|Brins Mesa-Soldier Pass-Cibola Loop, AZ|
|Brins Mesa-Soldier Pass-Cibola Loop, AZ|| |
Brins Mesa-Soldier Pass-Cibola Loop, AZ
|1,391 ft AEG|
|With our married kids and our one grandson visiting the in-laws for Christmas, we found ourselves with a couple of teenagers for the holidays. So, we decided to do something a little non-traditional and rented an Airbnb in Sedona for Christmas Eve and Christmas Day night. The original plan was to backpack into Secret Canyon, but given the iffy weather forecast (and the lure of a jacuzzi), we opted to go for the condo and day hikes, instead. As it turned out, the weather was perfect for hiking and would have made a great backpack as well.|
We headed up early Monday (Christmas Eve) with our eye on doing a loop around Brins Ridge. We arrived late morning from Phoenix and experienced the Instagramification of Sedona. The place seemed to be crawling with a holiday crowd--mostly from out of state. I was a little surprised, since our tradition of Christmas Eve hikes has generally meant relative solitude--even on the more popular trails. Not here.
Still, we decided to try the small parking area at the Soldier Pass TH. No dice; there was already a line of cars waiting for an empty stall. So, we decided to make the 15 minute drive over to the (larger) Jim Thompson Trailhead. We got nervous as we approached and saw cars parked on the side of the road well shy of the parking area. We soldiered on, and were lucky to get a parking stall in the otherwise filled lot as someone else was leaving. Paid the Red Rock parking fee at the TH vending station ($5 for day pass), and headed off.
We decided to head up Brins Mesa trail first and attack the loop counterclockwise. Lots of shade and surprisingly foresty until after finishing the climb up to the Mesa. The prominent view on the left is of "Mitten Rock." The Mesa is relatively flat/sligthly downhill. There is a nice large rock feature on the downside that makes for a quick side trip and elevates you a bit for better views of the surrounding area. Google maps calls it "Hole in the Sky."
After taking in the views, we continued the loop and soon reached the junction to the northern terminus of the Soldier Pass trail. From there, it was downhill, with views of the Soldier Arches on the opposing canyon wall. At the junction, we detoured to make the climb up to the arches.
The arches need a few thousand more years to form properly, but a couple have separated from the top--kind of like a slice of bread that is still right next to the rest of the loaf. The "crack" in between provides some fun scrambling around behind the arch in sort of a cave-like feel. The bigger arch has a "window" on top that provides some Wave-cave-ish silhouette photo opportunities.
I climbed up on top of the arches and explored around a bit up there. A worthwhile explore, if you are okay with a bit of exposure crossing the ledge/lip that runs along the back of the arches to a ramp/climb that deposits you on the top.
After exploring the arches to our heart's content, we headed back to the Soldier Pass Trail and checked out the Seven Sacred Pools (more like six pools and a little puddle) and Devil's Kitchen. The latter was more impressive in person than I anticipated from the photos.
Finished off the loop on the Cibola Pass trail. Beautiful foresty trail, the redrocks highlighted by the now-setting sun.
After the hike, we headed into town for a proper Christmas Eve feast at Oregano's! Everyone was happy with their order: pan pizza with sausage; a couple of dinner sandwiches with sweet potato fries; and my favorite--Alfredo the Dark w/ shredded chicken. We also tried the nachos appetizer (made with their homemade kettle chips--delish!). We ended up with about 2-3 times more food than needed--but hey, leftovers!
Got back to the condo after dinner and took full advantage of the non-backpacking privileges to be found in the jacuzzi! After pruning ourselves, we returned to a Christmas eve of board games and Home Alone 2 before calling it a night.
I think I could get used to this non-traditional Christmas style ...