11/22: Just deserts (and hills)

Yesterday’s drive to Jerome and Prescott left me and Esteban a bit road-weary, so today we decided to park the car and just hike around Sedona. Little did we know that, by the end of the day, we would have covered at least eight miles and 1,000 vertical feet.

We set out on foot from our hotel through some empty lots that run parallel to 89A. Along the way we stopped for a rest at the Sedona Botanical Garden (not quite as grand as it sounds) before heading up Gurley Road in search of the trail to the airport.

We never did find the trail head. But we did find a lady in her 70s who was in better shape than both of us put together, and who amiably guided us up a hill and onto the trail we’d been seeking. When we got to the proverbial fork, she kindly pointed us back toward town and continued her climb up the hill.

Esteban and I ambled on the trails for another two hours before we saw signs of habitation again. We weren’t worried, though: Sedona’s mountains make great landmarks, so we knew we weren’t lost. But we were starting to get tired. It was at about this point that we climbed what we soon dubbed Weird Noise Mountain.

First, we were stopped in our tracks by a sudden cacophony of barking, yipping and howling. It sounded like a pack of coyotes with some domestic dogs and wolves thrown in for effect. It stopped as suddenly as it started, with only a few otherworldly yelps and barks trailing off into the silence. We concluded that it must be part of someone’s “stay the hell off my property” arsenal. If so, it was a damned good recording. It’s still making my hair stand on end.

Shortly after that, we heard a crunching noise, like a car driving on a gravel road. At first it seemed to be approaching us from behind. I turned several times, expecting to see a vehicle coming down the trail, but there was nothing. Within a couple of minutes, it sounded like it was running parallel to us. We both stopped again and looked around, but we didn’t see a car or the dust you’d expect on a desert road. Like the yelping dogs, the noise just vanished.

Before I continue, let me say that Esteban and I don’t buy into the New Age hype that surrounds Sedona. But we also accept that some things can’t yet be explained with science. We’re not closed-minded, but we’re not believers, either. Whatever the source of those noises, Esteban and I did fell an odd energy around us. Not scary or unpleasant, just different.

Back at the hotel, we treated ourselves to a dip in the hot tub as we recounted our day. “That was cool, and weird,” I said. “That was a long hike,” Esteban replied.

We opened the champagne and clinked glasses as he wished me a happy birthday.

Another great day in Sedona—and another great year with Esteban.

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