Sunday, March 25, 2012


Red Rocks 1Saturday dawned cool and sunny, perfect for our planned day trip to Sedona, 20 miles away.  We packed our lunch, grabbed our maps and were out the door at 9 am.

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!

Red Rocks 3 Red Rocks 4

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.  :)

Oak Creek Canyon switchbacksPart 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!


  1. I'll take grits, as in the manner of Georgia, Tennessee or Virginia! With cheese or with gravy, mmmmm, what a dish! Can't say I like polenta - too creamy maybe?

  2. Our Uncle Jr. and Aunt Jeanette bought a home there in about 1980...they sold it about 5 years later at a nice profit...I wish they had kept it...We were there back then, and it was very different than now....But Oak Creek Canyon is beautiful...There was a great "high end" shopping area called Talacapaci..(sp?)..also a nice restaurant called Shegrue's...not sure if either one exists anymore...Sadly,A beautiful, but now very commercial part of Arizona.

  3. I've never been to Sedona but always wanted to go. Thanks for the trail information. It always saddens me to have the audio experience hampered by the noise of civilization. There is a ski resort in Virginia along the AT which is the same way. (not to mention, What is a ski resort doing in a place where they have to use electricity to make snow for heaven's sake!!)

  4. I think the Oak Creek Canyon drive might be just a bit too adventurous for me. I know Paul wouldn't be able to drive. He will get car sick. I will take your word about how beautiful, etc. it is. Maybe in my next life. Enjoy your week. ~wheresweaver

  5. Having lived in Sedona, they have some fabulous hiking trails if one gets off the beaten path. Tourism is alive and well in Sedona, as you seem to have found. I applaud you for navigating your rig through all that madness! Thanks for the suggestions for the polenta. It sounds wonderful and I will give it a go in the oven. I've always cooked it on the stove and tried to avoid getting burned by the little explosions!

  6. You are correct. I am not a very adventurous eater, but I'm striving to correct that. Grits and a raw oyster have pretty much topped my experience in the food department here in Mississippi this year. :)

  7. I love Boynton Canyon, actually. Tried for some "effects" at the vortex even. Basically just a really nice meditation there to report. LOL My friend lived in Prescott so we could go there when it was at least a little bit less crowded.

  8. Years ago on our way to hike to the bottom of the Grand Canyon friends and I drove through Sedona (same opinion as you) and up Oak Creek Canyon. I still have a silver bracelet I purchased from one of the Native American vendors on the edge of Oak Creek Canyon.

  9. Sounds beautiful in Sedona. To bad about all the noise. That truly can ruin a good outing.

  10. Thanks for the recipe link! I enjoyed polenta a lot as a child in an Italian neighborhood and should make some again.

    We loved the natural parts of Sedona, but like you, drove through town and avoided the tourists. We did stop at one interesting thrift shop though.

    The scenery is breathtaking and winding roads into Sedona from the NE were amazing.

    Karen and Steve
    (Our Blog) RVing: Small House... BIG Backyard

  11. The talk of food is really getting to me! Hopefully the Docs will come in here soon and I can hear their opinion on John's condition today.

    Could you send some of that polenta this way?

    I am so looking forward to getting on the road.

  12. Sedona looks like a great picture taking opportunity..the Red Rocks are amazing against the blue sky!

  13. We are headed the Sedona area next week from the Grand Canyon. Google wanted to take us down that 89A route. Luckily other friends who recently drove that road warned us that it was not a good one for towing so we have chosen a different route. Its fun following all your doing in the area so we have a head's up on our next adventure.

  14. I've been toying with the idea of making polenta for years now, finally made it yesterday along with a tomato fennel sauce I found on the internet. What kind of vegetarian never had polenta, right? Could not believe how quick and easy both were to make! I love fennel but tend to buy it and then often have to throw it out because I forget I have to figure out what to do with it. This was much easier than some other things I've tried and much tastier! I'm putting the rest of the sauce in the freezer to take with us on our trip in a few days and packing polenta in the cupboard. Safe travels!