View up the road from our campsite in the Coconino National Forest outside of Sedona.

May 13 – May 24, 2020.

I got lost in the woods alone. This was annoying. Not just because I was lost but because by becoming lost I ended up not avoiding the very thing I was trying to avoid when I became lost. No worries, obviously I found my way in the end.

We were in Sedona – the land of red rocks – boondocking (free camping) along Forest Road 525 in the Coconino National Forest. There were lots of great campsites to choose from but we drove miles until we had a view of Sedona’s amazing sandstone cliffs. It was stunningly beautiful. Every morning, as our habit of the last few months, we got up at sunset and hiked. At first, we walked the roads, following gravel paths towards the towering burnt orange walls until we decided to head back. But then Friday rolled around and those same roads were besieged by ATVs zooming past us covering us with red dust. It was time to find some real trails.

There is a wonderful trail system in the forest around Sedona. My app, The Hiking Project, showed lots of possibilities. We picked a few hiking routes and spent a couple of peaceful mornings, barely seeing another person.

During the next week, we drove to more hiking spots, sometimes exploring more trails and sometimes walking more of the road. The trails seemed to get more populated as we week wore on and even though we were acutely aware that the pandemic continued to take 1000 or more lives a day we felt we could adequately social distance. Then another weekend rolled around.

Not just a weekend but a holiday weekend – Memorial Day weekend. By this time Greg had suffered a small hiking setback (nothing to worry about, he just needed to take a few days off) and I was hiking alone. Greg dropped me off at a trailhead on Saturday shortly after sunrise and I set off on a five-mile loop. It was a good hike. I passed maybe a dozen people which I always gave the appropriate amount of social distancing space by leaving the trail and standing aside. But as my walk came to an end in the late morning I found the trailhead crawling with people, lots, and lots of people – like this was the only trail in all of Sedona! On my way to find where Greg was parked, I passed pairs of people, families, a pack of 30 or more people in a steady stream towards the forest. No one was masked or social distancing.

I needed a new, more unattractive hiking plan for day two of the holiday weekend. And just in case you are thinking I am taking this whole pandemic thing way too seriously (I am), I had other reasons for finding a less-traveled trail. Fewer people meant a smaller chance of people getting in the way of some perfect picture I wanted to take and most of all, fewer people would have to see my ass sticking in the air as I bent over to take macro-zoom pictures of flowers every five minutes.

The next day, I found a trail that didn’t lead into the red rocks hoping it would be a little quieter. When we arrived, the hike looked promising, there were no cars in the parking lot. At first, a narrow footpath led to a disused road but eventually that disused road became an active forest road with campers (people!) in campsites. On my trail map from my Hiking Project app, I saw that there were several trails that led from the main route that would loop me around back to the disused road portion of the trail. But each time I consulted the map I found that I had missed the turn-off. Finally, determined to get off the road before the ATVs woke up I doubled back to find one of these trails just as I heard the loud engine of an off-road vehicle heading my way. I stepped off into the brush to avoid a dusting. From my position off the road, I could see on my map that I was close to the trail I was looking for so instead of going back to the road to find the trailhead I walked farther into the forest hoping I would pick up the path. And I did. It was a well-worn track!

All was well until I reached this wash (dry river). Somehow at the wash, I became confused and started following a different trail from my map. I thought I knew where the trail went, then lost it. I ended up following the wash and then climbed up the 20-foot wash wall trying to get back on the path. But then, once out of the wash I got distracted by some pretty flowers and a butterfly and started taking pictures.

After the butterflies refused to cooperate and pose for me I realized I need to get back to the task of finding the trail again. I looked at my map and saw It showed that I was actually standing on the trail. I looked down and there I was in the middle of a well-worn path. I started following it but it seemed to be going the wrong way. I checked my map again and saw I was one more off-trail. I turned back, couldn’t find a path that corresponded with my map so I very carefully descended back into the wash knowing it would take me to the road sooner or later. Which it did, right before an ATV came powering past me blanketing me with dust.

I was never too worried while I was lost because there are people almost everywhere in the forest around Sedona. I figured no matter where I was, I was always in the yelling distance of someone. But who can blame them? Sedona was quite nice. We stayed there for two weeks. The weather was perfect, the view stunning, the hiking mostly good, and there was something new to see every day. There were two Native American ruins we could have visited but they were closed because of the pandemic. And although we only saw downtown Sedona as we were heading out it looked like a place we might return to for a night on the town when social distancing and crowds are no longer daily concerns.

* BTW – Once I ended up on the disused road portion of the trail on my way back to the parking lot, I looked for the trailhead of the original trail I was trying to follow when I left the main trail. I never saw it. I believe that that this trail must have been closed by the forest service and although the trailheads had grown over the middle was completely intact. As for the other trail when I got lost – I have no idea what was going on there.

Our campsite off of Forest Road 525 in the Coconino National Forest.
View from our campsite of the Cockscomb at sunset.
Woodhouse’s Scrub Jay.
Woodhouse’s Scrub Jay in flight.
View down Forest Road 525.
Taylor Tank.
Deer near Taylor Tank.
Lark Sparrow.
Blue-gray Gnat Catcher.
Almost every morning we saw hot-air balloons floating over the forest.
View from the Aerie Trail.
Common Side-blotched lizard.
Common Buckeye.
View of the Cockscomb from the Cockscomb trail.
View at Boyton Pass.
There are supposedly places in Sedona called Vortexes that are said to possess spiritual energy. A Google search told me this wasn’t one of them but it was very close to the rocks at Boyton Pass where a vortex is supposed to exist.
The four crosses that stood in front of a path that led to the previous picture.
View on the Boyton Canyon trail.
Ashthroated Flycatcher.
Black Swallowtail.
Giant Agave Bug. We saw several agaves covered with these.
Lesser Goldfinch.
Desert Grassland Whiptail.
Western Whiptail.
View from the Mescal Trail.
Parry’s Agave.
Agave on the Mescal trail.
Black-chinned Sparrow
Blue-gray Gnat Catcher.
Fay Canyon Arch.
Rock stacks at Fay Canyon Arch.
Greater Earless Lizard.
View from the Brins Mesa Trail.
Seven Sacred Pools on the Soldier Pass Trail.
View from Soldier Pass Trail.
Brown-spined Prickly-pear
Variegated Fritillary.
Gray Vireo.
Narrowleaf Yucca.

Have you ever gotten lost hiking? Do you prefer to hike popular trails or do you like the path less followed?

15 thoughts on “Sedona

  1. Seeing your pictures, I understand how you got lost–buried in the micro instead of tracking the macro.

    BTW, and forgive me if this is a nutty question, do you have a friend finding app? You’d never really be lost with that. Your friend could go somewhere and you aim for him. Of course, there is the issue of cell towers. Sigh.

    1. So I Googled the friend finder app. Interesting – but, of course, my only friend would be Greg and he could install it on his tablet and I could install on our shared phone but it would rely on both of us having an internet connection.

      I did try locating Greg once by using the Google find my device function but was pretty disappointed that it only gave me a general idea of where he (or rather the tablet) was. We are usually together so it is rarely a problem. But it is probably a very good idea to have a list hiking plan.

      1. The generality of location could be because of the lack of cell towers. For me, it puts me pretty close to where my husby and kids are. It does need internet, though. Darn!

    1. Thank you Jo! But I also know you always head out with such determination. I’m glad you always find your way.

    1. Bell Rock makes me think about climbing to the top of Bell Rock in the Bahamas!

      We didn’t get to Bell Rock in Sedona. So many great trails!

  2. Sedona is so beautiful and inspiring (although we never experienced a vortex). Your photos are stunning, Duwan. I think you can call yourself a blogger and a photographer now. 🙂 Especially the one of Taylor Tank took my breath away.

    We have gotten lost (or missed the trail) before as well. In the Vermillion Cliffs, it was for the same reason. We started following a wash and never picked up the trail on the other end, as we didn’t see it or a sign for it. We had to backtrack for an hour or so to pick up that trail again. I’m glad you found your way back.

    It looks like in the Sedona area, life is back to normal! Especially during Memorial Day weekend. I’m surprised groups of hikers are out that early already. And, aren’t those ATVs annoying? Too bad you couldn’t visit the ruins. Next time! Hope Greg is feeling more energetic again.

    1. Greg is better. It was some kind of weird knee thing.

      Thank you but honestly I just think I’m a hack at both – blogging and photography but I am striving to get better all the time.

      I think we went to one of the vortexes but didn’t know about the vortexes at the time and didn’t feel any mysterious energy.

      I’m sure people were dying to get out and hike after all the isolation, I just wish they were more conscientious about it. I skipped my last hike all together on Memorial Day. We got to the trailhead really early and there were already a dozen cars there. We cruised the parking lot and left.

      I almost backtracked to find my original trail but I knew it would cost me extra time – and Greg was waiting for me. He said he was almost ready to go hunt me down when I got back.

      What I really hate about the ATVs is that they speed down the main roads. There are plenty of ATV trails for them to drive fast on.

      Well, I’m glad we have all found our way in the end. It makes you more understanding of how people get lost in the wilderness, though.

  3. As always, a wonderful blog and fa ntactic photos. I can just i.agine you wandering off-trail to follow a 🦋 or snap a pic of a flower…oh, there’s a 🦎!
    I was in Sedona years ago with some girlfriends. They wanted so badly to “feel” the vortex, i believe they talked themselves into it. Me? Never felt a thing.
    I envy your travels. Please continue to take me to all the places you go!

    1. Yeah – I didn’t know about the vortexes at the time but later a friend told us about them. I looked them up and apparently we had been at one. Didn’t feel anything different while we there. Oh well, perhaps we just aren’t in tune or something.

      We are glad to take you places and hope to be following along again on your adventures soon!

  4. Sedona is a gorgeous area and your photos look as though they could be on the brochure for the local tourism board. Beautifully captured.
    It sounds like you kept your cool about the trail, or lack there of. I’m quite petrified of getting off trail. I’ve never considered myself an ultra strong hiker so not sure I would be able to put in extensive extra distances if needed to backtrack.
    Glad all ended well and with such prize photos as well.

    1. Thanks!

      Maybe it is all the years sailing when we really had to keep our cool or things could have gone terribly wrong – but I don’t get too worried when things look bad. I did think as I was lost, though, that this is how it happens when you read in the news about someone getting lost in the wilderness for days or weeks.

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