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Brief getaway to Oak Creek Canyon, north of Sedona

After spending several months hanging around the Valley waiting for things to return to normal during the global pandemic, Kathryn and I finally decided to get away for a couple days to a higher elevation and cooler weather. With two other couples from our church, we rented a vacation cabin for two nights in the Oak Creek Canyon area. Although the mailing address of the cabin was Sedona, the reality is we were almost a half-hour north of town.

We left our house in Phoenix Sunday morning shortly after 11. As we drove further north, our smartphone mapping application told us there was some nasty traffic heading into the town of Sedona. We found out later there was construction work on the inbound lane. After pulling over for a moment and discussing our options, we decided not to drive through Sedona itself. Instead, we drove to Flagstaff and doubled back through Oak Creek Canyon, knowing the cabin was nearer the bottom of the canyon’s highway switchbacks than to the town.

From a time and mileage perspective, it was a smart move. What we hadn’t anticipated was the rain we’d find along our new route. It was coming down in sheets in some places. It was quite a pleasant change of pace from the nearly precipitation-free summer we’ve been having in Phoenix.

Cabin among the tall trees

Cabin among the tall trees

We ended up being the first ones at the cabin, arriving over an hour before we were supposed to check in. It turned out the house was ready, so we made ourselves at home. There’s not much to say about the place itself. On the first floor of the main house, there was a master bedroom and another bedroom with a queen bed. Upstairs was more of an open plan with a number of twin beds on one side and a queen bed on the other. There was also a guest house with its own bathroom.

Kathryn and I were the only couple with no kids, so we took the guest house. One of the other husbands had to back out, so his wife took the smaller downstairs bedroom, while the remaining couple took the master. All the kids went upstairs. The sleeping arrangements worked out well.

Taking a photo of Kathryn taking a photo of me

Taking a photo of Kathryn taking a photo of me

What was nice was the exterior. The cabin had a large yard with a lot of tall trees around it. Although we were closer to the state highway than we probably would have liked, Oak Creek lay between the house and the highway. There was a path to the creek so the kids could dip their feet in the cool water. There was also a hot tub the adults could enjoy.

My plan for the two-day stay was to drink beer and read. However, the beer-drinking time cut into so much of my reading time that I never so much as cracked a cover. Instead, I spent a lot of time enjoying conversations with fellow parishioners.

Trees and rocks in Oak Creek Canyon

Trees and rocks in Oak Creek Canyon

The highlight of the trip, as it turned out, was several hours of hiking along the West Fork Trail, the trailhead for which was just a couple miles from the cabin. Kathryn picked out the trail for us, which ran along both sides of West Fork Creek and involved crossing the creek several times on rocks and downed trees.

After two hours and several miles of hiking, we realized none of us knew where the trail was supposed to end. Also, none of us wanted to be the spoilsport who made everyone else turn around. Finally, I decided to be the buzzkill, and we did an about-face and headed back to the car.

Trail across West Fork Creek

Trail across West Fork Creek

While we made the return trip a bit more quickly than the outbound trip, it was getting hotter, and many of us were getting tired and low on water. I did some more reading when I got back to Phoenix, and apparently we were only about halfway to what most people consider the turnaround point when we finally gave up. Some folks go even further and make it an overnight trek. None of us we prepared for anything like that.

We had planned to visit Slide Rock State Park and also some wildlife park I’d never heard of, but after nearly four hours of hiking in the Arizona sun, we were all ready to call it a day. We enjoyed the rest of the afternoon with cold drinks in the shade.

More trees and rocks in Oak Creek Canyon

More trees and rocks in Oak Creek Canyon

After two nights of slightly cooler temperatures and great sleep — at least for me — it was suddenly all over. Everyone was packed and back on the road in the morning before 9. One family was continuing north to visit Zion National Park for a few days. Another was taking another route home so they could visit relatives. Only Kathryn and I were heading directly back to Phoenix.

We considered stopping on the way home at Rock Springs Cafe in Black Canyon City for a slice of pie and a cup of coffee. However, as we got closer, we realized we had eaten quite well for two days and weren’t ready for another meal. With a stop for gas, we were home by 11, our brief getaway behind us almost exactly 48 hours after it started.