Sedona in a Hot Air Balloon

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We had a rather long day Wednesday, waking up at 3:00 AM for our Hot Air Ballooning adventure, adding what should have been an extra 2 hours’ drive and a 2-hour tour of Antelope Canyon to our itinerary, and getting lost for an additional 2 hours before savoring the last moments of a beautiful sunset in Monument Valley on the border of Utah and Arizona.

Neither Mike nor I had ever been on a hot air balloon, and the experience was even better than I’d imagined. Involuntary and unexpected tears filled my eyes as we lifted off shortly before sunrise in Sedona. There are fires in Flagstaff, and the smoke gave the valley a mystical aura. Our pilot, Daniel, grew up in Sedona, and he gave us a week’s worth of history, trivia, and interesting facts and figures in one short hour. He assured us that the wind would shift at about 10:30, and then the smoke would blow toward Flagstaff. After our small group of 4 landed in a field, Daniel and his “chaser” deflated the balloon, packed everything up into the trailer, and we joined the other groups for a glass of Champagne.

We got on the road almost 2 hours earlier than we’d planned, thank goodness. Trying to find the location for the Lower Antelope Canyon tour was a little tricky, but I’m glad that we persisted. The tour, led by Ty, a Navajo guide, was spectacular. It was 95 degrees (“it’s a dry heat”) in the desert, but nice and cool underground. We descended 8 ladders to get to the bottom, and slowly worked our way up to the surface. Mike and I met a photographer at Fiesta Hermosa on Memorial Day week-end. We were admiring his work, and he convinced us that a side trip to Antelope Valley would be worthwhile. It definitely was. I keep joking that I am “planning to be spontaneous”… well, this is as close as it gets. Hearing about a place that sounds beautiful that was sort-of en route anyway, thinking about it for 4 days, and making a decision an hour before we got on the road, counts as “spontaneous” for me. Glad we deviated from our plan.

Our trip to Monument Valley was a bit more “exciting”. The drive itself is beautiful, through constantly changing landscapes. Red rocks jutting up out of nowhere, limestone structures, miles of sage green hills, high desert, and then another massive rock wall that reminded us of “The Wall” in Game of Thrones. Of course I had the directions via Mapquest, and when we reached Monument Valley I confidently drove us toward our destination, ignoring what the GPS in the car told me to do…. Almost an hour later, after driving about 20 miles on bumpy red dirt roads into tribal lands, past humongous rock monuments, Mike getting more nervous by the second (and by the way, no mobile signal whatsoever), and the sun starting to set, I gave in, and turned around. We called the hotel once we got a signal and realized that had we just continued down the one road that we were on, we would have reached our destination 2 hours earlier.

The View Cabins are rustic and tiny, but are aptly named. We woke up at 5:00 AM and were rewarded with a beautiful sunrise behind some of the more massive rock formations. If only we’d made it here in time for the full sunset show last night! God’s masterpiece is phenomenal. We have been in awe at every turn.

Having seen a great deal of the Valley during our misadventures, we decided to make our way to Santa Fe and forego the hike in Monument Valley. The forecast of 100+ degrees was a deterrent, given my intolerance for heat. But the sunrise – THAT was totally worth the price of admission!


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