After eating and visiting with new friends, we all assembled on the Amara lawn to meet, Darryl, a local nature expert with his mini-menagerie of local wildlife. In between Darryl's lectures about mountain lions and other AZ critters, he produced a tarantula and snake for us to meet. The less timid in the group were invited to hold Darryl's friends for pictures and bragging rights. I was surprised at just how delicate a tarantula really is, and how squeamish my own kids could be (although my son did opt to hold the Gopher snake later on).
Dee and her new friend
We bid so long to Darryl and Friends after an hour or so and convened at the front of the hotel to meet our jeep caravan. With our fully decked-out cowboy chauffeurs at the ready, we divided ourselves amongst 3 open-air jeeps that would take us on a backroad tour of Boynton Canyon. To be fair, we would be following actual roads for our trip to the backcountry, but the word 'roads' can be a slippery one to precisely define. The Canyon roads were more-or-less trails on which the larger rocks were pushed to the side.
Our cowboy guide Lynn was short in stature but 10 feet tall in terms of bad jokes, expert driving, and deep knowledge of the outdoors.The trip was definitely an E-Ticket ride - like Big Thunder Mountain done in jeep with NASA-designed suspension. The scenery was simply breathtaking: red rock buttes and mesas, foreign-looking plant-life, and always that blue sky. On the twisting, bumpy roads we went, listening to Lynn's commentary punctuated with the occasional "Yee HAH!". At the halfway point we stopped for pictures and water before coming back the way we came. It was just a great time with some really great cowboy guides!
On the road in Boynton Canyon
By this point it was lunchtime, and our jeeps brought us all to a local cafe/restaurant in Sedona where a private room at been readied for us. Buffet-style, lunch was a spicy Tex-Mex affair washed down with lots and lots of lemonade to clear the red dust from our throats. How we'd get that dust off our clothes and cameras was a different problem. After our meal, we wandered out to the cafe's walled garden where one of our cowboy guides gave hands-on lessons in the fine art of calf-roping (complete with a practise target). For the creative, there was an opportunity to create beaded jewelry (I made a lovely pull-chain for the zipper on my camera bag).
After an hour or so of relaxing post-lunch activities, Dan brought the bus to whisk us all back to the Amara where we would have the afternoon and evening to do as we pleased. Our plans were to do a bit of hiking and a bit of shopping in Sedona. Approximately 1.5 miles from the Amara is the the trail-head for the Jordan Trail - our target for a few hours of hiking through red rocks. With a map to guide us and 2 water bottles for each of us, we set off in the 100F heat.
There is the old saw about 'dry heat' being much more tolerable than 'not-dry heat', and I'd say it's true. But let me assure you, Dear Reader, that 100F is still freakin' hot no matter how much water you're carrying. Add to that the rocky, hilly terrain of the Jordan Trail and you will have a hike to remember! Despite the discomfort and gentle whines from my teenagers, the hike was worthwhile. We rose higher and higher above Sedona and at every turn we found the view more and more impressive. We even met a lady and her horse on the trail, and I could not imagine how a horse could negotiate the rocky paths.
Jordan Trail vista
After a little over a mile on the Trail (seemed like more!), we stopped for pictures and then made our way back towards town. Downhill was much easier going than uphill, and the steady, gentle Arizona breeze kept us reasonably energetic in the heat. As we arrived back in civilization, we replenished our drinks and strolled the main drag of Sedona's shops. Our actual target was The Black Cow Cafe - recommended to us for its ice cream made from the fruit of the Prickly Pear Cactus (sans prickles). I highly recommend this treat, too. It was absolutely delicious!
By that time, our precious teenaged spawn had run out of steam and so they shuffled the short walk to the Amara where they would lower their body temperatures in the pool. My wife, Dee, and I opted to catch the free Trolley to the nearby shopping area known as Tlaquepaque. It is a lovely enclosed village of sorts - filled with varied and upscale shops. While delightful to look at, the place was devoid of people. Where Sedona's main street was teeming with tourists, Tlaquepaque looked like a creepy, creepy ghost town. We still managed to visit a few shops and spend some money, but I could never shake the feeling that the place was haunted.
Back on the Trolley, back to the Amara - it was time for showering and rest. It seemed like no matter how much I scrubbed my skin, there was always more red dust to be found. I elected to consider it a souvenir. Before long, our stomachs decided it was time for dinner - even if our weary legs seemed incapable of getting us there. Off we went in search of food. Rather than tackle the steep hill-climb from the Amara up to the main street, we had a kindly hotel staffer take us topside in an electric cart. I highly recommend that experience at the end of a long day.
While our ABD Guides has a long list of recommendations for Sedona restaurants, we took our chances at The Cowboy Club, a local eatery of some renown. Because we were toursusts, we decided to go native with their cactus fries, rattlesnake, buffalo, and antelope samplers. It was all quite good, but not exactly a vegetarian experience. For the adults, we took the edge off with Prickly Pear Margaritas. All in all, the food was fine. The service was so-so (friendly but slowish), but the ambiance of the place was kind of fun. It was not a bad choice at all, really.
As we walked back to the Amara, we took a moment to admire the Sedona night sky - an almost-full Moon and a billion stars shining bright. One could almost smell the cowboy campfire and hear the muffled melody of the harmonica. We lingered a bit longer and then strolled into the darkness - our thoughts turning to the next day's adventure awaiting us at the Grand Canyon.