there for my cousin, and her for me (since the van was sick and I didn’t have a car) as we made our way through the first month of 2018.
My advice? Go see and feel it for yourself. You won’t be disappointed!
Thank you for being wrapped up in my vortex today. If you like what you read, give it a thumbs up. If you want to share your goals for 2018, please leave a comment below. I’d love to hear about your plans.
I’m still in Arizona getting to know places like the Cibola National Wildlife Refuge, Saddle Mountain boondocking and more! There’s lots of room out here to camp, so if you get the urge, just let me know. I’d love to see you!