A Few Weeks in Sedona, AZ

Hello everyone, now that I’m (finally) caught up on CDT posts I can show you a bit of what we’ve been up to post-trail.

Our first several weeks off trail were spent laying low in and around Tucson. We had left the van there in storage while we were hiking, so we stayed with a friend for a little while as we got everything back in working order, made a few updates to the van, and generally stumbled through the transition back to “normal” life.

There’s no easy way to come back from a thru hike. Many hikers describe similar experiences of feeling like a fish out of water. You fit so many experiences into a few short months and then you come back and things are largely exactly how they were when you left. Life went on without you and there’s no way of really showing your non-trail friends and family everything you went through. Post-trail depression/grief is very real and we’ve felt so, so lucky for the way things worked out. Building out the van before our hike, when our plans were upended two years ago, and having it waiting for us to move back into when we got off trail, has gone a long way in easing this transition.

Back in mid-January, as we were settling back into our new post-trail routine, we finally made our way to Sedona. We’d been wanting to visit the area for a while. It is beautiful, but it’s so popular and crowded that we never made it a priority. Prior to heading to Sedona we were camped not too far south of there for a few days of work, so we thought we might as well pop in for a bit since we were so close.

We got lucky and found a beautiful, relatively secluded campsite. Our first few nights we were actually at a different spot, but when we noticed more vans and RVs leaving than pulling in, we scoped out spots on our next run. When we saw this one, Matt ran back to get the van (which we’d packed up beforehand) while I stood at the entrance to make sure he caught the right one on his way back. Ah, the joys of a nomadic lifestyle.

One of the first things we do at any campsite, if we haven’t done it prior to moving, is research the nearby trails. The one we wanted to do here was several miles down the road we were camped off of, and the road was so busy we knew we would lose our prime campsite if we drove to a trailhead. Lucky for us, we hadn’t completely lost our trail legs. We welcomed the long day, even if it did start and end with a three mile road walk.

After about a week on that road we were joined by a few trail friends who also live in a van. They also purchased their van when they postponed their planned 2020 CDT thru hike and moved into it around the same time we moved into ours.

Once we knew they would be joining us for a little while we saved some of our other sightseeing until they arrived. Our first day trip was to the Palatki Heritage Site, one of the better preserved sites in the area.

Aside from that, our only real plan for exploring was to get a few good hikes in while avoiding crowds as much as possible. That’s a pretty lofty goal in Sedona in January, but we did our best.

With careful timing and a bit of luck, we enjoyed a relatively quiet hike on a trail that leads to a subway cave hikers can climb up into. The final stretch up the rocks was worn smooth in places from so much traffic over the years. It looked worse going into it than it actually was, and the view from the cave was absolutely worth it. Across from that was another ledge that was a little easier to reach.

There’s a trail in Sedona called Devil’s Bridge that is absolutely mobbed during normal hours of the day. It’s a short hike and it leads to an incredible natural bridge you can walk out onto, so understandably it’s quite popular. We wanted to see it before we left the area, so a day or two after our friends took off we set our alarms for a sunrise hike. The stars were still fading when we left our campsite, and even so the parking lot was filling up when we arrived at the trailhead.

We hurried down the trail in an effort to warm up a little and to stay ahead of the other early hikers pulling in behind us. There was a fair number of people already hanging out when we reached the bridge. People were patiently waiting their turn to go out on the bridge, taking photos for the hikers ahead of them and making small talk with the others in line. I’m glad we did this one as a sunrise hike, any more people and it would have been too crowded for my liking. Plus, everyone there was willing to get up before the sun and hike out in the cold, desert morning. As was the case for our Devil’s Bridge hike, there’s often a mutual understanding and patience among the super early birds that makes for a much more relaxed experience.

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