Day 4. Thursday. Thirsty Thursday.
Thursday is what happens when something doesn’t go according to plan. Sometimes, it’s all wrong, but sometimes it turns out alright.
My big plan for the day was a hot air balloon ride over Sedona. It was one of the things that Jim and I talked about after the big reveal about the destination for our vacation, which remained a surprise to him until about 1 or 2 days before our departure. Neither one of us had done a balloon ride before and I wanted to, but recalled a conversation we had early in our relationship where he said he would never do it.
My friend Rebecca went on one with her then boyfriend Jeremy when they had their first big vacation together which just happened to be in Arizona. She recommended it and said it was an incredible experience. So I asked Jim about it again. He did a few google searches to see how safe it was and gave me the green light to book it.
The catch with this sort of thing is that there are no guarantees and the best time of day for calm winds and weather is early am. They kick off around sunrise and since it was in Sedona, we had an hour to drive to make it to our pick-up spot. With a 5:20am pick up, we had to wake up at 4am to make it. Somehow with the anticipation of it.. that was not a problem.
The unpredictability of the weather means things can also go awry. We rode out to the launch spot with a bunch of other folks. It looked like about 6 balloons going up based on the trucks and trailers pulling gear. When we arrived we got out and proceeded to stand around with these other folks in 40 degree temps, shivering and waiting for something to happen.
All the dudes working for the company huddled around as well, periodically sending up little black balloons and watching their lift and direction. We could hear them talking and laughing and pointing. After about 25 minutes the guy who drove 6 of us walked over to deliver the bad news. The winds were not favorable and they were scrubbing the launch.
The driver told us it was less about safety and more about quality of experience. He said that because of the winds, we couldn’t get very far before coming back down or be at risk for going way off course and end up hiking half a day back to civilization. Good to know.
Well… you win some and you lose some but sometimes when you lose, you actually win.
He dropped us back off at about 6:15am and gave us a few recommendations for places to get coffee, breakfast, and find good hiking. We went to the breakfast place he recommended, had a lovely meal, and talked about alternate plans for the day.
After breakfast we drove to a popular trailhead and found the parking lot completely full already. Damn.. these people are serious about their hiking. I then navigated us to an alternate trail close by and found a virtually empty lot. Perfect.
The trail was called the “Airport Trail” which sounds very unappealing. The Sedona airport is situated on top of a large hill and the trail runs along the outside on the side of the hill. But, for 90% of the trail, you can’t even see the fence that surrounds the airport property. And since the trail goes all the way around, you get incredible views of the area the entire 365 degrees.
At the start of the hike we went to the right and headed to a place called “The Summit” first. It was a short hike to get to an area with steps up to the top of a large rock formation. You know when you see pics of people sitting or laying on top of a giant rock at the top of a mountain? That’s exactly what it was like. A great way to start.
After climbing back down, we continued on the main trail which was a lot longer than I thought it would be. I thought I read that the hike was a 1.5 mile loop but that just has to be wrong considering how large the airport has to be for planes to take off and land. Still, we were committed to doing the whole loop so as it got long, we pressed on.
The other great thing about the hike is that we were already up on the side of a sizable hill so the trail did not have a lot of elevation change. You could basically walk the trail and not get too winded. Great for those of us who live in the flatlands and are not acclimated to the elevation.
Noteworthy is that when we arrived back at the parking lot, it was practically full and there were tons of people everywhere. I guess that’s the bonus of going super early.
When the hike was over, we were sweaty, kind of jazzed up, and not sure what to do with the rest of our day. I had been dressed in long pants and layers for the balloon ride and quickly peeled everything off to try and cool down. Jim drove as we talked about where to go.
Renting ATVs was an option folks had been talking about at the balloon launch site so we went to one of the places on 89A and did just that.
There was an area just outside of town called Red Rock State Park and I had wanted to visit. What better way to get up close and personal with the rock formations without another long hike?!
The trail we opted for was a pretty tame one as were just beginners. Actually, after riding the terrain for about 5 minutes, I had no desire to drive at all. Riding was stressful enough. And bumpy as hell.
The scenery was amazing… again… and we rode to some cliffside ruins; dwellings constructed by native peoples hundreds of years ago. That was pretty cool. The ATV was a 4 hour rental but we were done after just that one trail. As it turns out, Jim didn’t think it was that fun either.
By the time that little adventure was over, we were exhausted, filthy, hungry, and seriously parched. It was also reaching the time of day when all the spots to eat got super busy in Sedona and we weren’t really in any shape for finding parking, waiting, or sitting down for a nice meal. We decided just to drive back to flagstaff and cook our own late day lunch.
It feels like the day ended there. I suppose, in a way, it did. That’s the other thing that happens when you wake up at 4am… you’re ready for bed by like 7pm. 😜
What day am I writing about again? Oh yeah… thirsty Thursday. It was a very thirsty day indeed.
Rolling Dice and Taking Chances,