Driving north from Phoenix to Prescott, we stayed with family for the first few days while making day trips out from there. Much as we had narrowly missed the East Coast snow, the weathermen were predicting a large mid-week snowstorm in that part of Arizona, giving us two days to figure out what we really wanted to see before the roads became too bad. We drove the first day up to Sedona, stopping along the way in Jerome to visit Caduceus Cellars, a winery owned by Maynard James Keenan from Tool and Puscifer. The wine was good, especially the dry reds, and it was a nice change from the overly sweet wines of the places we've visited near the Great Lakes. While parking was a pain, it's worth the stop for anyone passing through town.
Continuing on to Sedona, I was amazed at my first sight of the town. While the main streets had the tourist trap feel of Estes Park in the summer, the red rocks rising in every direction made the crowds easy to overlook. Running short of daylight and wanting to get out for a walk, we drove down to the base of Bell Rock and hiked most of the way up. Bell Rock is supposed to be one of the area's four major vortexes, places where the earth's electromagnetic energy are particularly focused. As a result, many of the people who walk there do so for meditation, or simply in an attempt to "feel" the energy. But whether going there for metaphysical reasons or just to see the sights, it was one of the most gorgeous short hikes I've ever taken, and I found myself literally giggling as I walked because I was so amazed at what was around me.
|Emily walking up Bell Rock|
|Emily looking toward Courthouse Butte|
|Looking out toward town|
|Chapel of the Holy Cross|
|Inside the chapel|
|Walking along the rim trail|
|Another view from the rim trail|
|Sunset at Desert View|
Arriving in Tucson just before the main body of the storm, which at that point was far enough south to be rain, we estimated that we had about an hour of daylight and dry weather left. We headed up toward Gate's Pass for some bouldering, and although it turned out we were looking on the wrong side of the road for the boulders, we did enjoy walking across what was essentially the inside of an old volcano. Hopping back in the car, we headed a few minutes up the road to Saguaro National Park and took a short hike through the cacti before the rain hit. An amazing place to walk for sure.
|Emily and me channeling our inner cacti|
|Mama cactus hugging her babies|
|Ever had a cactus talk to you?|
|San Xavier del Bac|
|Inside the church|
|Even statues pray sometimes|
|Cacti in the snow|
|A very confused cow|
|Emily's snowy cactus patch|
We finished out the trip with incredible Irish food at Rula Bula, pasties and quarts of Guinness at Cornish Pasty Co., and the best Vietnamese food I've ever had at Cyclo. Even if I knew the weather would be horrible, I would go to Phoenix just for the food!
Full of pasties and beer, we headed to a New Years Eve party, intending to leave early enough to get home before midnight. We ended up celebrating the new year right as we pulled back into the driveway, and I headed off for a few hours of sleep while Emily and her mom celebrated in the hot tub with their cousin. Another early flight and we found ourselves back in Baltimore, bags once again miraculously making the trip with us.
Here's to a great 2011!