Tuesday, December 30, 2014
Third Honeymoon's A Charm
A trip to Sedona to celebrate our 25th wedding anniversary seemed like the perfect time to review hikes and burger joints from Roger Naylor's new book, Boots & Burgers: An Arizona Handbook for Hungry Hikers, so I marked a few hikes and Google-mapped a couple of restaurants, and we set out on a Wednesday evening. Thursday morning we rose with every intention of doing the Hiline Trail (after a hardy breakfast at Coffee Pot Restaurant). But to get to the trailhead, you have to drive up a rugged section of Schnebly Hill Road, and that's when we ran into a snag.
Our little Toyota truck probably could have navigated that road, but I wasn't 100% per cent sure, and the warranty on our tires is expired. So after a brief foray about 20 feet in, where we immediately began to wallow, I turned the truck around and parked it in the paved lot next to Marg's Draw. That trail was tempting, but being unable to drive up Schnebly Hill made me feel very curious about the road, itself.
Schnebly Hill is a very old trail. Martha Summerhayes and her party used it to get to Sedona in the 1870s (Vanished Arizona). I wondered if it would make a good hiking trail in its own right. So Ernie and I decided to hike up the road to the trail head (we figured it was about 2.5 miles), and then we would decide if we could slog any further up the Hiline Trail, or if we should just turn around and hike back. Our other option was to hike Marg's Draw, which looked very alluring from the trailhead. We decided to do that one the next time we return to Sedona, and set off up good ol' Schnebly Hill.
I'm glad we did, because I learned a few things I hadn't known before. For one thing, I realized I'd like to buy a two-seater ATV some day. Several of them passed us on the way, and I admired the way they navigated the rugged rocks and soft sand/silt that challenge any kind of wheels on that road. I also saw something I hadn't seen before.
If you've read Wayne Ranney's book, Sedona Through Time, you know about the Hickey Formation and the Plateau Basalts – but those layers have eroded away in the Sedona area, and it's hard to tell where they were. You see basalt rocks and boulders along Oak Creek (some of them gigantic), but I hadn't seen them along the HWY 179 trails until I spotted them poking up out of the middle of Schnebly Hill Road. I have no idea just how large those rocks are, since they're almost completely buried by sand and silt from the Hermit Shale and Schnebly Hill Formations – for all I know, they may be as big as houses.
There was a wash alongside the road with some standing water in pools and the sort of slickrock you can find at Slide Rock State Park, Bell Rock, Red Rock State Park, etc. Recent running water had left beautiful ripples in the fine sand/silt. We were careful not to stick our gallumphy footprints in it. Overhead, on all sides, red rock formations stared down at us. We made it all the way up to the trail head – but decided to hike back down again, since our day was turning toward afternoon. Four to five hours hiking is plenty for me.
So down we went again. We didn't accomplish my goal of hiking either of those trails (this time around), but we succeeded at the burger end of things beyond my wildest dreams. For our honeymoon supper, we visited Cowboy Club in uptown Sedona. We both ordered the Cowboy Up burger, which is adorned with bacon, cheddar cheese, crispy onions, and BBQ sauce. The burger is ground sirloin, and we asked for ours to be cooked well-done, yet they were still juicy and tasty. They were served on a buttery pretzel roll (just as Roger described it). From the way the burger was described, I thought it might be a bit sloppy, but the ratio of toppings to meat and bun was just right. I had the sweet potato fries with mine, and my husband had the beans. We didn't need appetizers or desert, because the combo was quite filling.
Friday, on our drive back to Phoenix, we decided to take the scenic route and go south on HWY 89A, through Cottonwood, Jerome, and Prescott. This is one of the most beautiful drives you can do in AZ. It's interesting if you're driving south to north, but I particularly enjoy it in the other direction, climbing into Jerome instead of descending through it. If you're the driver, you will have to remind yourself to watch the road, because it twists and turns while continually revealing breathtaking scenery.
By the time we reached Prescott, I was ready to try another burger joint from Roger's book, Bill's Grill. It doesn't seem to be on the main drag through town, but it actually is. It's an innocuous little place on a stretch of the highway at the southern end of town. Hwy 89 is called South Montezuma Street for that stretch, so don't let it throw you.
We chose to sit in the enclosed porch, mostly because we didn't realize it was a porch, it was so cozy and well-protected from the elements. This proved important, because on that particular day a storm was passing through Arizona, bringing colder temps and lots of wind and rain. We felt snug and comfy as we ordered the Southwest BBQ Burger (I just can't resist the bacon). It doesn't come with a side – you have to order that extra, but you may find you don't need it. The burger is pretty big, and I couldn't make much of a dent in the sweet potato fries I ordered (though they were perfect). It had a couple of things in common with the burger I got at Cowboy Club. One was that it also was not overwhelmed by its condiments. And the other was that they use locally raised beef. These burgers were so tasty, I think I've been spoiled for life.