Sedona, you butterfly.

The crowds and the quiet loom red and sunset endless forever.

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You’re like no other small town, Sedona. Sprawling and with traffic jams omniscient, every building adobe and not a billboard or towering gas station sign in sight. Even your McDonalds comes with turquoise, not golden, arches. Your streets ooze with the scent of two stroke fumes and 4×4 skid marks, the faint aura of silver jewelry and yoga pants ever present. Rich local gallery owners stand stark against traveling backpackers against a homeless old hippie crushing a cheap beer before 8am. The road to Flagstaff, and the forest between you and your more bustling northern neighbor impassable save for enduring a 30 minute wait to break the mile long bottle neck.

You’re a secret from twenty years ago that we missed, too late even our first time here ten years ago. We bask in your breweries and pizza joints, diners and well stocked grocery stores before retreating to the red powder open free camping you provide in abundance, enough that we and our fellow campers comprise a small village on your outskirts, beat up old vans and Airstreams dulled long ago by the sun. Our fellow campers have largely kept your BLM land free of toilet paper and trash.

Oh how the sun rises and sets magnificent on the layers of tan remaining mountain tops, sometimes now completely eroded to reveal the red rock, that sandstone that towers like sentinels forever watching over your one story buildings and pink Jeep tours, until eventually crushed into a crimson powder that marks our every footprint in the desert. Juniper and creosote compete with infinite cow patties and the lingering smell of manure outranks the natural desert.

You would have been a National Park had the town not sprung up too early. You’re still a gem, a place different from anything else Arizona has to offer. Not better, but by no means the worst.

We’ll be leaving soon, and don’t imagine you’ll make either the journey with us or the short list of places we’ll return, nonetheless we thank you for the good times, good food and great views. Stay cool, Sedona, it’ll be hard from here on out, but at least enjoy your summers as those travelers like us leave your locals behind in search of less parch and dry.