Vanlife is the best life – Vanlife and Mountain biking Sedona AZ

After my job wrapped up in Telluride, I was ready to get back to the desert and seek warmer weather. I was checking the weather forecast and New Mexico was starting to get cold. I took a look at Sedona and their weather looked great. Sunny and mid 60s each day. I have never been there and have heard nothing but good things about the mountain biking and beauty Sedona holds.

I could immediately tell were were going to be friends

My friend Andrew’s Chevy Express

I was getting tired of driving down the washboarded and sandy Forest Road 525. FR 525 is a extremey popular dispersed camping area that offers amazing camping along the western edge of Sedona with view of the vibrant red cliffs.

Immediately after deciding where to camp I met Andrew. He invited me to camp next to him and I could immediately tell we were going to be friends.

After getting my camp set up, Andrew and I checked out each others vans and planned on a bike ride the next day. Andrew had never ridden a mountain bike and since I had two of my bikes with me this would be a great way to share the sport with somebody.

During the sunset the Sedona cliffs would turn an incredible vibrant red.

Sedona offered some of the most incredible sunsets I have ever seen. Every evening my camping neighbors would gather on top off the hill and enjoy the sunsets together and a bit of conversation. In addition to Andrew I made friends with Johnny and his sweet dog Desi, and Jeanette and Brian from Minnesota. I ended up getting an incredible t-shirt from Johnny with one of his mandala designs. You can visit his webstore HERE. Jeannne and Brian offered to host me in Minnesota if I ever make it that way. I hope to get to see them again. Things are looking up in my social life and my spirit is full of amazing energy!

The sunrises were equally impressive

Each morning I would open my sliding door and witness the valley below bathed in pastel light. Usually there would be 5-6 hot air baloons drifting slowly along the horizon. Unfortunately my cell phone camera could not capture the hot air ballons. Maybe time for a new camera?

Shaman Cave

The day before Thanksgiving Andrew and I decided to make a visit to Shaman Cave. Shaman Cave boasts a spiritual vortex that I swear I could feel.  I was having such a wonderful time and my spirt was at an all time high! Andrew and I performed a short meditation in the cave and decided to take the difficult route out of the giant sandstone rock the cave was housed in. This involved some minor exposed climbing around the cliff wall that was thrilling and only added to the adventure.

Andrew on the exposed route

The tour guides would come through daily and talk about the Sedona area and point out historic features

Example of the many Jeeps that brought hundreds of tourists.

The tour guides would always talk about the energy vortexes that Sedona is famous for. One of the guides would pull out a pair copper rods for the tourists to hold and they would spin around while in their hands, reacting to the magnetic fields. It was neat to watch the tourists react like it was magic. Also the tour guides were brilliant at taking pictures with the their cell phone cameras and would use tricks like zooming in on a subject to make the background appear larger. One guide would have the tour group line up on one side of the tour jeep and pretend they are pushing it as a group connected by each other arms to hips. With the camera in panoramic mode, the guide would start the shot at one end. After taking the first frame, she would have the group run behind her, then have the group pull on the other side of the jeep before finishing the pano shot. This would produce a photo that looks like the group is pushing and pulling on the Jeep at the same time.  It was a clever idea and you could tell the guides were always hustling for tips.

A Thanksgiving day bike ride to get the juices flowing

Thanksgiving day had come and the site I was camping at was full of awesome people. Sedona is a popular place around this holiday day.  I was excited for a bike ride I planned to start the day then later hanging out with my new friends for dinner.

My bike ride was perfect. It was filled with views and fun technical trail riding. It’s been a tradition over the holidays to fit in a bike ride pre-dinner. It’s a great way to build up an appetite. This was the first Thanksgiving I have spent away from my family in quite a long time. I ended up having one of the best Turkey Days ever.

Riding along on Templeton trail
Mezcal Trail West Sedona

No offense to my family, I love spending the holidays with them, but this was an opportunity to connect with people from all over the world and have a new experience. Since our campsite was so popular it was filled with vanlife people, tent camping people, trailer rigs, and jeep tour guides. There was also a couple in a military-looking camping rig with massive tires that seemed a bit overkill to me. Andrew went into town and got Thanksgiving vittles for the evening that we all enjoyed.

After Thanksgiving Day many of the folks I had been camping with the past week had left and it was getting time for me to move on. I wanted to catch another ride in Sedona before leaving and decided to try the Highline Trail. The Highline Trail is considerd to be one of the most difficut rides in the area.

View from the Top of Highline Trail

While riding along the top of Highline Trail I passed another mountain biker that later passed me back when I was walking my bike down one of the treacherous downhill sections. The lines on Highline were very dangerous and I was not in the mood for anything risky. Once down to the bottom I met him again and it turns out he is from Gunnison. We talked about how busy Colorado has gotten then wished each other well before parting ways. It was a fun couple miles on Templeton Trail back to my van.

Capitol Butte

It was time for me to resupply in the town of Cottonwood. I was also getting ready to head to Prescott Arizona (pronounced Press-Kit) and meet my friend Dace to help him with his minivan build. We met in Durango last summer and got to be friends while exchanging minivan camper info. 

Dace setting the screws for his new floor in his 2008 Grand Caravan

It was great to see Dace again. It has been a couple of months since the last time we met in Durango. He has been getting his Dodge Grand Caravan named Koopa ready for a camper conversion and I was here to help with his van build and offer some of my experience.

When I arrived Dace had completed the demolition process, had a roof vent installed, and most of the insulation done. He was ready to start the initial building and Dace decided to start with the floor while I was here since I already had experience putting in a flat floor on my minivan Odie.

Putting in a flat floor into a minivan can be incredibly difficult. After removing all the seats, trim, and carpet there is hardly a right angles or flat surfaces to work with. We were lucky this single 4×8 piece of plywood covered most of the rear.

After a couple of days working on Dace’s van it was time for me to move on and head back to my home town of Colorado Springs. I have two house sitting jobs lined up there and hope to see my family for the holidays (not sure due to the pandemic), then its back down to the Arizona desert for the rest of the winter. I am not looking forward to the drive back and forth but it will be great to see my friends and family back home.

Those Sedona sunsets!

Conclusion

Sedona is an incredibly beautiful place to visit that I would highly recommend. The scenery and spiritual energy are off the chart. Be prepared for lots of company as Sedona is no secret and very popular. Lots of dispersed camping to handle the crowds and I found out there is more camping in the area than just the popular FR 525 that I went to.  I barely scratched the surface exploring the trail systems and the weather during the fall was incredible. I will definitely go back when I’m ready for another highly social camping experience.

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