The small city of Sedona is nestled in one of the beauty spots of North America – my opinion, and the opinion of hundreds of thousands of people who come to gaze upon it… including hordes who wanted to gaze upon it on Saturday.
Like many beautiful places, Sedona suffers from its popularity. Strip malls (albeit far more attractive than most) and traffic line its approaches; the town center was a stressful knot of stop-and-go traffic and tourists. We weren’t interested in browsing or shopping, so passing through town was simply a practice in patience.
Approaching from the west, our first stop was the Boynton Canyon trailhead. Gaping at the enormous, stunning, red rock formations as we approached the parking area, we looked forward to enjoying this popular trail, leading to one of Sedona’s famous vortices. From both the written trail description and the number of cars in the parking lot at 10 am, we knew we wouldn’t be alone. What we didn’t know – unfortunately - is that half a mile or more of the trail runs directly adjacent to a luxury resort that spreads across the bottom of the narrow canyon.
Less than a quarter mile into the hike, the trail enters a designated wilderness area (always a good sign, in my mind – no powered vehicles or bikes allowed). Shortly after signing the wilderness register, the trail approached the edge of the resort – and for the next 1/2 mile or more, we were serenaded by the sounds of leaf blowers, cars, and a chain saw doing its thing. Even after we left the resort behind, the sounds of gas powered engines followed us up the narrow canyon. What a shame!
The scenery, though was just what we hoped: glorious! Both of the photos above were taken along the trail, along with dozens more – it was difficult to keep the camera in my pocket. So, though I wouldn’t hike this particular trail again, we did enjoy the views and the weather. No vortex effects to report. :)
Part two of our planned excursion was a drive up beautiful Oak Creek Canyon to the switchbacks 14 miles north of Sedona. There is only one way to access the canyon from the south, and that is right through the knot of congestion in the heart of Sedona. We worked our way through town, and joined the other drivers heading up the canyon on a beautiful day in a beautiful area, windows down, sunroof open.
What a drive! The canyon is narrow, as is the two lane, winding road. Oak Creek boiled with muddy snowmelt from the recent storm. At times, rocky cliffs crowd the roadside; everywhere, high, carved, brightly colored rock walls vie for attention. Per posted signs, vehicles over 50 feet long are prohibited on the switchbacks on highway 89A. Though we did see a tour bus descending, there is NO way we would use this route to travel in the motorhome from Sedona to Flagstaff!
Back home, I found many interesting comments about huitlacoche (aka corn smut or Raven’s excrement) – blogs about food always seem to touch a chord. The biggest surprise came from Judy (Travels with Emma): “I think I would have liked to try one of those quesadillas.” I don’t think of Judy as a very adventurous eater, but her comment and a recent blog post indicate otherwise; she tried grits!
Both grits and polenta are made of ground corn. Polenta is a favorite of ours (grits, not so much) and Judy’s post reminded me to include a recipe I discovered the other night, Enrico’s Easy Polenta – baked in the oven!
Cooking boiling cornmeal on a stovetop can be hazardous; the thickened mass looks like lava as hot bubbles form and burst. Stand back! Polenta can be cooked in the microwave, but I’ve ended up with a massive mess when I used too small a bowl. Cooked in the oven? Trouble- and mess-free!
I used the creamy polenta in its traditional role – in place of pasta, topped with a tomato-fennel sauce. Next morning, I cubed the now-firm leftover polenta, fried it in olive oil, put it on top of a pile of savory beans and topped it off with mildly spiced guacamole. Yum!