After a beautiful painted desert drive from Petrified Forest National Park, we arrive in Flagstaff at dusk. Juniper and I enjoy a nice long rest at the Best Western before getting a late-morning start to our exploring. First stop: Thorpe Bark Park.
Even at 11am on a Monday, Juniper shares the dog park with 15-20 dog friends. This is probably the best dog park I’ve ever been too, and in fact all of Thorpe Park looks like a fantastic urban park. The visitor may even access the forested Mars Hill trail system from the park.
My great first impression of Flagstaff is amplified when we walk around historic downtown.
After our 2-ish mile walk around downtown, Juniper quickly falls into a deep sleep in the car. Juni is an energetic young dog, yet she has no tolerance for mid-day sun (it is only 73 degrees in Flagstaff). I am really learning her limitations on this trip.
From Flagstaff we head south toward Sedona via AZ Hwy 89A, making a stop at Oak Creek Vista, where I first glimpse the mobs of people we will be seeing all the way to Sedona. Keep in mind this is on a Monday – late enough in August that I would have thought many kids would already be back in school.
The views of Coconino National Forest are beautiful from Oak Creek Vista. Pictured below are the fun-yet-slightly-scary switchbacks of Hwy 89A as it drops down into the canyon.
We spy a little unpaved path, and relish the few minutes of respite from the busy tourist stop. Have I mentioned before how crown-averse I am?
In spite of the numerous beautiful pullouts between Oak Creek Vista and Sedona, I find them too packed with people to stop for pictures, and my plan for camping in Coconino National Forest is dashed and when I find all campgrounds
After a couple of miles at a snail’s pace due to road-construction and traffic in Sedona, I park the car with the intention of taking a quick walk around town with Juniper before finding a trail. We make it two blocks and I take this one quick photo before heading back to the car. At 85 degrees, it is far too hot for Juni pup to be walking here.
With the knowledge that we won’t be able to camp anywhere nearby tonight, I settle for a short scenic drive around a neighborhood, and am pleasantly surprised when the tarmac ends and I find myself headed into a quiet natural area.
What bliss! There is not a single car at the trailhead parking lot. If only it wasn’t so hot! I leave Juniper in the car with the air conditioner running as I take a 5-minute walk around and snap a photo of the trail map for future reference (oh yes, I will be back one day to tackle these trails).
We return to Flagstaff to check out one last campground, but arrive to find it full as well. Turning east on I-40, we take a slight detour in Holbrook to view some good Route 66 relics, which I will include in a later post.
After two straight nights in a hotel, budget does not allow for another hotel stay tonight and all desert camping options en route to my next destination are far too hot for Juniper (90-98 degrees even at sunset). I see no other option than to press on to El Morro tonight, driving through a gorgeous rainy sunset, unaware just how lonely the roads ahead of me will be.
Although my plan to camp in Arizona was a bust, and we drove 13+ hours in two days and tried to cram too much in, I have no regrets about making the side trip from New Mexico. The red rock of Sedona and the biodiverse Coconino National Forest are stunningly beautiful, and I will definitely be back one day in a cooler, quieter shoulder season for more leisurely wandering and exploration.
Next up: El Morro National Monument