Look, I'm going to be straight with you: Nature appalls me. For 26 years, I've been known to take extensive lengths to find the indoor bathroom closest to the Girl Scout campsite, invent reasons to cling to the ski lodge rather than hit the slopes, and read at a Starbucks while the family snorkels in the ocean. I know, I'm terrible. You can't take me anywhere.
When my girlfriend wanted to spend her 30th birthday road-tripping through Arizona, I knew that hiking and gawking at the world's most famous death hole (i.e., the Grand Canyon) wouldn't be my first-choice trip. But some new hiking boots and some (many) deep breaths later, I was the one pushing for one last hike in the Sedona sunset, just one more outdoor adventure in this red-rock playground. Sedona, Arizona -- a mountainous eco-tourism nook between Phoenix and Flagstaff -- wasn't a place I ever saw myself swooning for. Then I found that ruby-hued Martian terrain, the friendly-if-wacky locals, the practically Mexico Mexican food. Go there and you'll love it, down to the last particle of vermillion dust that coats your clothing and luggage weeks after you've left. That is, if you can bring yourself to leave.