Broken Arrow and Other Sedona Trails
Thanksgiving is near. Brenda and I head out to Arizona to see family and drive a few of Sedona's jeep trails.
The 800 mile drive from Santa Rosa to Sedona is best done in two days. Our first leg takes us as far as Hemet, CA and the home of my Aunt Nancy and Uncle Roger. This is the first time we've seen them since they moved to Hemet from Minden; we are impressed with their proximity to numerous golf courses, including the one at the near end of their street. We take a day here, hanging out and touring the teeming metropolis of Hemet. On our second night, Roger cooks his awesome spaghetti and I go back for seconds!
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Roger and Nancy; notice that their property is on the edge of the desert - they've seen all kinds of wild animals on the other side of that fence!
Monday morning arrives and we say goodbye to Nancy and Roger. A quick jaunt north from Hemet on Lamb Canyon Rd (Hwy 79), then east on I-10, which will take us as far as Phoenix. Before dropping down into the Palm Springs area, we stop at a gas station and notice that the General Patton Memorial Museum is right next door. They have an exhibit with a bunch of old tanks and other military hardware, all surrounded by a chain link fence. Plentiful flags flap in the breezy air; I can almost hear the marching drums. I didn't get any tank pictures, but I do try to catch one of a raven sitting on a dead end sign; it flies off just before I can snap the shutter.
Dead end ravens.
The next 350 miles are uneventful and we arrive in Sedona around Noon. After making the rounds, reconnecting with friends and family, we meet up with Guy and take an evening hike up Sugarloaf, is a 15 minute walk from Guy's back door. Sedona isn't terribly big; lots of folks live near, if not adjacent to, public land. After watching the sun dip below the horizon, we head back to dinner and a well-deserved sleep in Ed and Mei Wei's guest room. They leave for L.A. in a few days; we'll be house sitting and caring for their dog Daisy, who you'll meet shortly.
The next day Guy and I take a short hike around Cow Pies, an area of puddled slickrock about half-way up Schnebly Hill Road. We bring Daisy and she scouts diligently ahead of us all afternoon. Even though Daisy is a little hyper at times, once out in the red rocks, she calms down and acts very much like the dedicated scout, sniffing the trail ahead, always looking back and checking in with her people. She makes me miss having a dog of my own.
Looking south from Cow Pies towards Oak Creek.
Prickly Pear and red rocks.
Guy and Daisy lead the way.
Rock texture up close; looks like one of my dad's abstract paintings.
Pinon Pine and rock formation (Anyone know this rock's name?).
Looking down at Schnebly Hill Rd. To discourage passenger cars, the Forest Service has been letting the road deteriorate significantly. Most cars can still make it, but many more folks will likely turn back, leaving the road to the Jeeps.
Daisy hangs ten.
It gets windy later, blowing us to the right of this frame!
Looking east into Sedona; Capital Butte (aka Thunder Mountain) is highest on the left.
Back at the parking lot; we borrow Ed's 4Runner as it is familiar to Daisy.
The next morning Brenda and I awake eager to drive Broken Arrow, which is perhaps Sedona's best known and most popular Jeep trail. I've ridden it on my mountain bike many times, but this is my first time behind the wheel of a jeep. Of course, you probably remember that Brenda drove for Pink Jeep Tours, and has taken folks on Broken Arrow more times than she can remember.
Recent construction blocks the old turn-off from Hwy 179; it's nice to see the old sign still hanging in there.
Having disconnected the sway bar and aired down the tires already, we waste no time in hopping on the trail. Our early start pays off and we have it to ourselves all the way to the turn-around at Chicken Point. The morning is crisp and clear with no wind. The sun gradually peeks at us from over the rim; the shadows playing on the red rocks are beautiful and remind us why we love Sedona so much.
The obstacles on Broken Arrow are definitely more technical than my last jeep trip, yet because the slickrock provides excellent traction, they prove both easy and fun. I manage to bang the transfer case skid plate two or three times, but that's what it's there for!
First climb, grrrrrrrrr.
We continue up the trail, driving deeper and deeper into the red rocks. Jeep spoor makes it clear that this trail is well-used. Even though we haven't seen any other Jeeps yet, we know they are coming. Where ever the trail goes over slickrock, the surface is black with tire rubber. On a busy day, Pink Jeep alone probably runs a tour here every 15 minutes.
The Jeep accessible trail ends at Chicken Point, though it is possible to continue on foot via the Little Horse trail. It is here that we meet our first jeep, a rented Wrangler driven by a nice guy from the Midwest. I am envious of his maps; freebies from the rental company. I check out the one he has for Greasy Spoon, another trail I hope to do before heading home.
Brenda catches a call from Kay; I walk around taking pictures.
Parked on Chicken Point; it's still early at 9am in November and the winter shadows reach west.
Brenda salutes the sun; the Seven Warriors in the background at the left.
Trailhead 61 - is this like Bob Dylan's Highway 61?
Well Abe says, "Where do you want this killin' done?"
God says, "Out on Trailhead 61."
After exploring Chicken Point and taking lots of pictures, we jeep up and head back down the trail. The return trip includes many interesting ramps, steps, and tippy sections, with plenty of slickrock thrown in for good measure. After a half a mile or so, we take a left at a fork, and loop around towards the staircase.
The hand-dandy "Tilt-o-meter" indicates the Jeep's nose is pointed up about 22 degrees.
Climbing 22 degree slickrock is a piece of cake; I wonder how steep the Jeep could climb if a guy like me was interested in really trying...
You could drive round and round this little rock all day; after stopping for pictures, we continue.
One of the most technical sections is a short little steep piece on the way back from Chicken Point. We stop and take pictures of the Jeep in various stages, much to the appreciation of two hikers who watched our every move.
Ready for the descent.
I climb out to take this pic; Brenda hops into the driver's seat.
After this small bit, we come to the Giant Staircase, a series of stair steps that make me feel like I am standing upright with my toes on the brake pedal. Since there are other jeeps waiting, I don't stop for pictures. Perhaps early some day when there's no traffic, I'd like to see if I can climb up the staircase - it looks fun! I promise to take pictures if I do.
I find a twisty section and see what the Jeep can do with it.
Now that's articulation!
Whoops, was I supposed to go another way?
All told we pass six or eight other jeeps, most of them pink. We both agree that Broken Arrow is worth the effort.
Later in the day I take an hike with Guy and Bruce to a couple arches out beyond the end of Soldier's Pass Rd. There's about a mile of technical jeep trail to get here, including a detour to a large sink hole. As with Broken Arrow, I've done all this before on a mountain bike, but not driving a Jeep. The trail proves interesting and fun, but less challenging than Broken Arrow. We leave the Jeep at the trailhead and in about 40 minutes reach the arches. As the sun drops lower, we climb up into and above one of the arches, and are greeted by the generous beams of a late afternoon sun.
The first arch.
Bruce atop the second arch, which is set back into the rock face.
On top of the arch with Guy and Bruce; you can't see it in this picture, gut this platform is actually on top of a large arch.
The next morning Brenda and I take a hike before meeting up with everyone for Thanksgiving dinner. We leash up Ed's dog Daisy, who is VERY EAGER, and jump into the Jeep for the drive out Vultee Arch Rd. Our destination is Devil's Arch, a short hike from the road.
Daisy in the Jeep - "Can I get out now? Please please can I get out now?"
The day is fabulous: clear sky, warm air, and very little wind. Many other folks enjoy the trail with us; most of those we meet are like us - visitors from out of the area. Daisy is well behaved and we enjoy her company.
"Enough with the pictures already - this is a trail and it's meant for walking!"
A tourist from Minnesota took our picture.
Looking up at Devil's Arch; not sure of the origin of the name, we didn't see any devils.
On the return trip we pass about 60 people heading up the trail, thinking whew, we sure missed the crowd! We jump in the Jeep and head back to town and Thanksgiving. The evening is a success with all attending contributing greatly to the merriment.
The next day Guy and I jump in the Jeep and head out in search of Greasy Spoon (aka Pipeline Rd.). It is another beautiful Sedona day, warm but not too hot, clear skies, and the usual stunning redrock vistas everywhere. The first few miles of the trail are pretty mellow and we soak up the afternoon, chatting about life and taking in the scenery. We poke along, stopping every few hundred yards to take pictures and let Daisy check to sniff things and run around. As our pace isn't very rapid, six jeeps pass us by, four from Pink Jeep Tours and two rentals, everyone enjoying the afternoon and in good spirits.
Greasy Spoon trailhead, Coxcomb on in the background on the left.
The first Pink Jeep of the day.
Two yellow rental jeeps pass by and head over the rise.
I find an uneven spot in the road and tilt the Jeep over sideways; the Tilt-o-meter indicates we are 25 degrees to the left.
Though Greasy Spoon is a pretty easy trail overall, there are a few deep gullies that must be traversed, each with a steep climb down and back up. None of it gives the Jeep any trouble and we have fun crawling up and down the rocks.
Entering the first gully; we turned around at the bottom and went back up just for the heck of it.
Coxcomb with Capital Butte behind.
Daisy and red rocks.
The steepest section of Greasy Spoon.
A man and his Jeep.
The next day sees Brenda and I begin our journey back to Santa Rosa. After one last stop to say goodbye to Kay and Johnny, we head south to Phoenix and points west.
Brenda spots a 25 foot high baby playing with a tractor - it's a billboard!
I spot this monster dirt machine as we climb west from Palm Springs on I-10 - "Hey mister, can I drive it?"
Somewhere in L.A. on I-10; hours to go before we sleep.
We push all the way through to the San Joaquin Valley and pick up a motel at Buttonwillow, right along Hwy 5. With an early rise Sunday morning, we make it back to Santa Rosa by 11:30am.
All in all a great trip!