|My trail friends - Hans, Lisa, Steve and Mona Liza|
Last August, when blogging friends Hans and Lisa extended an invitation for a March visit, I didn't know much about this popular redrock town smack-dab in the middle of Arizona. They both glowingly described its scenic attributes, adding "photographers love this place. Your camera will be busy!"
|Approaching Cathedral Rock|
I'll admit I didn't do much research about the Sedona area, instead concentrating my efforts on the Grand Canyon. So when Hans and Lisa drove me towards town on my first morning, I gaped in awe at the giant sandstone formations rising from the desert floor. It looked like something straight out of a John Wayne western!
Hans and Lisa love this area, having visited many times. They both retired early and live full time in their RV (and blog at Metamorphosis Road), so have had the opportunity to explore Sedona and it's nearby trails in depth. I was about to be the beneficiary of their extensive knowledge.
|Mountain bikers have the same trail ratings as skiers!|
My first hike in Sedona? The Hiline Trail located southeast of town. We pulled into the Baldwin Trailhead bright and early and bundled up against the morning chill (yes, it gets cold in the desert at night - even in early spring). Hans and Lisa stay in touch with a large network of RV bloggers and were planning to meet one of their blogging friends, Steve and Mona Liza, at the trailhead.
|In my happy place|
It was great to meet Steve and Mona Liza. Also retired full time RVers, they've traveled all over, and had many interesting tales to tell (check out their blog The Lowe's RV Adventures). I discovered Mona Liza was an avid photographer, and while on the trail we bonded over our shared interest.
|Steep climb (can you believe bikes ride down this??)|
We started out on the Baldwin Trail, winding through red soil and brushy vegetation. The surrounding scenery was fantastic from the get-go. My camera came out almost immediately, and I instantly lagged behind the group (which would become the norm for the entire day).
|Wonderful red rocks|
After about a mile, the Baldwin intersected with the Hiline Trail, our featured hike of the day. It wound below Cathedral Rock, an impressive collection of towering red and tan striped sandstone columns.
|One can never have too many cameras!|
Mona Liza was truly a kindred spirit. I laughed when I saw her capturing images using not only her regular camera, but her cell phone too. I just had to get this fun pic of her with a camera in each hand. Always schlepping around a ton of camera gear myself, I could totally relate!
|First mountain biker of the day|
In Sedona, hikers shared the trails with mountain bikers. At each junction were signs giving directions to the bikers (many trails were one way only) and rating its level of difficulty. I was amused that the ratings used the same symbols as ski trails. (Double black diamond also meant experts only!)
|Amazing view of Cathedral Rock|
We climbed up to an flat rock overlook and there spread out before us was the town of Sedona. What an absolutely stunning vista!
|Sedona Valley panorama|
And Cathedral Rock didn't look too shabby from here either.
|Cathedral Rock was nearly always in sight|
|Follow the red dirt trail....|
The houses appeared to be nestled right up against many of the large rock formations. Hans pointed out the local Catholic Chapel, an impressive structure that appeared to have been built right on top of the red rock. (See photos of it here)
|Looking down into Sedona|
From the viewpoint, our trail clung to the side of a steep cliff. More fabulous views opened up as we worked our way down.
Some of the trail was so steep and rocky I couldn't believe mountain bikers rode here (and survived!)
|Great scenery around every corner|
Lisa knew the names of all the rock formations and also the unique (to this Pacific NW'er anyway) desert plants. Having hiked this trail before, she also pointed out many good photo op locations. I couldn't have asked for a better guide!
|Loved this rock formation (but forgot it's name)|
Yeah, I took about a gazillion photos. It was super hard to narrow them down......so sit back and scroll through the next few.
|My photo-buddy in action|
|Picking our way down the rocky trail|
|Checking out the trail junction|
|More red rock formations|
Finally we hiked down to another trail junction. Having traveled the entire length of the Hiline Trail, we'd now turn and follow the Templeton Trail on a long, skinny loop back to the parking area.
|Bikers zipping by|
The proximity to several trailheads meant we began to see lots more people. And more bikers too (but the mountain bikers were fun to photograph). We crossed paths with a few mountain bike trails sporting cool names, like Easy Breezy and Slim Shady.
|Loved these red towers|
There was no shortage of red rock, or towering pillars.
|Trail contours this rocky slope|
Good thing I had a large memory card!
|Lisa takes in the view|
As we headed back towards our beginning point, the trail passed several neighborhoods perched upon nearby rocky slopes. Some truly stunning homes (with fantastic views!)
|Homes perched in the rocks|
This mountain biker saw me waiting with my camera and popped a wheelie (which I didn't notice until reviewing the day's photos later that night)
|This biker popped a wheelie for me|
We passed by a wide flat rock with a bunch of cairns placed randomly. Not sure why there were so many.
|Not sure why there was so many cairns here|
Our return trail took us closer and closer back to the base of Cathedral Rock. We passed by a trail leading hikers all the way to it's summit. It was packed with people!
|Crowds climbing Cathedral Rock|
Having already hiked about 6 miles, climbing up this steep rocky trail didn't appeal to me at the time (luckily, it wasn't on our agenda).
|Zoomed out view|
One of the great things about the loop hike we did, since the trail circled the base of Cathedral Rock, I got to see it from all directions. Not sure which view was my favorite but if the sun had been at a better angle, it might have been this one.
|Red rock cairn|
One thing I try to remember as I hike is to look back. Sometimes the best views are behind you.
|Fantastic view looking back|
For our final mile, Hans and Lisa led us down to the banks of Oak Creek. We wound through an impressive grove of sycamore trees, their gnarly limbs and white bark shining in the afternoon light. I'd never before seen trees like these!
|Silvery new leaves on the trees|
Oak Creek was a sizeable stream. I didn't expect to see such a large water body here in the desert.
|Admiring Oak Creek|
Hans and Lisa mentioned they'd once seen a pack of javelinas (wild boars commonly found in desert areas) while hiking along this creek. Although we all hoped for another wildlife sighting, there were none to be found.
|Lovely Oak Creek|
The lovely shady creek area and interesting sycamore trees more than made up for any lack of javelinas. A nice way to end this hike!
|White bark Sycamore trees|
We clocked in around 8.5 to 9 miles covered (depending upon which gps you looked at). A great introduction to Sedona's amazing red rock country.
Time to head back to Hans and Lisa's RV for some well earned cold brews! And plan tomorrow's next adventure.
Check out Steve and Mona Liza's blog (and all of Mona Liza's fantastic photographs) at The Lowe's RV Adventures
Check out Hans and Lisa's blog at Metamorphosis Road