After sneaking off into the mountains nearly early weekend last fall, having our first adventure of 2019 be at the end of April was a painstaking wait. One previous weekend trip we had planned ended early with an unexpected road closure due to snow, and between the creation of Small Towns to Summits and two busy work schedules we struggled to find time to escape into nature. Finally, the weekend of Easter we were able to set aside four days to explore two totally new places for the both of us: the Superstition Wilderness and Sedona.
Stop #1: Backpacking the Superstition Wilderness
We started with a backpacking trip in the Superstition Wilderness: we followed the route described here. However, instead of spending three days we managed to squeeze it into two (always doing the most, I know). On day one, we got to the trail head in time to start around 2:30 pm – not so luckily for us the hottest part of the day. We trekked in the first seven miles to base camp with our packs under the scorching desert sun, but spirits remained high as we walked amongst gardens of cacti and mesas as far as our eyes could see. Making it to base camp just around sunset (after the desert rock formations changed from brown to orange and gold as the sun slipped out of the sky), we set up and set out to find water to filter. After a few to many minutes filtering water and a few too many bugs sneaking into our backpacking meals, we slept under the full moon in the Arizona desert.
We managed to cut this trip down into two days by combining days two and three described in the route. As suggested, we left our heavy packs at base camp, grabbed our trail runners, and did the 10 mile loop (recorded by us as 12… but it’s fine). After a tumble or two and a gila monster sighting, we made it back to camp in just a few hours. There was no avoiding hiking out during the hottest part of the day once again, so we spent a couple hours filtering the water that we would need to carry us through. Even though it was just over 24 hours in the backcountry, it was more than enough for me to feel as if I was truly able to slip into a different state of mind. Not seeing hardly anyone on the trail combined with the rugged, wild Arizona desert added the Superstition Wilderness right into our list of best outdoor trips.
- The views – some of the photos absolutely speak for themselves, but the towering cacti complementing our solidarity was truly something else.
- Locating our water source on the first night and despite our exhaustion, finding joy in the realization that we simply had to filter our water and make food for the night – the rest of the world had no space in our minds.
- Finishing with the realization that we knocked out 26 miles in just under 26 hours – so much for a “relaxing” backcountry trip!
Lows / Takeaways:
- The heat! Make sure to bring more sunscreen, protective clothing layers, and water than you think you need.
- A bit of trail confusion on the way in – we found our way quickly back but even in well-marked areas, it’s easy to get lost! Make sure you have a downloaded map.
Stop #2: Devil’s Bridge
After we took a few self-timed photos and videos in the Superstition Wilderness parking lot, we packed up and headed over to Sedona! We were ready with our itinerary, all we needed to figure out was where to camp for the night. Alex found that we were able to camp in certain areas in the Tonto National Forest – giving us the ability to camp right at the start of the Devil’s Bridge trailhead…with a 4:45 am alarm – this was key. After rolling over and packing up our sleeping bags and tent with maybe two words between us, we set out to catch Devil’s Bridge at sunrise. I am endlessly thankful for Alex’s planning skills – going before the majority of the crowds was most definitely the call! A relatively easy 3.5 mile roundtrip hike was even more enjoyable in the cool morning air, and having one of Arizona’s most beautiful places nearly to ourselves was simply magical. There is so much to be said about this physical wonder tucked away in the forest – but no amount of words will hold a candle to these photos.
- Being able to run around and take as many photos as we wanted without getting in the way of any crowds.
- Watching the sunrise dance over the horizon and slowly lighten up the mesas in the distance.
Lows / Takeaways:
- Waking up at 4:45 am is never fun, but again – 1,000% worth it for this location. We both SO highly recommend Devil’s Bridge for sunrise 🙂
Stop #3: Seven Sacred Pools
Our second stop in Sedona was supposed to be the Birthing Cave, but we failed to take our own advice and download a reliable map before losing service and were unable to find a trail without harmfully bush whacking. But, as is usually the case, we made the most of our time and wandered along an Long Canyon trail in the Tonto National Forest – and of course did our best to capture the simply unbelievable slot canyons above us.
After a quick drive through the town, we made it to the Seven Sacred Pools Trailhead. We were grateful for the easy 1.5 mile hike up to the pools, as the temperature had already started to climb. Our initial reaction was that the pools were somewhat underwhelming – until we listened to the legend behind them. These small pools had not once gone dry in recorded history – providing populations crossing the desert with a steady source of drinkable water. The seemingly small puddles of water were immediately transformed in our thoughts into a truly sacred area.
- Taking our time at the pools and finding ourselves in the middle of a tour – without listening in on the tour guide’s story we would not have learned the legend of the Seven Sacred Pools.
- Being able to enjoy a fairly accessible location – while we love our long as* hikes, it’s nice to once in awhile enjoy a quick trip up to our destination.
- Parking! This goes for all of Sedona in general – make sure to plan out your day and allow time for extra walking, the only time we were able to find a spot in the trailhead lot was when we got there before sunrise 🙂
Stop #4: Cathedral Rock and Buddha Beach
Learning our lesson from the two days before, we spent the hottest few hours of the day inside Wildflower Cafe and Bakery to crank out a bit of work before hitting our last location in Sedona – Cathedral Rock. We both agreed that we were absolutely exhausted of walking, and this stop would be minimal movement. Of course, we ended up doing roughly another 5 miles roundtrip to make it down to Buddha Beach from Cathedral Rock. We spent a bit of time laying on the beach – reading, wading in the river, and watching one dad unsuccessfully try to wrangle four little kids for a photo to send to his sick wife (I can never help but chat with everyone). As we trekked back up to the base of Cathedral Rock from the beach, the sky began to change. Our last hour in Sedona was spent dancing, running around, and being absolute goons underneath a rock formation that truly made us feel as if we were at church. Standing underneath that mesa and soaking in all of the incredible experiences that we shared in the last 72 hours was somewhat bittersweet. While that moment is etched into my memory as one of the best of the weekend – it’s always hard to leave behind a few breathtaking days in new, wild places.
- Cathedral Rock at sunset.
- Seeing the diversity of Sedona: a rapidly flowing river standing underneath a desert landscape.
Lows / takeaways:
- Again, make sure to have maps downloaded / routes figured out before setting out! Luckily we had enough water and snacks with us, but the walk down to Buddha Beach was a bit longer than expected. Other than that, this final destination in Arizona was simply a high.
It’s not often that you have the opportunity to cover 40 miles in 3 days with your best friend and business partner. With this being our first weekend of 2019 that we were able to escape into the desert, we had to take advantage of every second. Though in looking through these photos I’m already wanting to head back – I know that the rest of this year will bring more of these ineffable moments that I can begin to imagine right now. Neither one of us can wait to continue our dirtbag adventure – this weekend in Arizona added fuel to the fire that is our excitement for Small Towns to Summits to begin.
Make sure to look out for more video footage of this magical trip – and as always keep your eye out for more content on all of our social medias!