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{Red} Rockin' New Year

By Saturday, January 1, 2011 , , ,

{note: click the pictures to see them a bit bigger}

Our latest adventure had us traveling to Sedona, AZ by way of Valley of Fire State Park, Nevada. And though our trip started off a bit rocky {pun intended}, we had a great time.

The not so great...? Our foray to Valley of Fire. The park itself is full of dramatic rock formations that are bright with color giving it its name. But, the park is light on accommodations and we didn't feel like camping. Turns out we pretty much ended up camping indoors. We stayed in the closest little town to the park - was little! Just happened to find the motel on a google search, but the motel didn't have a website of its own - just a phone number and a cheap rate. So, we took a chance.

(Valley of Fire State Park, NV)

After exploring the park after our long day of traveling we pulled into the motel after dark. I greeted the old man that walked towards me as I got out of the car and let him know we had a reservation. His response, "I'm sorry but I don't think you do." I must have looked really shocked because he quickly followed up with an explanation that their hot water pump had broken down and most of the rooms were without hot water. They could offer us a room with two twin beds that did have hot water and the "upgrade" of a kitchenette. I joked that it'd be better than staying in the car, but after one night I'm not sure it was. The place was mostly clean - we used our sleeping bag liners and didn't take off our shoes. We only ended up staying just one of the two nights we planned to spend there. The upside? We got to Sedona a day earlier.

Before leaving Nevada for Arizona we spent the day in Valley of Fire. We searched high and low among the rock formations to find the "wave" but were unsuccessful. Instead we saw the beautiful views from Rainbow Vista, checked out the petrified trees, and watched the sunset from the curving roadside. Then off into the night we drove for Sedona.

We knew we'd like Sedona from our trip there a couple years ago. {side note... check out those short sleeves! no such thing on this trip.} We pulled into Sedona at midnight, quickly checked into our luxurious Super 8, and fell promptly to sleep.

(Courthouse Butte Hike)

While we were in no shape to wake up for sunrise we did get up semi early and began scouting out the perfect photographic locations. Top on the list was finding a spot to shoot sunrise the next morning and the search for this spot took us to Airport Mesa. On our first trip we'd somehow missed the better view and had only ended up at the top of the airport. This time we found the view we'd actually heard about and only had to scramble up a huge rock to get there. With views in almost every direction the place had sunrise potential.

Next we made a quick stop at Crescent Moon Ranch. We spent our time there walking the creek looking for a way across so that Lukas could get a better angle on Cathedral Rock at Red Rock Crossing. But we didn't have any luck finding a spot to cross and had to hurry back to the hotel to check out of the room they gave us for our extra night there.

In the time between checking out and checking back in we hiked a little ways around Courthouse Butte. Here we got to marvel at both Courthouse and Bell Buttes. This is a popular trail and was a bit crowded for our taste, especially since we were there in the middle of the day.

(View from above the high school)

In contrast to the crowded trail around Courthouse Butte we didn't see a single person on our sunset hike. We took a trail that led us up behind the high school and up to the top of a mesa. We hustled up the side of the hill and were sweating by the time we reached the top. Quickly though, the frigid air cooled us off.

Temperatures dropped throughout the trip and on the third day it began to snow. The morning though, only brought rain. The rain kept us inside long enough to search the maps and find a way to get to the other side of Red Rock Crossing. In our great hiking book we found Baldwin Trail and it looked like a promising solution to our problem. We suited up in our rain gear and made our way down 179 to check it out. Sure enough, problem solved. The spot made the list for a future sunset, but for the moment we headed back to the dry haven of the hotel.

That afternoon the rain gave way to snow and we quickly headed out to the Coffee Pot trailhead to take advantage of the winter wonderland that was forming. The afternoon light didn't stick around long so after a couple pictures of snowy cactuses Lukas and I had a good old fashioned snowball fight. I only lost because I brought the wrong gloves and had to forfeit due to freezing fingers. Lukas might tell you differently, but that's the truth.

The next day was all about trying to catch the sun breaking through the clouds. This involved two separate trips out Coffee Pot trail. As the sun would start to poke through the clouds we'd quickly layer up and head out there. It was a game of chase that we seemed to be loosing.

Earlier in the day we drove through the fresh snow to the Fay Canyon trail head, but fear of getting caught in the deeper snow kept us from pulling into the parking area. But that afternoon after Lukas said three trips to Coffee Pot was enough we braved the drive out to Doe Moutain, past Fay. The roads were clearer and the parking areas well packed down from cars throughout the day. In the long afternoon light we hiked up snowy Doe Moutain - boy was it slippery on the icey patches. Finally we had caught the sun. The clouds broke up big and puffy and the sun sparkled on the snow. We headed back down the mountain before the sun actually set because we didn't want to be caught in the dark on the cold, slippery mountain side. {I'm a slow poke when it comes to walking on slippery snow/ice.}

(Airport Mesa)

The next morning we hoped for a beautiful sunrise from Airport Mesa only to find about 10 people up there already hoping for the same thing. The clouds blocked out the sun so we headed back down and off to hike Cibola trail. This was a beautiful hike with great views of the red rocks and snow. Again the sun played hide and seek with Lukas and his camera. But he was able to capture some of the grandure anyways.

Our last evening was spent at Red Rock Crossing. Being on the side opposite Crescent Moon Ranch was where it was at. We ran into an older couple - the guy was shooting with a big 4:3 camera. His wife and I commiserated a little about our job as helper, but really we loved being out there as well. I got to peak under the hood of the big camera - everything was upside down and backwards. When they took off Lukas and I headed up the creek a little ways for a better composition. It was stunning, too bad there were any beautiful clouds for a little extra pizzaz. As the sun sunk lower Lukas flirted with falling in the creek and I watched ice form on all the little puddles.

We capped off our last night there with a great pesto pizza. Just so happened that one of the guys that worked at the pizza place was from Humboldt - crazy small world. Then it was promptly to bed by 9:30pm on New Year's eve for the two of us old farts.

We got up at 6:15 the next morning for the 13 hour drive home. We watched the prettiest sunrise of the trip from the car - nowhere to pull over and it was -11 at the tine. The coldest we saw it get was -29!! And I can report that I've been out in minus temps now that when we stopped for gas I pumped it in -3 degree weather. Wow!!

We took 2 hour shifts and made it home tired and safe. Happy New Year!!

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