As we head north from Phoenix toward Sedona on the I-17 , My Sedona (to the tune of My Sharona, obviously) plays over and over in my head (and manages, on more than a few occasions, to burst out at full volume as well – lucky Nekky) all morning. The landscape along the highway heading north from Phoenix is pretty barren save for the odd cactus and tumbling tumbleweed (literally). Tucked into the landscape at each interstate overpass, however, is a cluster of truck stop amenities with which I become very familiar. Today we are heading to Sedona followed by Canyon Caverns campground on Route 66 for the night. However, our ultimate destination tomorrow is the Hualapai Hilltop from where we will head into the Havasu Canyon seeking the picture-perfect oasis that is (or so I’ve seen/heard, but have travelled here to confirm for myself) Havasu Falls. To fully experience and capture the magic there, one must acquire a selfie stick. And a trucker hat. So, on the way to Sedona, we frequent more than a few such roadside stops. We score a selfie stick at Family Dollar (it was $5 – misleading, I know), but the hunt for the perfect trucker hat continues.
We stop at the Red Rock Canyon Visitor Centre to suss out a two-hour hike. The nice lady inside lets us know that this is one of the busiest weekends of the year for visiting the area – who knew?! With very little to work with—we simply tell her we want to be awe-inspired in two hours or less— she recommends Little Horse hike. She promises a beautiful hike with a reward of a 360 degree red rock view.
And she delivers. We pass through the Village of Oak Creek and turn into the trailhead parking lot. It is packed (also, as promised). We park in a questionably legal sort-of spot. We think people can get around us. We are prepared to roll the dice. After all, it is only a 3-mile out-and-back hike. And we are fast.
I decide to bust out the SLR camera as I have hauled it all the way from home for its maiden hiking voyage into Havasu Canyon. The camera itself is ten years old, but I typically opt for a small point and shoot when hiking, so I decide to take it on a dry run before tomorrow’s main event. I immediately regret not purchasing some sort of holster for it, but refuse to be that person with it hanging around my neck. So, as soon, and as subtly as I can, I pass it off to Nekky.
“Take my picture,” I say, about ten minutes into the hike, and hand the camera to Nekky. “I’ll sit on this caged pile of rocks,” I say. And then I stand up. And leave half my shorts behind. I’m sure the picture was adorable, but I’ll never know. Upon my request to review it to determine whether the sacrificial shorts were worth it, I learn that there is no SD card in said camera. I am immediately happy for the dry run with the SLR.
Plenty of space on the trusty iphone however for capturing the magic. Look closely. But not too closely.
With an air-conditioned ass and surrounded, as promised, by awe-inspiring views, we follow the trail (more of a walk than a hike, really, but absolutely perfect just the same) and try to not to moon small children. I hadn’t known of Sedona prior to Nekky’s suggestion that we stop here on our way north. He informs me that people come here to be healed. I am not sure what this means. Before visiting, I hadn’t known about the red-rock buttes, the steep canyon walls, or the miles of trail to be explored. And I can’t get over how blue the blue sky is and how red the red rock is. Or maybe it’s the combination. But either way, I decide I like the energy here and that if I were broken, I’d consider giving the healing thing a go in these surroundings.
We return to the parking lot somewhat relieved to find that other cars were in fact successful at navigating around our parked rental and that we won’t be needing that extra insurance that we didn’t get at the rental desk. We grab lunch in Oak Creek and stop at three stores before locating an SD card. The whole time forgetting about my shorts issue. Oops. And, you’re welcome?
At the intersection of I-40 and the infamous Route 66, we stop at the Route 66 General Store before heading back out onto the highway with a new trucker hat in hand and having pinpointed the
dive diner in which we will enjoy our well-deserved post-hike meal (that our bodies will subsequently reject) upon emerging from Havasu Canyon in three days. (Incidentally, it is located across the street from the Route 66 Motel that features ‘coffee pot’ on its list of amenities featured prominently on its very own changeable plastic letter marquee. Classy like that.).
It occurs to me then that while I recognize we are driving along the infamous Route 66 and fully embraced its touristic appeal (case in point – new trucker hat), I know nothing of its infamy. Despite being almost certain that it shows up in more than a few country songs, I am at a loss. I feel particularly un-American. I make a mental note to consult wikipedia. Later. It does not seem a dire enough reason to activate my data plan.
Aside from Burma Shave signs (a series of small signs each with a word or two spaced for sequential reading by passing motorists)—relics of roadside advertising from the mid nineteen hundreds (I later learn from wikipedia)—Canyon Caverns Inn/Campground is indeed the only thing along this section of Route 66. Maybe it’s the giant dinosaur statues. Or maybe it’s the old classic cars scattered about complete with dummy drivers inside, or maybe its the combination, but it is…interesting.
We are instructed to take the road that leads one mile behind the property to find the campground. The sun is setting and the little hairs on my arms are on high alert. We appear to be one of three campground guests – the only tenters. I don’t say it out loud (yet), but the My Sharona lyrics in my head have been replaced by the thought that if we are ever going to get chopped up in our sleep while camping, it is going to be here. Comforting.
We don’t. Get chopped up. Despite a horrible sleep in which the wind chime hanging on the trailer across the campground keeps me up all night, we get up before dawn and are back on Route 66 before 6am after a breakfast (included in the camping fee!) at the adjacent 50’s-themed cafe (which strangely enough, doesn’t seem strange at all…).