Friday, Aug. 28th
Our intrepid twosome left the house at 7 a.m., and due to the time change, arrived in Carlsbad, NM at 1:30 p.m. We checked into the Days Inn and then made a beeline for Carlsbad Caverns. At the caverns, we bought our America the Beautiful pass which will save us quite a bit of money with all of the parks and monuments we are going to see on this trip. Carlsbad Caverns were much larger than either of us had anticipated. We spelunked the caverns, starting at the natural entrance, from 2:30-7:30 and didn’t see everything that there was to see. Unfortunately, all the ranger guided tours for that day were sold out, but we had a great time exploring the subterranean depths on our own. Next time we will know to reserve one ahead of time. We were there to see the bats fly out of the cave at dusk; sadly there were no divebombing incidents to report. The experience is quite different than what you may be trained to expect after years of exposure to exploding, flapping, bat swarms from the cave mouths of hell in Hollywood movies – it is a serene experience as the bats exit the cave in almost complete silence, circling upwards and heading out to feed for a steady ten minutes or more. The two of us were starving, and since we didn’t know much about the area, we played it safe and ate at the local Chili’s. Afterwards we headed back to the Days Inn, exhausted.
Saturday, Aug. 29th
We woke up at 6:00 a.m. and began to get ready to leave when my DH realized that he had forgotten his razor, so we headed to Walmart to buy another one. We came back, checked out and ate their complimentary breakfast which was very disappointing. There was nothing but carbs. The cereals were all children’s sugared brands. Their waffles were not of the “make your own with batter” variety, but instead defrosted, soggy waffle squares. Then they had bagels, toast and miniature muffins. There was absolutely no protein or fruit, other than apples. Next time we will stay at the Hyatt Express. We headed out and drove 10 hours to Montezuma’s Castle. For some reason our demented GPS decided to take us on smaller state roads rather than the main interstate, which added about 45 minutes to our total travel time, but it turned out to be very scenic and was worth the added travel time. We drove through 5 different national forests. It was interesting to see the terrains change, and due to the extra time zone hour we still got there just before they closed at 6.p.m. While the “castle” was worth seeing, it should more appropriately be named “Montezuma’s Adobe Hut”. We did get our passbook stamped for the National Monument. From there we drove another 30 minutes to Sedona. As we got closer, the views became more and more spectacular. We checked into our Red Rock view room at the Sky Ranch Lodge. I am glad that we chose a room with a view as it was worth the extra money, and it looks like there are only four of them at the hotel. We watched in awe as the sun set from our back porch, and then headed to the Café Elote for dinner. Due to it being a Saturday night and the most busy time of the evening, we had to wait an hour for a table. Since we were one of the last in line to be seated we got lucky with a table on the patio. The service was minimal but the food was worth it. The guacamole was very fresh and was served with homemade tortilla chips. I had the mole tacos and my DH had the fundido charro, which was a combination of chorizo, cheese, pork, and onions served on tortillas. They both were absolutely scrumptious. The chef was making the rounds that night signing his new cookbook. We headed back to the room and were asleep before 10 p.m.
Sunday, Aug. 30th
We woke at 4:45 a.m. (6:45 Texas time), ate cereal in the room, readied for our hike and watched the beautiful sunrise from our back porch. Due to the best book I purchased before our trip, Sedona Hikes by Richard and Sherry Mangum, we easily drove to the Boynton Canyon trailhead. Early in our hike we saw bluejays darting in and out of the trees, and further along the trail we spotted several does and their fawns. We got some great photographs before they bounded away. The total hike took us a little over 3 hours. It was a beautiful morning with a nice breeze. As we finished up at about 10 a.m. it was getting pretty warm. We drove into Cottonwood to find the Walmart because my DH forgot his belt (DH notes that he did not have an entire day to pack prior to leaving). Since we were in the area, we decided to check out Tuzigoot National Monument, which was a bit more interesting than Montezuma’s Castle. We got another stamp in our passport for making the journey to the monument. Worn out from the hiking and emergency shopping, we went back for a short nap before our Pink Jeep Tour. Before the trip into town we were able to find four geocaches in the area. The PJT was a lot of fun and our guide, Steve, was very entertaining. He gave us lots of information about the native plants and geology. He pointed out all of the named rocks and special formations. Additionally, he did not tip the jeep over and kill all six of his passengers at any point during the tour, which seemed like a distinct possibility on several occasions. After our tour we headed to the Red Rock BBQ as RedRox had recommended on TA. We got a table on the patio and finished watching the sun go down. It was the best BBQ! We shared the Red Rock BBQ Feast with ribs, chicken, brisket and pork. The ribs had a good smoke on them, and their Carolina sauce had a nice bite to it. I especially enjoyed the smoked potato salad. Then we were decadent and had their fresh berry cobbler ala mode. The two of us waddled out of there with our to-go box… so much for all the calories burnt while hiking. The BBQ was awesome and the service was great as well. We drove back to our Lodge and spent 30 minutes in the hot tub relaxing before we crashed dog tired again at 9:30 p.m.
Monday Aug. 31st
We woke up 45 minutes before our alarm went off at 4:45 a.m. again, still on Texas time. In the dark, we hurriedly readied for our hike and ate left over BBQ for breakfast. On those hikes you need some protein. :) We drove to the nearby Observation Point with our folding chairs and sat on the rocks watching the sunrise. It was both serene and spectacular. There was only one other person there, practicing tai chi and then photographing the rising sun on the rocks. We then drove to the Chapel Rock trailhead and took 2 hours to make it to the chapel and back. We arrived there at 8 a.m. and luckily the janitor happened to be cleaning, so that we were able to see the inside of the Catholic church. It doesn’t open until 9 a.m., something that perhaps should have been checked before we hiked an hour to see it. Then we headed to Bell Rock and hiked up to the plateau on it for more panoramic views and photographs. Three days in and already we have racked up hundreds of photos on our cameras. We learned after the last long trip that we needed his and hers cameras, and that the laptop is great to bring along for downloading the existing photos to make room for more. What did we do before digital photos? It was about 10:00 and I had a rumbly in my tumbly and I remembered STLCard?? On TA speak about the Coffee Pot so we headed there. I love our GPS device! We had delicious omelets and crispy bacon. At the Coffee Pot there are 101 omelets to choose from in addition to Belgian waffles, etc. I think it took me longer to decide what to choose than it did to eat it. I want to move to Sedona and eat breakfast at the Coffee Pot every morning until I try every one of their selections! We chose the beef, green chilies, onion and cheese omelet, which came with home fries and a homemade biscuit. We made another stop for incidentals at the Walgreens. I desperately needed some Carmex, my normal lip balm was not doing the trick. We returned to SRL to recharge our batteries. Then we made sandwiches with our left over BBQ (I told you it was a loot of food). We found a few more geocaches and left some Texas travel bugs.
Tomorrow we will wake up in the wee hours again and will have time for one more 2-3 hour hike before we check out and head to the Grand Canyon. Are there any suggestions for that one last hike in Sedona? I will be sad to go but I KNOW we’ll be baaack!
Thanks for all your suggestions on TA we are putting them to good use. The next part of our trip report will be in the GC forums.