Thanksgiving 2014. Elastic sweatpants. Turkey. Football. Right? Nope. Not this year. This year, we decided to do a thing. A different thing. After 3 plus decades of hosting and cooking and working all week for Thanksgiving dinner, mom decided this year, she needed a break. She wanted to get pampered instead of pampering everyone else. And while we’ll miss the insane gastronomical heaven we’ve been so accustomed to, we knew that it was well-deserved, and, well, what better way to give thanks and enjoy your family’s company than to hop in the car and test how long you can survive each other? A Sedona, Arizona Thanksiving family photo…uh...road trip? Let’s do this!
We showed up late Wednesday night, grabbed dinner at a local joint called The Barking Frog and headed to our room at the Sedona Real Inn & Suites to plan the next few days events. The following morning, we figured we’d head down to the Tlaquepaque Arts & Crafts Village, a small gathering of boutiques, galleries, churches and restaurants fashioned like a traditional Mexican village, replete with vine covered walls and cobblestone walkways. What we didn’t take into account was that, well, it’s Thanksgiving…so everything was closed. However, this made for some fun photographic opportunities. After all, it’s not often you get to photograph a tourist destination without the tourists.
After lunch, the time seemed right to drive around and check out some of the sights and sounds of Sedona. We spent some time driving along the 179, which is essentially flanked by incredible red natural sandstone monuments that Sedona is known for that decorate the valley. Two of the most memorable stops were the Chapel of the Holy Cross, an elegantly simple Frank Lloyd Wright inspired chapel that seems to jettison out of the sandstone cliffside, and the Son Silver West Gallery, an extremely eclectic organized chaotic collection of Southwestern inspired gifts and items from garden goods to antiques to pottery and Peruvian arts. The sheer amount of ‘stuff’ that this place had was dizzying, and walking through it all was a delight.
We were beginning to encroach on sunset and, well, needless to say, I was taking over from here. I took the wheel, the family got in the car, and off I go searching for my Sedona sunset shot. We drove a few backroads before coming across Red Rock Crossing Road. Unfortunately, the park was closed for the holiday, but fortunately, we found ourselves on a slightly remote dirt road that offered a very nice vantage point facing the famous Cathedral Rock outcropping. We parked the car, and just waited, and this turned out to be one of my favorite moments of the entire weekend. My family isn't used to this sort of waiting and watching and for the first part, once they were done snapping away on their phones and the novelty seemingly wore off, had no idea what to do with themselves. And once the sun set behind us to the west and I climbed on top of the car with my tripod and continued to face east, they were ready to leave, wondering why we were still there and perplexed at my insistence that we stay for a half hour after the sun sets. They thought it was over, then the sky began to turn peach and pink and purple and magenta, and they all stood mesmerized - watching the color palate change magically. It was after it was all over that my mother expressed “Now I understand why everyone always wants to watch the sun set.” That was it. That was everything I wanted.
Well, now it was time to find Thanksgiving dinner!! We managed to weasel our way into placement at reservation-packed Golden Goose, enjoyed our turkeys and talapias, toasted to a bottle of tattoo artist Scott Campbell and Clay Brock's Saved Wine, and headed back to the room for the night.
The next morning, we met up with some great family friends that live in Tucson and drove up to meet us for the day and night. Once they arrived, we grabbed lunch and then headed back to the Tlaquepaque Village, where this time, on Black Friday, it was teeming with tourists. Packed. It was interesting to see it in two completely different extremes within 24 hours. But here we had a chance to ask the tourism office where a good spot for us all to catch the sunsetting, and they led us to Airport Mesa overlook, where there were various options that would give us a great vantage point to see the sun set over the city of Sedona. My brother and I hiked up the hill to get a view from above, while my parents and our guests made camp at The Mesa Grill at the Sedona Airport at the top of the hill, providing them with refreshments as well as what turned out to be the view that I was actually looking for, the twilight over the city. One of those cases where I was overzealous with the hiking and all I had to do was stay put.
Once my brother and I hiked back, we met up with them at the Grill, had probably our best meal of the trip so far thanks to the chef and our wonderfully patient waitress Candy (thanks for the extra slice of smores pie…), and headed back to the hotel where we sat around and chatted the hours away.
The next morning would be our last, and as much as I knew I’d hate waking up in 4 hours, I knew that I’d hate myself even more for leaving Sedona without catching at least one sunrise. So I got up at about 4:30, grabbed my camera bag, jumped in the car, and started driving off into the desert darkness. I had asked one of the hikers the day before about a good spot to catch the sunrise and they led me to Valley Verde School Road, a dirt road that ends on the backside of Red Rock Crossing State park. It was about a half hour drive, and I found myself parking just as the light began to glow on the horizon. I hiked in the 1/2 mile to Red Rock Creek, found a good spot, but something kept telling me to walk back the way I came in. While I found this counterintuitive as I was looking for that postcard shot with the water in the foreground, I gave in to that gut tug and found out why a few short minutes later. Yes, I missed the water shot, but what I caught made it worth it. And I hope you agree.
The gallery of my Sedona shots are below, all of which were taken using the new Samsung NX1. As one of their Imageloggers, Samsung sent it out to me just a few days before the holiday and this was the first time I got a chance to use it. It’s safe to say that this animal is now my primary camera. I will be posting a full piece dedicated to the NX1 in a few weeks, so stay tuned.