Sedona, a land of timeless beauty, surrounded by magnificent, natural red rock sculptures and pristine National Forest. Standing about 4,300ft above sea level, centrally located less than two hours north of Phoenix and just two hours south of the Grand Canyon, it is one of the most spectacular secrets of the world. Erosion has sculptured this masterpiece for over 350 million years.
As we drove north, I was almost disappointed. All that we saw were pine trees and the landscape looked no different from other countrysides. When we had set off it was hot and 90 degrees.
“Isn’t early morning better for a flight?” I had asked.
“No, anytime is fine,” was the response.
Checking the forecast that morning, I wondered how the day would play out. With thunderstorms in the forecast, chances of pulling off this flight were diminishing. I weighed the odds of planning something else as opposed to keeping the afternoon open and have my flying plans cancelled.
We arrived at Flagstaff (FLG) airport a little early, eager to take to the skies. Fred, the instructor at Wiseman Aviation who was going to fly with us had assured us that thunderstorms in the forecast were not a factor. In no time we preflighted and departed with me at the controls and Fred’s able guidance. He made sure to remind me about the the departure procedures, density altitude and other necessary details. Fred was also our tour guide, as he pointed out landmarks along the way – painted dessert, canyons, native American dwellings, dormant volcanoes, Sun coast crater, ski areas and more.
When I put together my flying bucket list a few years ago, I had added Sedona and Grand Canyon as an after thought. My interest had been sparked by the beautiful aerial images that Greg Brown had posted on his blog and in articles he has written over the years. Despite seeing the images, and reading the articles, nothing really prepares one for the incredible views not just from the air, but even from the ground.
We looped around flying turns about a point over key landmarks, awestruck by the natural beauty of the land, painstakingly etched over millions of years. With lots of help from Fred, I made my first landing at Sedona (SEZ). Taxing back, we took off again and this time climbed slowly to 10,500ft as we overflew Falgstaff airspace to make our way to the Flagstaff Snowbowl, a ski area very popular during the winter months. With spring here, the ski areas were deserted. But we could easily identify the ski slopes, the ski lifts and resort area.
In good time we retraced our path back to Flagstaff and all too soon the flight ended. If you are ever in the area, I highly recommend looking up Wiseman Aviation. If you have the time, you can do an aircraft checkout and rent an aircraft to fly. If not, take Fred.
Sedona does have a restaurant on the field: Mesa Grill. Although we did not stop on the day of the flight for a meal, we did have breakfast there. And I highly recommend staying at the Sky Ranch Lodge that is next to the airport and within walking distance to the Mesa Grill. While there, hike the airport loop for some spectacular views of the Sedona red canyons!
And that bucket list item, I think I will leave it on.