Thursday, January 31, 2008

Tell Old Man Winter to take a hike!



I've enjoyed reading the headlines lately. From Michigan the Kalamazoo Gazette reads,"Arctic blast closes roads, cuts power." From New York, "Frigid winds whip into the Northeast." From Washington state, "Mountains have been buried by snowstorm; freeway closed again." From our headquarters in Telluride, CO, "Whiteout blizzard closes roads."

Unless you live in Tampa Florida, where the temperature is now 78 degrees, you are most likely bundled with hat and gloves and gratefully accepting the minty breath of Old Man Winter. Things will change however, and even the most die-hard winter enthusiasts will begin to dream about warmer days. For myself, I'm already feeling the first pangs of longing for the warm desert country of northern Arizona and southern Utah. It's lucky for me that we have the Red Rock Country tour, the best way that I know of to warm up, and to tell Old Man Winter to "take a hike."

Don't tell anyone, but he actually joins us for a bit of vacation when his work is done. It seems that Old Man winter is a fan of warm sandstone and bubbling desert brooks just as much as we are. Shhhh.

From the quiet desert paths of Sedona, to the bustling recreation center of Moab, home to both Arches and Canyonlands National Parks, the region offers some of the most unique topography found anywhere in the world. We’ll enjoy stunning views of imposing sandstone arches, feel the cool breath of hidden canyon walls painted with desert varnish, and delight in the sweet aroma of desert wildflowers warming along the banks of perennial streams. Spring is our favorite time to explore the desert for many reasons. Cabin fever aside, anxious little streams cascade from the region’s high alpine peaks and breathe new life into an otherwise arid land. Dry, sandy riverbeds become refreshing bubbling brooks, and the entire region springs alive with blossoms of every color, a sight that only a beholder can truly appreciate. Non-coincidentally, we timed this year’s tour to coincide with the height of the springtime bloom.

Ryder-Walker offers the journey from Sedona to Moab in a 9day trip. Along the way, we use comfortable accommodations including two charming bed and breakfasts and one luxury hotel. Because all of our hikes loop back to our accommodations, we’ll be able to go light and enjoy the desert scenery without the encumbrance of a heavy backpack. Hiking days are moderately challenging, but the scenery remains breathtaking, and at the end of the day a comfortable bed, hot shower, a good meal, a glass of local wine or beer and the company of other hikers awaits.

The towns along the way range from the eccentric little oasis of Sedona, Arizona, surrounded by wilderness areas and home to eclectic shops, galleries and mystical vortex seekers; to Moab, Utah, an old Uranium mining town now dedicated to almost every imaginable outdoor pursuit. The sleepy, undeveloped and relatively undiscovered outpost of Bluff, Utah, offers an opportunity to explore a region made famous by its enormous concentrations of Anasazi ruins and artifacts.

Despite the popularity of the region, local efforts by the United States Forest Service and concerned citizens in some areas have combined to maintain a pristine world of infinite hiking possibilities. Some of the trails that we’ll follow see relatively little foot traffic while others lead to popular hiking destinations that everyone should see at least once in their lifetime. We’ll also spend two afternoons with resident archeologists and paleontologists exploring the myriad fossils, Anasazi ruins and artifacts that accentuate the Desert Southwest. Hiking days are moderately strenuous and follow footpaths that traverse rocky mountain trails, smooth sandstone formations and sandy washes.

Itinerary

Day 1 Arrive in Flagstaff, Arizona. Transfer to Sedona and your well-appointed hotel. Meet at 7:00 pm in the hotel lobby for a brief orientation.

Day 2 Delve into the popular region of Oak Creek Canyon. Soaring monoliths conspire with forests of ponderosa, juniper and pinion to produce a region that earned Sedona the title of “The Most Beautiful Place in America,” according to USA Weekend’s Annual Travel Report. Today’s hike dives into a world where mysterious rock formations seem to glow from within. Return to Sedona.

Day 3 Sedona offers limitless hiking possibilities with unlimited views. We’ll choose between lofty mountain excursions, deep canyon explorations or a mixture of both. Return to Sedona.

Day 4 A memorable plane ride carries us across the mountains of northern Arizona and into Utah to the remote and virtually unknown outpost of Bluff, resting on the banks of the San Juan River. Meet with a local archeologist to uncover the mysteries of local Anasazi cliff dwellings, rock art and artifacts. Overnight in a charming, atmospheric bed and breakfast located in the center of town.

Day 5 Today we’ll hike through the remote and fascinating canyons of Cedar Mesa, a region rich in ruins, rock art and wildlife. (See the ruins photo above). Designated primitive areas within the mesa offer a unique opportunity to enjoy the desert in an undisturbed setting. Return to Bluff.

Day 6 Transfer by van to the bustling desert town of Moab, surrounded by beautiful cliffs and situated along the banks of the Colorado River. Meet with a local paleontologist to explore the many fossils and dinosaur bones that punctuate the area. Overnight in another wonderful bed and breakfast in a quiet section of town.

Day 7 Today we’ll explore a rarely traveled corner of Arches National Park, an area that preserves over two thousand sandstone arches. We’ll explore balanced rocks, fins and pinnacles, highlighted by a striking environment of contrasting colors, landforms and textures. Return to Moab.

Day 8 Our second day in Moab will combine everything wonderful about the desert. We’ll enjoy fantastic wildflower blooms and lost alcoves. The snow capped peaks of the La Sal mountains present a stunning backdrop against endless miles of red sandstone.

Day 9 Depart. Salt Lake City is a convenient departure for this tour, but a same-day, afternoon flight may not be possible.
Difficulty: All hikers should be prepared for distances of 10 miles and ascents up to 2500 feet.

Cost Includes: Guiding; hotel costs; breakfast and dinner daily; luggage transfers for up to two pieces and ground transportation throughout the tour, including air transfer from Sedona, AZ to Bluff, UT. Air to and from the tour is not included.

Equipment: In addition to hiking clothes to suit temperatures from 40°to 80°, equipment for this tour should include a day pack, sturdy hiking boots, rain and sun protection.

Tour Dates: May 3-11, 2008

Tour Cost: $3300 per person in double occupancy.

Contact us to join this trip, and tell Old Man Winter to take a hike!


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