Leave Tempe, AZ at 6:40AM. It’s Sunday. Pick up friend in downtown Phoenix at 7. Via HWY 17 North, make it to Montezuma’s Castle by 8:30. Buy America the Beautiful pass. Yay! Admission is $10/person, we both got in free with the pass. Hike the short loop around prehistoric Sinagua cliff dwellings. Imagine life there. It’s sweet. See the creek. Buy a magnet and sunglasses.
Head to Montezuma’s Well, next exit up the freeway. See a giant spring fed pond fed by water that hasn’t seen sunlight in 10,000 years. Weird. 5 species are endemic to the well. What a trip.
Walk down to the riparian zone along the creek, observe the well’s outlet of 1.5 million gallons per day, witness the canal and irrigation system begun thousands of years ago. It smells good, like a desert oasis. Walking back up, it smells of Virginia honeysuckle.
Head North to RT 179 to Sedona. Watch friend stare in awe at the magnificent red rock as he sees for the first time Cathedral Rock, Bell Rock, and the rest of the iconic landscape. This view alone is worth the drive.
Left on 89S, turn right on Dry Creek Road, see all the cars overflowing to the street. Take a chance and luck out on a parking spot. Hike a long way to the official trail. It’s hot. Sunny. Hot. Dry. We’re going UP.
It’s a longish way but we do it. Strangers are happy. My friend struggles but endures and is rewarded with vistas and bizarre rock formations and photo ops. Strangers share. It’s hot. We’re thirsty.
It’s getting hotter on the way down and the trek is longer than remembered. It’s only 90 now but that desert sun is straight up brutal. Teenagers and tourists don’t have enough water but they get sassy when you try to talk to them about it.
Back to the car! Dizzy, tired, but we have snacks. I just want food but the restaurant we go to is too healthy and the others are closed so the snacks will provide and prevail.
Drop friend off at 5:30. He’s whooped but happy overall, I think.
Immediately drive to In-N-Out for the full effect plus milkshake.
Home. Shower and go to sleep in deep gratitude.