Friday-Saturday, August 21-22, 2020
Leave while you’re still having fun? That’s what my mom always told me and I suppose she’s right, but I’m sad we have to check out soon.
I just took an amazing last hike/mountain climb up to a chimney-like rock formation. I hadn’t intended to. I wanted to explore the streets and casitas above us, but one on the edge of the property had a trail leading up into the wilds.
It’s more difficult than it appears to get to the base of these spires of red rocks as there are manzanita bushes, cactuses and other prickly plants blocking the way, but this seemed a clear path.
It wasn’t that steep (less than 45 degrees) and my hiking sandals gripped really well, but I got nervous on the bare rock where there were sometimes natural stairs (too near cacti) and sometimes an overhang too high to get my foot onto-requiring the assistance of the branch of a dead tree to pull myself up. I kept going as I’ve been wanting to get up close to one of these things the whole trip but I kept wondering–is this going to be harder going down?
I made it onto a ridge and could see down into another canyon to the west, and far, far south. It was lovely. There was a flat rock outcropping on the end I should have climbed onto and done a yoga pose and selfie but I was too chicken. I was already pretty high up and seeing straight down in every direction…maybe next time!
Going down was easier. Back in the room I showered, dressed, and packed.
I knew we got a great deal on this room – from the way the staff treats us (Just call and we’ll drive you anywhere. Ah the McDonell party! Welcome back! You had iced tea yesterday, can I get you one now?) and the high-quality furniture and furnishings (everything is unexpectedly heavy) and amazing grounds (I chatted with a gardener on my walk and there are 10 of them, full-time), the upscale cars in the parking lot, and the way the clientele complains to the staff about the weather (heh) I suspected we were in a place we probably couldn’t normally afford and it seems I’m right. They’d been closed for six weeks at some point due to Corona virus restrictions and were still in the process of opening up and trying to lure people back. I checked prices for a random 5 days a month from now and the cost of this room is more than double what we paid. I’d have never booked the trip because at that point I’d have had to ask myself whether I’d rather have (insert expensive thing we need repaired on our house) or a vacation and common sense would have won out.
That said, I’m sold on the concept of a mid-sized resort in the middle of nowhere in nature. It’s great to be able to hike and do nature things and then have a nice dinner and relax with a great view. I’ve been suspicious of resorts as places where people walled themselves off from the world and laid around by the pool getting drunk every day and never experiencing where they were, but this is the opposite of that. It’s all about embracing the geography.
We reluctantly checked out and hit the road and just outside Flagstaff–hit some insane weather. Thunder, lightning, and a downpour so heavy the wipers couldn’t wipe fast enough. I considered pulling over, but we had a pilot truck in front of us, driving slowly, and I was able to follow his tracks.
I know, it’s just heavy rain. Don’t make fun of me. We rarely have weather in San Francisco.
Soon after we passed through that storm and began to breathe easier, we ran into another one–this time with pea-sized hail and this time I did pull over – as did nearly every other car on the highway. I dared R. to put his hand out the window and he did and a second later screamed OW and pulled it back in. I guess that was mean of me.
It’s odd how different the trip home is from the journey out. We’d meandered along Route 66 much of the way to Sedona, stopping often to take pictures and explore. Now we flew down highway 40, trying to keep our speed under 80. I saw the motel sign near the Bagdad Café I’d photographed a few days earlier from a distance, amazed that richness and history was so close yet invisible to everyone who whizzed by driven by the pressure of time.
Alas, we were under pressure to get back. This was a one-week trip and I wanted a day to decompress before work on Monday.
Thankfully, R. did pull over in Yucca, Arizona to get a second look at this place and the trucks below
Barstow. The palette-cleanser. I’d worried I’d get back to San Francisco and find it washed out and drained of color after the bright hues of Sedona but we were spending a night in Barstow first where the desert is beautiful but subdued, and the motel rooms are MUCH SMALLER than our entire house. Unlike our room at Enchantment where the bathroom is bigger than our bedroom. Not kidding.
We were a bit cranky after the hot drive and struggled to find a decent motel. I didn’t want to go back to the Best Western with the trailer park by the freeway. I know, I got high standards all of the sudden after Sedona. I just couldn’t bear it on our last night of vacation. The pool was closed and police patrolled the grounds. It was charming on day one but now not so much. We ended up in a Hampton Inn in a weird development on the side of the freeway with a big outlet mall that’s 90% dead. R. speculated Amazon killed it and I’m sure he’s right.
The room could have been okay. Half the hotel looked onto the desert, the other half, mini mall freeway. That’s what we got. They only had rooms with two queens and there was barely a foot between the beds and the wall. It was not nice.
For dinner we had our choice of fast food and chose Chili’s – which to be fair turned out to be pretty good. The downside was that their outdoor dining was in the parking lot, adjacent to a truck stop and gas station, and it was 88 degrees. Upside – they had cocktails and our waitress was AMAZING. Who you’d hire to play an old-timey waitress in a movie with all the “honey” and “dear” and “you want a double?” with a wink and eagerness to chat about anything and everything. She was in her mid-60’s and so warm and friendly. We hadn’t interacted with people much during the trip and she was definitely a people-person. Since Covid started I’ve had dreams about hugging people and she’s the kind of person that in normal times might have hugged us goodbye.
Back in the hotel room I binge-watched HGTV (we don’t have that) and fell asleep early.
Saturday I woke early-ish and went for a walk–straight out into the desert behind the hotel.
To my surprise – ants! Anthills every 10 feet on the path and large scary ants running around doing ant things. I had to dodge them and jump over them and honestly it wasn’t the morning walk I imagined. I kept my eyes on the ground. Not that there was much else to look at but it wasn’t a casual stroll. I headed back sooner than I would have, and went for a swim.
The pool area was quite nice. A cute family was out there with an 8-year old daughter imploring her mom and dad to watch her do handstands, cannonball, etc. while her young brother tried to throw himself into the pool without supervision…I guessed he didn’t know how to swim.
Then, the driving. Bleh. We’d hoped to see the Tehachapi Loop, which is train tracks that loop around in a circle, so you can see a train passing over itself. Click on the link if you want to understand what I’m trying to say. Unfortunately we began to encounter smoke and reduced visibility from all the California wildfires that were started by lighting the day after we left town.
When our friends told us about the storm we were sad to miss it. We rarely see lightning in San Francisco. Then it turned out the lightning started forest fires which are still raging largely out of control, burning down houses and state parks full of ancient redwood trees and baby condors…and I won’t go on about it because it is so sad and still going on. We’d not been witness to it during vacation but as we descended into the central valley the smoke got worse and worse until the sun was an orange ball and finally completely disappeared.
That lopped a big part of the vacation high right off. Do we have to have a pandemic AND have the whole freaking state burn down and air we can’t breath and friends evacuated from their homes? Plus, other friends and relatives are starting home-schooling in the midst of all this and are losing their freaking minds. More than a few people said to me not in jest that they are bracing for an earthquake. Maybe a hurricane as well.
We made it home – thankfully to clear skies in San Francisco and our cute house was still standing. I didn’t care that our bedroom was smaller than the bathroom at the resort in Sedona. I slept so well! Maybe I was a little bit happy to be home.
I do love cities, but Covid has taken away so much of what I enjoy about city living–shopping, having a drink at a bar, going to museums, dinner at friend’s houses–whereas nature destinations still have all their amenities. Trees and rivers and mountains are not shut down. Well, I guess technically some are because I tried to camp our way to Sedona and the campgrounds were shut. But you get my point. After months of feeling constrained and unable to access things that would recharge me I went to Sedona and hiked and saw ancient ruins and bumped my way down a natural water slide in a red rock river. I saw the milky way and deer and bunnies and hummingbirds and lizards and a wild tarantula. I had a great time and will do it again soon. It being more nature because I need some moments of more when San Francisco is offering less. Not its fault but we are in the midst of a slow-burning crisis and every day seems to produce another disappointment. It was good to get away and have a chance to literally breathe.