Posts Tagged 'red rocks'

Meteor Crater

I was out in Arizona to relax and refresh. When my son mentioned that the hike he picked for us was up in Sedona, my first reaction was dismay. Although I love Sedona, I was SO TIRED. Driving up and back in one day is exhausting. I’d already booked my hotel in Chandler for the entire week. But as I thought on it my attitude changed. I love Sedona. It sounded like a great hike. My hotel wasn’t costing all that much. We needed a break. I decided that we would drive up to Sedona (after all, isn’t that a perfect trip for a convertible Mustang?) AND we would stay overnight. Yes, I’d be paying for 2 hotel rooms at the same time, but I decided it was worth the cost. I started flipping through “What to do in Arizona” sites, and saw that up by Flagstaff there was something called Meteor Crater.

First stop on the rim tour

I like looking at holes in the ground. 🙂 After all, what are the Grand Canyon and Bryce Canyon but big holes in the ground? Okay – maybe they are more like wide cracks in the ground, but still – ‘in the ground’, not above. I liked the Ramon Crater in Israel – another hole in the ground. I suggested that we drive up to Flagstaff and see the Meteor Crater, and then drive down to Sedona for dinner and stay the night. We’d get up refreshed and go hike, hang about Sedona, then drive back to Chandler. My son agreed with that plan. (He’s actually very agreeable.)

The old mining site at the bottom of the crater – those little specs of white

I went to chat with the front desk at the hotel and told them my plans, and asked if maybe they could help me find a place at a “sister” hotel and maybe get me a better rate. They explained that they did not partner with any of the other hotels up there, not even ones owned by Hilton. But, she said, what I can do is help you out here. How about if I take off one night here for you, would that be okay? Would it be okay? It would be delightful. We had a long chat about Sedona, hiking, scenery, vacations. The folks at the front desk of the Chandler Hilton are so friendly and helpful. With this plan I didn’t have to pack up and check out and then come back and check in again. Not only that, but we’d not had room service yet. I scheduled room service for the Monday we were leaving. That way we’d come back to a nice clean room and if there were any germs floating about, they should have settled/evaporated by the time of our return. (Again – all the hotel personnel wore masks and followed all the social distancing protocols.)

Just a slight shift in position and the light changes.

Hotel rooms in Sedona are expensive and not plentiful, even during a pandemic. I checked out several and finally went with one of the less expensive ones, right near the lower center of town. It was a Hilton property as I thought it only fair. 🙂 We packed up our backpacks, made sure we had suntan lotion and water, and started out after breakfast Monday morning. *laughing* I think we ended up making 3 trips back to my son’s house for things we forgot before we finally got out to the highway.

Turning my back to the crater and looking out towards the tribal lands

Although we started out cruising with the top down on the car, we were traveling at such high speeds (love the Arizona speed limits) that I pulled over and put the roof back, and turned on the a/c. That made for a much more comfortable (and faster) drive. Route 17 goes through beautiful desert, then up to the forest, over the mountains and on to Flagstaff. I found this quote while trying to remember what we saw on Rt. 17: “You will gain more than a mile in altitude on your drive between Phoenix (1,117 feet) and Flagstaff (7,000 feet), cruising through ever-changing desert ecosystems dominated by saguaro, juniper, and Ponderosa pine.” Yep – they said it MUCH better than I did.

Making our way around the rim. It’s mostly flat except for that last bit we did.

We saw the sign for Montezuma Well and made our usual jokes. We saw a sign for Walnut Canyon and thought we might stop there during this trip as well. When I’m in NJ, I have a fairly accurate sense of how long a given trip will take given the mileage and the roads. For some reason I misjudged the distance to the crater. I kept thinking “Flagstaff” but it’s actually located 35 miles east of Flagstaff. Given our late start, and the slower driving with the top down, it was around 1:30-1:45 when we arrived. We were just in time to join the 2:10pm tour.

We’ve gotten a bit further counter-clockwise on the rim, down the steep part

Obviously the website will give a much better description of the crater and why it is so cool to see, but I’ll try to do some of that here for you folk who don’t click through. 🙂 Oh – and for one of you – “The Meteor Crater RV Park is located just off Interstate 40 exit 233, less than a 1/4 mile to the right. The large parking lot includes a Mobil Gas Station and Country Store for checking in.” The brochure says this is “the best preserved meteorite impact site on Earth. 50,00 years ago a huge iron-nickel meteorite, estimated to have been about 150 feet across and weighing several hundred thousand tons, struck the northern Arizona rocky plain with an explosive force greater than 20 million tons of TNT. In seconds, the result of this violent impact was the excavation of a giant bowl-shaped cavity (550 feet deep and 4,000 feet across) known today as Meteor Crater.”

At the top, to the left, about 10:00 – you see a dark spec – the museum building (just right of the tall tan peak) – gives a sense of perspective if the little white mining dots didn’t

The land is privately owned, although surrounded by much tribal land. The guide told us that astronauts have used the site for training and they have used the site for film locations as well. You can no longer go down into the crater – the change in air pressure is so extreme (it actually gets thinner at the bottom) that many people cannot get back out. When that happens they have to call in the US Air Force to medivac them. That gets extremely costly. There is a tour on the rim, but for only a small part. Thank goodness! I can’t remember the exact distance but I know there is no way I could do a hike around the perimeter.

An old furnace at the top left. Impossible to avoid all signs of other tourists. 🙂

The tour was very interesting and just long enough, although I was a bit apprehensive from the very first things the guide said once he locked the door behind us. “We are at 5710 feet, higher altitude than Denver, CO (5280 feet). ” If you remember my post last year, I discovered that I am NOT used to high altitudes and had great difficulty attempting to hike in the Superstition Mountains for that reason. I had visions of me fainting and falling into the crater, which is 560 ft deep, and a very, very rocky descent. Obviously I was alright. *grin* For me the most interesting fact was finding out what happened to the meteor. Something that big you would think would still be around. It is. Although one good sized chunk (maybe a foot long) is on display in the museum, the rest of the meteor is underfoot. The guide did a wonderful display of scooping dust and then showing with a magnet that the dust was the meteor – completely disintegrated into the dust under our feet. Definitely a fascinating discussion and explanation.

So THIS shadow is allowed because that’s me, loving the red and tan rocks

I recommend Meteor Crater. Time-wise I think you might want to allow half a day. My son and I thought we’d go to Walnut Canyon on our way to Sedona, but we overheard 3 other groups talking about meeting up at Walnut Canyon. *grin* We decided that maybe it was getting a bit late in the day for another major excursion, and we still had another 90 minutes ride to get to Sedona. We’ll get to Walnut Canyon another time. 🙂

One final look as the sun got lower

Sedona

sedona 2

On the third day they rose early, filled the car with fuel, filled the backpacks with water and headed north to Sedona.

Sedona 1

Words fail me. Of course I’ll use several score attempting to describe the beauty anyway, but be aware that nothing I say will truly capture how I felt. My photos also fail. To be fair – no photo can capture for me the splendor of the mountains in Sedona. For starters – the mountains are so perfect and the sky is so blue that no matter who takes the picture, it’s going to look fake. Nothing can be that perfect, that awe-inspiring, that breath-taking. But the mountains of Sedona are all those things and more.

on the hike to devils bridge

I had three reasons to go to Sedona. The first was a bit snarky and pretentious. I’d heard how it was so new-age, all about energy and crystals and vortexes. It’s not that I’m not a believer. It’s more that I think I’m not receptive in the least. In the last several years either I’ve become more sensitive or less-blocked. There’s no question that it seems to me that some folks radiate “bad energy”. But other than that, I’ve not ever noticed crystals having much impact on me. I wanted to see if I would be able to “feel” Sedona. The second reason was much like the first. EVERYONE says that you MUST go to Sedona. How could I take a vacation in Arizona and confess that I missed Sedona? (Yes, Mom, if all my friends were jumping off a cliff I WOULD jump with them.)

hiking to devils bridge

The third reason goes back to my wonderful Super Shuttle drivers. Not only did they wax enthusiastic about Sedona, the non-driver pulled out his phone and started showing me pictures he’d taken in Sedona. They were enough to convince me it was worth a trip, even though it would take a good 2 hours to get there. I was intrigued by his picture of the Chapel of the Holy Cross, built into the rocks. He recommended that we hike up to Devil’s Bridge. He told me that it was not a difficult hike until the last quarter of a mile, which was steep. We’d heard that description from our waitress the day before. (Oh I should add a postscript to that post – we had a great lunch at a local brewery after hiking South Mountain – Four Peaks Brewery on 8th Street.) She had also said it was an easy hike until the last quarter mile, which is steep. It certainly sounded do-able and after our success at hiking in South Mountain we were ready for more of a challenge. Hah.

sedona flowers 1

We rose very early and I took over the driving that day as I wake up “better” than does my son. 🙂 The directions couldn’t have been simpler: go straight on this road until we reach Interstate Rt 17 and then go north til we reach Sedona. 🙂 Wikipedia calls Interstate Rt 17 one of the most scenic highways and I am in full agreement. It climbs a mile high on its way from Phoenix to Flagstaff, passing through desert and forest. Like my dear friend Honour, my son also refused to take photos out the window of the car so you will either need to drive it yourself or believe me and Wikipedia that it is scenic. 🙂

sedona 3

We took Dry Creek Road to Vultee Arch, which has a parking lot for the trail to Devil’s Bridge. It was just about 9:00 am, but the lot was full. A car pulled out but that spot was taken immediately by another. I found a place that I figured could be a spot as long as no one had to use the passenger side door. I tucked the car into the brush and dirt and we headed off. There were families and solo hikers and folks with dogs and folks wearing babies. There was all manner of attire. As we walked along Vultee Arch (which seems also to be called ‘the unpaved part of Dry Creek Road’) we were passed by the occasional jeep – tour groups going to Devil’s Bridge. There is obviously another way up there because the jeeps keep going along Dry Creek Road when we pedestrians all turn off to follow the path.

sedona 4

There were still flowers in bloom, and we saw an adorable lizard, who posed. Unfortunately I still have not done anything about getting either a new camera or a photo app for my phone, so no cute lizard pictures. We walked slowly, drank water, and conserved our energy. We met people returning from their hikes. Either they live a lot closer or they got up a LOT earlier than we did. We were impressed that we had actually made it to the trail by 9:00 am, our goal. 🙂 We figured it would be a good 90 minutes up and a good 90 minutes back, and that was just about what it took. The hike was easy until, as expected, the final ascent. That was steep. And narrow. With significantly increasing drops on the left.

the path

I found that I don’t really trust my legs on uneven, steep, rocky, loose gravel paths. I’ve had 2 surgeries on my right foot and I damaged my left knee decades ago. They do just fine for most of my life but steep ascents and descents can be strenuous. I was doing fine until I happened to glance to my left at one very narrow, very steep part of the trail. There was a lot of ‘nothing’ to my left. Oh sure, a tree or two and then nothing. I would have said that kind of view wouldn’t bother me but I happen to have a very deep fear of falling. The strength of my reaction stems from an early childhood event and to this day I have dreams where I reach the top of a hill and there is nothing there. In my dreams I have learned how to take control and ‘fix’ the dream so I don’t fall. There on the side of the mountain there wasn’t too much I could ‘fix’. My face reflected my stress as did my comments to my son. We met people who were on their way down who would encourage me and tell me we were almost there – hang on. As the only other option was to turn around and go back down, I kept going up. We reached the top, the high point of the trail. Devil’s Bridge was below us. It was stunning. If I looked OUT, I was fine. If I looked down, my stomach turned over.

devils bridge

From the high point of the trail you need to move down again and out to get to the bridge. There was a steady line of people doing just that. On the bridge itself we could see people lined up for their turn at being alone on the bridge for their experience and photo op. I sat down on the rocks with some other folks to catch my breath before we headed to the bridge.

I could not get up. I was frozen.

devils bridge up close

I looked at where I had to walk, and despite all of the people navigating that path in front of me, in spite of all the people walking there and back safely, I could not make myself get up. I knew I was not moving until we headed back down. And I knew that heading back down was not going to be fun either. I had no idea that I would freeze like that. My son joined the procession of folks heading down to the bridge and I watched. Well, mostly I watched. When I saw 2 young children jumping up and down on the bridge I nearly threw up. So I stopped watching a lot of things. My son reported that walking out onto the bridge was easy – that it felt wider than it looks from above. He said that when he stopped walking he could feel the wind pushing on him, and there was an illusory effect of the trees below moving. Why does that not sound like something that I want to experience?

why i couldn't walk to devils bridge

The woman on my right was in worse shape than I. She wouldn’t even look at the bridge at all. Her family was heading down there and she simply could not look. The woman on my left told me that her first time up there she did the same thing I was doing – stayed on that rock until it was time to leave. This was her fourth time and she had been down on the bridge and back. I thanked her for telling me that. I don’t know how to explain to you how bizarre it was for me to be sitting there saying to my body – just stand up, and to not have any part of my body move in response. My logic might have been ready to go to the bridge but my primeval soul knew better. I was able to take many pictures of my son out on the bridge, but I could not stand. I was on the verge of tears because my body was so tensed and coiled. Don’t misunderstand – I LOVED looking at the scenery, I loved a lot of it. But there was simply a part of me that was deeply deeply unhappy.

sedona 5

As I sat there and waited some young women asked me if I could take THEIR picture when they were on the bridge. I said sure, as I had no idea if I was ever going to leave my rock. I wondered how many people needed to be rescued from that spot, frozen and unable to leave. By the time the young women were at the bridge, my son had returned. He pointed out to me that the women were waving at me to take a picture of the 2 people on the bridge currently – they were all together. I looked to do so and saw that THOSE 2 people had moved to the edge of the bridge and were sitting down with their feet hanging off. I swear to you I was overcome with nausea and had to turn away. I couldn’t stand to look at them. My son did the honors. They came back, collected their camera and headed back down the mountain. It was time for us to do the same. I waited until there was a break in the steady stream of arrivals so we could leave. When it came to leaving I could stand, thank goodness.

sedona 6

The path down was steeper than the path up. 🙂 Really. As my son’s landlord said: “going up it’s all muscles, going down it’s all joints”. I do NOT trust my left knee, no I don’t. A very awkward time to realize this. On the way up I’d seen many people coming back down on their tush. I knew that would be me as well, and it was. Every now and then we’d reach a spot where the path was sufficiently wide so we could let someone pass us on the way up or pass us on the way down. At one point as I paused on my way down (very easy to pause when you are on your tush) a HUGE yellow butterfly came and sat on my shoulder. It was large enough that it actually cast a shadow across my eyes as it flew. I don’t know what it was telling me but I decided to take it as a vote of confidence and encouragement. *smile* Shortly after that I was able to stand and do the rest of the descent on my feet.

sedona 7

The trip back to the car was uneventful but we both agreed that it was MUCH longer than the trip from the car to the path. 🙂 We headed back to town looking for some place to eat, and for me to browse for crystals. We found a place called Tlaquepaque, which is probably a huge tourist ‘trap’ but it had parking and restaurants. That’s what we wanted. We even found a spot in the shade! We were so hungry and tired that we walked into the very first restaurant for lunch, The Secret Garden Cafe. It was delicious and just what we needed. We ate outside in a shaded courtyard and relaxed and re-hydrated. Afterwards we wandered about the shops. Most of what I liked was too expensive AND too big to carry on an airplane so I was saved from myself. We did finally find a store selling all types of crystals for all different needs. Unfortunately it was the kind of place that also believed that putting scents and odors into the air enhances the shopping experience. Perhaps that is the case for some, but it causes me to sneeze and my sinuses to clog up and hurt. We had to flee the store without seeing very much at all, and certainly without buying a crystal. I am still crystal-less. We found an ice cream store and treated ourselves. As neither of us thought the ice cream was all that special I won’t share it. But if you are at Tlaquapaque I’d suggest you go elsewhere for ice cream. *wink*

sedona 8

The ride home took much longer than the ride there as there was a multi-car accident on Rt 17. Now here is one of the disadvantages of Arizona. If I was traveling on a major interstate in the greater NJ area, there would be multiple options for other routes. Not in Arizona. It’s Rt 17 or it’s Rt 17. So we were in bumper to bumper traffic for much of the way. Honesty compels me to admit that at one point I drove east-coast style and cutoff another car as I changed lanes. Just as in NJ, changing lanes really didn’t accomplish much, but at least I was behind a car and not an SUV so my sight lines were better. 🙂 We made it back home in time for showers and a change of clothes so we could meet my son’s landlords for dinner. We had a VERY tasty sushi dinner at Sushi Ken. The presentation was excellent and the rolls were large and filling. We had a bottle of saki as well. Like mead, this will not become my go-to drink, but it was enjoyable and suited the food. We got back to the hotel and crashed. It had been a long day and we had great plans for the next day as well!

sedona 9

sedona 10

sedona 11

heading home from sedona

heading home from sedona 2


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