Our first order of business today was to buy Baxter a shock collar. When we returned from dinner last night, he was barking loudly--the low, bellowing hound bark--and we knew we'd need to rectify the problem quickly. Sure, we're in a pet-friendly motel, but no one wants to hear a dog bark for hours on end. We tested the collar before leaving for breakfast (we stood outside the door and waited for him to bark). Seeing as how we heard one bark and then a weird sound of surprise, I'm guessing the collar works.
After breakfast we picked up Baxter and began the day's travels. Our first two stops were Montezuma Well and Montezuma Castle National Monument, both about fifty miles south of Flagstaff. The well is a limestone sinkhole with a lake at the bottom. Cliff dwellings and the remains of pueblos built by the Southern Sinagua around the 12th century surround the well. Although it was rather cool in Flagstaff, it was nearly 100 degrees in the desert. Why did I wear jeans? We walked the 1/3 mile trail along the top of the well, and then I waited with Baxter while Janet took the trail down to the lake. Baxter nearly pulled me along when we started walking, but it hadn't taken long for the heat to enervate him. Eventually I took him to the car for some water (for me and him) and enjoyed the air conditioning.
Next, we drove a few more miles south to Montezuma Castle National Monument. The "castle" is a five-story, 20-room cliff dwelling built by Southern Sinagua farmers. Early settlers thought Axtecs had constructed it, hence the "Montezuma." Both the well and the castle demonstrated the ingenuity people have possessed throughout history. With a taste of antiquity, we drove north to Sedona, where 21st century, upscale living abounds.
If we lived in Sedona, I would never tire of the scenery. Anywhere you drive you get a view of the beautiful red rocks surrounding the town. The only problem is that if we lived in Sedona, we'd have to live in a tent. Even fairly worn houses on the outskirts of town go for $470,000+. Sedona began as a pioneer settlement but has evolved into a resort town and a wealthy retirement hotspot. The average age in Sedona is 50. (Although Janet and I will never live there, we decided it would make for a nice anniversary getaway in the future.) We weren't concerned with spas, boutiques, and gourmet dining today, though. We just wanted to take in the scenery and take an easy hike.
We took the Upper Red Rock Loop, which winds along the southern edge of town and offers some stunning views of the rocks. Along the way we stopped at a park called Red Rocks Crossing and took a hike on a short, wooded trail to where Oak Creek runs by Cathedral Rock, the most-photographed of the formations. I wish we'd had a chainsaw to cut down the annoying, skinny tree that extended over the creek and partially obscured the view, but we still managed to get some good photos. We returned to Flagstaff via Highway 89, which cuts through areas thick with pine as it climbs the edge of Oak Creek Canyon. Again, more gorgeous scenery.
After dropping off Baxter at the motel, we ate dinner downtown at the Altitude Bar and Grill. It was a bit noisy (due in no small part to the 70's dance music playing in the background), but I enjoyed my gyro. Sufficiently nourished, we drove a few miles northwest of town to Hart Prairie Road. It's an 11-mile dirt farm road that gently ascends to a meadow through acres of aspens and Ponderosa pines. Driving with the windows down was a must here, too. It was easily the most tranquil drive of the trip to this point--we saw more deer than people. While we were doing our best to "feed scenery into a hungry, one-eyed camera" as Collins writes, I was reminded how mind-boggling it is to attempt to fathom heaven when God has created some nearly indescribable places here on earth.
We wrapped up the evening with a drive up to the Snow Bowl ski resort to watch the storm approaching from the west and to catch the last bit of the crepuscular sky.