Sandwiched between exhibiting at the gargantuan Offshore Technology Conference in Houston, Texas, and participating in a corporate retreat in Scottsdale, Arizona, I enjoyed a glorious and exonerative 48 hours of solitude in north-central Arizona.
Although I am a west coast rainforest girl through and through, I have always been drawn to the dry exposure of the desert. I have delighted in many trips to the southwest United States, meandering between eastern California, Nevada, Utah, and Arizona. As such, it was with much anticipation that I looked towards my brief interlude in Arizona.
I arrived in Phoenix mid-morning, rented a vehicle, and headed north a few hours to the Sedona region. The tentative plan was to stay in a small AirBnB in the town of Jerome and spend the days exploring the region.
Town of Jerome
Knowing nothing about the town of Jerome before my arrival, I anticipated an average, questionable southwest town slapped in the middle of a field, possibly with dilapitated signs, a closed gas station, and a sketchy grocery store (I was prioritizing price over ambiance).
I was shockingly wrong.
Jerome is an old, small mining town crouched on the upper reaches of a hill overlooking the Coconino National Forest and red hills of Sedona. Amalgamating eclectic artisan shops, hilly European town architecture, and American national landmark tourist destination, Jerome was a memorable place to visit. At one point (the late 1800s, I believe) it housed the largest copper mine in North America.
My AirBnB was delightfully and centrally located in an old mining house. I had the pleasure of relaxing in the downstairs suite, nestled into the cliff and feeling like a luxuriously secluded cave. How could I not love a relaxing soak in that bathtub with the window open to the garden? I meandered the small, 4-block town, exploring artist galleries and winery stores. There was also a plethora of ghost tours that I carefully declined (so I could sleep well at night).
Hiking Trails and Geology
After perusing the plethora of hiking trails around Sedona, I finally selected the Bear Mountain Trail as an excellent hike to start off my trip. Admittedly, in my mind I would also hit a bunch of other near by trails; however, that turned out to be a wee bit ambitious.
The Bear Mountain Trail was everything I was looking for in a hike: fairly steep, rocky terrain, spectacular views, and rather exposed. The hike is just shy of a 7 km out-and-back trip with 600 m of elevation gain. It also turned out that I had both been neglecting my hiking training (focusing, instead, on climbing) and was not nearly acclimatized to the hot sun; consequentially, the trail was far more painful and gruesome than anticipated.
None the less, I enjoyed myself tremendously! The monotonically increasing elevation was evocative of my years traveling to Santiago, Chile to visit my family during December holidays. My dad and I would go on these gruelling hikes, struggling up over 1500 m of elevation gain in a day, confronting thunder storms, flurries, and unrelenting sunshine. It was glorious to relive our more questionable adventures while struggling up a new mountain and enjoying new terrain and flora.
I will also note that an exceptional bonus was the car rental agency gave me a Tacoma to use, so I got to enjoy ripping around on the gravel roads of the Coconino National Forest, blaring Nine Inch Nails and whooping to myself with glee…
Desert Flora in Coconino National Forest
A spectacular highlight of the trip was the flowering desert. Spring is one of my favourite seasons, and I revel in meandering through the verdant spring forest. Watching the soft, fresh leaves humbly emerge from their protective sheaths stirs a compelling need to protect and support the forest and the life contained therein. Although I have spent many months in various deserts, it has never been during a growing season. The combined fresh growth and prickly, waxy exterior was alien and beautiful, demanding the same protection and love while standing strong and independent.
Maybe I was a cactus in a former life?
Overall, my brief respite to the desert was deeply calming and rejuvenating, preparing me for another week of corporate madness.