Day 6 – Sedona and Phoenix

The next morning, we woke up excited for another day of hiking. My mom and grandma were doing Part 2 of their trolley tour, so we dropped them off in town and headed back up to that Route 89A with the intent of hiking the West Fork trail. This trail is supposed to be the iconic Sedona trail through a slot canyon following a river. I thought it would be good especially since there’s no climbing involved and my knee wouldn’t hurt. Turns out, the rest of Arizona thought it would be a nice trail too, as there were HUNDREDS of cars parked along the road. We definitely didn’t want any part of that, so we wandered around for about an hour just looking for a trailhead. Trailheads around here are incredibly poorly marked, but finally we found one called the North Wilson Mountain trail and headed up it. Right away the views were stunning, and we even had some tree cover and shade for this hike.

We were heading towards those dark cliffs in the distance, and I couldn’t wait to see it up close. We encountered one small group of people during our time on this trail, and that was it.

We continued on for about an hour, and entered into the cover of trees, which had stunning fall foliage.

We sat and enjoyed our lunch at the base of the huge cliffs. It was sort of a sad moment as we realized this would not only be our last hike for this trip, but our last hike together for quite a while.

After that short break we decided to head back down the mountain. It took about an hour, and surprisingly, I had no knee issues! I finally mastered the art of hobbling down mountain trails!

We got back to the car, went back to town, picked up my mom and grandma, and started the trek to Phoenix. This portion of the trek was uneventful. We didn’t stop for any photo ops, instead just carried straight through to Phoenix. During this time we saw REAL desert, with towering saguaro cacti and tumbleweeds. We arrived around dusk and got settled into our hotel, the Sheraton Grand Phoenix. My grandmother and I were on the top floor, and when we opened the curtains of our room, we saw this:

We looked at each other and just laughed, it was the best hotel room view we’d had all week (or probably ever). That night, I went to investigate the pool, which was totally empty, and went for a perfect nighttime swim.

The next day there was no time for exploring as I was presenting my poster at the BMES conference. My mom and grandma hung out by the pool all day while my father explored the city; meanwhile I was walking around in 100 degree weather in my fancy clothes.

That night, we enjoyed one last sunset in the endless sky, and went to bed early to catch our flight early the next morning.

After a long couple of days of travelling, I made it back to New York and reunited with Juno. This trip was absolutely incredible, and I’m so grateful that my family was able to go with me. Can’t wait to go back for more!

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Day 5 – Sedona

The next morning, we got up, ready and excited to explore the area. We were all a bit bummed because that 89A road is supposed to be one of the most beautiful in the country, but of course we travelled it in the freaking dark. A typical thing for our family to do. So my Mom and Grandmother embarked on a trolley tour of the area while my dad and I filled our packs and headed out to hike….somewhere. We didn’t know where to go, so we went to the gas station across the street and got a map. As we were looking at it, we had to laugh because we saw the road we came down on….It looked almost cartoonishly twisty and curvy, like a bowl of spaghetti spilled on the floor.

Anyway, we took the advice of a kind gentleman we met there and headed off to the Airport Loop trailhead. It was a lot longer than we expected just to walk to the trailhead, but we finally got there and set off on our way.

I have never seen so many cacti in my entire life. I recognized that they were prickly pear cacti, and that many of them had ripe, plump, reddish-purple fruit on them, so naturally we had to investigate further. We each plucked a fruit from a cactus, I immediately dropped mine because they apparently have super tiny sharp hairs in clusters on the fruit themselves that stick right into your hands! My dad managed to get his fruit open though, and we each had a bite…Those things are FULL of super hard seeds! It tasted delicious, but we each only had a nibble. Unfortunately for my dad, he got one of those tiny sharp hairs in his mouth and had to deal with that for the rest of the day! At about 2pm, we came across a junction where we could either continue on our way or we could take a short detour by climbing up a…small mountain? Rock? Mesa-thing? I’m not sure what it was, but it was well worth the climb.

That woman was doing some yoga-meditation thing, swaying side to side, but it made for a nice picture!

I was really feeling like I had entered into some prehistoric landscape, and half expected to see Littlefoot and Spike walking the trails with us.

So we were quickly learning just how unforgiving this landscape really is. The air was so dry it just sucked the moisture right out of our skin and mouths, and we went through our water way faster than we thought we would. We left that perch with half the water that we started our hike with, and more than halfway to go to return to town. This fear of running out of water was completely new to me. In the Adirondacks, if you run out of water, you just refill at one of the 8 million streams, lakes, and rivers that you’re bound to come across. Out here, we’d have to resort to sucking the moisture out of more prickly pear fruits, and neither of us really wanted to do that. Luckily, the trail we had embarked on wasn’t super long, only about 4 miles round trip, so we were’t too worried.

 

The trail we followed is visible, cutting right across the rock.

 

We left the summit and followed the trail around the edge of the small mountain, on top of which was the Sedona Airport. This route was extremely exposed, with little to no areas of shade, but it offered incredible views the entire time.

After climbing and climbing, we reached what we thought was the top and sat beneath a rare tree to enjoy some lunch and guzzle more water. Shortly afterward, we heard helicopters overhead and saw that we were right beneath the airport!

We started descending after this point, and quickly made it back to town. My knee was irking me, but luckily the pole I had borrowed from my father made it much more bearable. We went back to our hotel, walked into the lobby, and asked if they had any drinking fountains where we could refill our water bottles. We’d both long since ran out, and were quite parched. We must have looked pathetic and about ready to drop, because a manager took one look at us and led us back into the employee break room to fill up from their water cooler. That was the most delicious, COOOLD water I’ve ever had! We were there for probably 10 minutes filling up our bottles, drinking, and filling up again. Finally hydrated, we took a much-needed dip in the pool.

Day 6 – Sedona and Phoenix