The final two days of our trip to Sedona have been packed with a wide variety of fun, adventure, insight, and first time experiences. Yesterday was Janet’s birthday, so she got to plan the activities, and the first thing she wanted to do was feed the ducks along Oak Creek, a bucolic stream that runs through the resort. Of course she wanted to share the experience with her twin, Joanie, who was actually hoping to sleep in for the first time this entire week. But, Janet wasn’t going to let that happen, so they both went down to the creek and were soundly shunned by the clearly uninterested ducks. Undeterred, they returned to the room to enjoy birthday agenda item #2, mimosas on the balcony. The resort had graciously given both girls a bottle of champagne for their respective birthdays, so the mimosas were flowing freely.
While all that was going on, I was on a solo 7 mile hike in the hills above Sedona. I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to explore some of the superb trails that provided an up close and personal experience with the red rock mesas and buttes that surround Sedona. I thoroughly enjoyed the quiet and solitude as I hiked the Brins Mesa/Soldier Pass/Jordan Trail circuit.
Upon my return, we were all ready for a delicious birthday lunch followed by our afternoon event, the Red Rock Range tour with Pink Jeep Adventures. We paired up with our fantastic guide and driver, Chip, who shared his wealth of knowledge on the history, landscape, wildlife and geology of this beautiful part of Arizona. He also gave us some great pointers on places to shop and other nearby towns to visit.
We ended the day enjoying a crackling mesquite wood fire on the terrace above Oak Creek as the sun set on another great day. Then it was an early bedtime for yet another pre-dawn wake-up.
Our final day began with a 4:45 am wake-up for our second attempt at a balloon ride. Fortunately, today’s event went off without a hitch. The weather was perfect, and even the pre-dawn temperature was a comfortable 50 degrees. After we were picked up, we signed all of the requisite waiver forms and headed to the launch site. Once there we got to watch the entire process of getting the balloon ready for flight. This was a well-oiled procedure executed by our experienced ground crew and pilot from Red Rock Balloons. The entire process from unloading the balloon and basket to full inflation took about 30 minutes. Then it was time for one of the biggest highlights of this trip… the four of us quickly climbed into the balloon, along with 12 other passengers and our pilot, Mark. After some quick safety and landing procedure instructions, Mark squeezed the control lever for the propane burners and we gently lifted off the ground.
The gentle ascent and quiet gliding of the balloon through the air are an experience I would encourage for everyone. Over the next hour, we ascended over 1000 ft, and descended to skim the tree tops. We rose up the side of a mesa then skimmed right across its top, offering a very different perspective of the rugged terrain we had been admiring all week. We even got to see a coyote ranging through a dry river bed, and a very large jack rabbit zigging and zagging in the brush below thinking it was about to become breakfast for a very large bird!
Then it was time to land. Throughout the flight, Mark the pilot, was in constant contact with the ground crew who were chasing us on the roads below. They coordinated a landing spot, we crouched in the landing position, and Mark expertly and gently touched down! This was an experience none of us will soon forget. Now we got to witness the reverse process of deflating the balloon and getting it repacked before we headed off for a post flight brunch with passengers and crew.
Finally our vacation was ending so we prepared for our return to Phoenix for our early morning flights home. On the trip from Sedona to Phoenix, we enjoyed lunch and shopping in the historic copper mining town of Jerome, AZ. This small town, nestled a mile above sea level, is literally perched on the side of a mountain that had in the past been one of the single largest copper mines in the world, producing over a billion dollars of mined copper.
Our final stop was the Montezuma Castle National Monument, one of the best preserved cliff dwellings in North America. This 900 year old dwelling, nestled into a towering limestone cliff, is a 50 room pueblo ruin located in a virtual oasis of lush green plants and towering sycamore trees next to Beaver Creek. Although abandoned over 600 years ago, it offers a fascinating glimpses into the lives of the Sinagua people who once inhabited this interconnected structure, and lived off the fertile land even though surrounded by unforgiving desert.