Go West Young Man

Grand Canyon PostcardIf you’ve been following me for a while, or just read through some of my blogs, you’ll remember that I have this long long love-affair with the “Wild West”.  Ever since I was a kid I’ve loved cowboy movies and for some time now have wanted to go on one of those cattle drives featured in the movie “City Slickers”.  I even had a great aunt who got me a subscription to Arizona Highways magazine, because I just loved to look at the pictures of the Grand Canyon and the un-tamed scenery that filled the pages.

I’ve lived a few states away (Iowa), flown over it on the way to California (still upset that the attendants had everyone pull their shades down so people could watch TV reruns – and caused me to miss the aerial views of the Grand Canyon!), and experienced some of it on a couple of trips through Texas.  But Arizona was what I’ve been wanting to see for more than 35 years and it’s always eluded me.  That was, until a couple of weeks ago.

I’ve worked for United Healthcare for the last 3 years, and 6 months ago got a promotion/new job as an Instructional Designer.  We’ve been working on a rewrite of a major curriculum for one of our business segments, and when they asked for volunteers to travel to Phoenix to observe the pilot launch of the class, well I just had to be one of them!  I had hoped to observe for 2 weeks instead of just one – my plan was for one of my sons to fly out and we would drive up to the Grand Canyon for the weekend in-between work weeks.  He’s getting married in December and I thought it would be a great experience for the two of us before he takes that big step.  That didn’t work out as someone else had already been selected for the second week.

I flew into Phoenix early on a Sunday morning, knowing that I’d have all day to site-see, but also knowing the 6 hour drive up to the Grand Canyon would be too much.  A friend had told me that Sedona wasn’t too far from Phoenix, and that they thought it to be the prettiest city in America – and that given the chance I would have to visit it!  I did some research online, and saw that what they described was likely to be true, and that some of the most beautiful spots around there were also old film locations for some of my favorite western movies.

Here are a few highlights from my trip – and when you see me in a pic, contrary to what my wife says, I did not crop myself into the picture!  🙂

My first encounter with cactus up-close was in Phoenix. These things were EVERYWHERE!

This was my first view driving into the Sedona area. You ascend up to 4,000 feet above sea level and then this is the view you are greeted with.

There’s a Ranger station you can pull into as you come into town to get info (highly recommended). Beautiful overlook, and the Rangers there are very helpful!

From the main road you take a little side road to head out to the Cathedral Rock area. Around every turn I wanted to pull over and keep taking more pics like this one.

The final mile or two out to Cathedral Rock was dirt like this.

After parking in a little dirt lot, grabbing some extra water for the hike, I hit the trail. Just before taking this pic some other hikers warned me that they had almost just stepped on a rattle snake and to keep my eyes open. Yup, I was in the West.

So much amazing beauty along the trail.

Much of the trail into the Red Rock Crossing area below Cathedral Rock is like this… washed out ravines and tricky steps.

Looking back at a tricky part of the trail that descends down toward Red Rock Crossing.

Almost there… this is where you could head up that little trail to reach the base of Cathedral Rock, or go to the left to reach Red Rock Crossing below.

Red Rock Crossing, below Cathedral Rock.

Red Rock Crossing has been in a bunch of old Westerns, but is primarily remembered as the setting for the 1950 Jimmy Stewart movie “Broken Arrow”.

This tree amazed me. You could literally see how it’s roots had wrapped itself around pieces of history over the years.

Beautiful views everywhere you turned.

View from another little Ranger station. That is Castle Rock in the foreground on the left, and Gibraltar in the background on the right.

Crossing into the actual city of Sedona. Can you imagine the views you wake to every morning?

The famous Chapel of the Holy Cross in Sedona, Arizona.

Scenic overlook of Sedona from the airport up on one of those little mountains. If I were to turn the camera around you would have seen a bunch of Asian tourists and a Wine & Cheese festival.

On the drive back to Phoenix I caught this sunset pic at about 70 mph. I didn’t notice the clouds in the shape of the bird coming down until I was back in my hotel room later.

And now for a recommendation where to eat when you are in Phoenix…

While I live in the Tampa Bay area, my team is spread out around the US.  My boss actually lives in Phoenix and said that before I left that I had to try Oregano’s Pizza Bistro.  My last night in town, the Trainer and I headed to one of the 3 locations – I believe the one we went to was closest to the ASU campus as there were a LOT of college kids there.

Oregano’s Pizza Bistro in Phoenix – you can tell it’s going to be good because of the wait, and it just looks fun.

The view from our table on the patio.

Oregano’s Pizza Bistro supreme pan pizza – I’m normally not a fan of Chicago style deep dish, but this pizza was AMAZING.

Just look at all that goodness!

If you ever go, you have to save room for the Pizza Cookie dessert too (sorry no pic of that).

Wrap Up…

Whenever you travel I highly recommend staying in a Homewood Suites Hotel if you can.  The price is comparable to a Holiday Inn Suites or Marriott – they offer not just a full breakfast buffet, but free dinner each night as well!  The food was great, the service excellent (the front desk clerk actually bought me wings from a local place and had them delivered to my room one night when I asked for a recommendation – they literally paid for them!).

A Phoenix sunrise view from my hotel, looking toward Diablo stadium.

Overall my trip was a good one.  It was hard being so very close to the Grand Canyon and not being able to get to it – but Sedona and Red Rock Crossing didn’t disappoint for this short trip.  I’ve now been to the Alamo in Texas and seen parts of Canyon Country in Arizona… one of these days I’ll make it to the Grand Canyon, and I’m hoping to do that Cattle Drive with another of my sons sometime in the next year.
Go West, young man?  Now I can say I have.  Not so sure about the “young” part though.




2 thoughts on “Go West Young Man

  1. Cory says:

    Looks lie fun. I was out that way a few years ago, beautiful. You should try palo duro state park up near Amarillo. They call it the Texas Grand Canyon. I haven’t been there yet either but it’s one of those places on our list. The pics look cool.

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