June 1, 2011

Boynton Canyon Trail

Can a smell be bottled and transported? Because this photo shows the point along the trail when I was contemplating how I could get the Sedona smell home to the Phoenix desert. It's a mixture of pine, juniper and manzanita in dry air that gives a crisp, fresh scent. And I could swear that red rocks smell different from brown rocks. They smell more musty and earthen. Is it the iron oxide in the red rocks that causes them to smell different? Like the childhood smell of a rusting Radio Flyer red-wagon. I'm not finding any convincing evidence on the internet, but I do believe that red rocks are both scenic and fragrant. Sedona is just a rock lovers paradise. A little tidbit for my fellow geology friends: Sedona's red rocks are part of the Schnebly Hill Formation, if you want to delve further. And if you tire of red rocks, even the manzanita shrubs have red bark. The sky looks so blue against these red colors, and the green foliage pops out of the trees. Sedona just seems magical.

I'm not really sure why I've only visited Sedona a couple of times before in my 13 years in Arizona. I tend to avoid touristy places. The one experience I had was at Red Rock Fantasy in the winter to see Christmas lights at a condo complex. The pictures are all of me pushing a heavily blanketed stroller, baby unrecognizable, around a maze of walkways in the dark. After that, we went to someplace called Tlaquepaque where my obsession became saying the name over and over while we window-shopped. I'm pretty sure the entire experience could have been reproduced in a Scottsdale mall. Another visit was in the late summer when we tried to go to Oak Creek and Slide Rock on a weekend -- a.k.a. "Red Rock Sunsplash" for it's waterpark-like crowds. So I hadn't really seen the "good" of Sedona.

However, now that I'm unable to hike around the Phoenix area without dying of heat stroke, we are branching out to higher ground in Sedona. I decided to try the Boynton Canyon hike earlier in the summer, rather than later, and save the shaded Oak Creek water-hikes for later in the summer when it's hotter. Unfortunately, about half of the Boynton Canyon trail winds around the Enchantment Resort with the trail right up against the red cliffs that heat up immensely in the sun. So it was pretty hot for a good part of the trail, even during the first week of June. But then the trail enters into a forested area as you go deeper into a box canyon, and it cools off a bit. A lot of the trail looks like this photo, and it gets even more densely forested:

The red rocks are really something all along the trail. A few notes of caution: the trail seems much longer than 5 miles round trip. I had read other people reviewing the trail the same way so I think the mileage is wrong on this one. Also, the last 150 feet of the trail is very steep, and due to a knee injury earlier in the week, I didn't even attempt the steep end-part. Yet, even without the very last part of the trail, which supposedly goes to an observation lookout, I can still say that the trail had a lot going for it with views, smell, and shade. The parking lot is very small so get to the trailhead early. You can buy a Red Rock pass along Highway 179 on the way into town at the Red Rock Ranger Visitor Center, or in the lobby of the Enchantment Resort next door. To get to the trailhead, take Highway 179 to Sedona, and then 89A southwest out of town. Turn north after a short 3 miles onto Dry Creek Road and follow the signs to Boynton Canyon.

Length: 5+ miles round trip
Elevation gain: 500 feet
Time it took us: 3.5 hours
Dogs: Yes
Fees: $5 for a Red Rock Pass
Mare's Tail (Cirrus) clouds above the buttes indicate an impending change in the weather.