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Travel

Red Rocks and Canyon Lands: Sedona, AZ

The last time I was at the Grand Canyon was exactly 50 years ago on a marathon “See the USA” road trip with my parents and sisters. My husband had never been. So we made the decision for our 2013 summer vacation: AZ or bust.

Apartment-style resorts in Sedona seemed centrally located to our short list of must-sees: the Grand Canyon, Petrified Forest, Cave Dwellings, and Painted Desert. We didn’t expect much of Sedona—just proximity and comfort. We were wrong.

We flew into Flagstaff, and rented our car. A thrilling drive south to Sedona on hairpin curves along cliffs took us through some of the most breathtaking red rock formations. Snoopy and his doghouse on the left, Coffeepot Rock on the right. Bell Rock and the Courthouse in the distance. All around us geology became up-close-and-personal.

The resort was indeed comfortable, and just outside the tourist town of Sedona. Apparently there are few, if any, actual residents of Sedona. It is a town driven by, and populated by, tourists. The 70s is alive and well in Sedona and thriving with creativity, art, metaphysicality and spirituality. It’s a good thing.

Red Rock formations abound. Some with magnetic properties called Vortexes that may (or may not) provide a metaphysical experience. You can drive to most, and tours to the 5 Vortexes and formations are widely available. The Chapel of the Holy Cross is situated on a Red Rock Cleft but is well worth the climb. Bell Rock is the easiest to climb, and is also a Vortex.

To the South are the cave dwellings of Montezuma’s Castle, a train ride through the Verde Canyon, and the old mining town of Jerome. Montezuma’s Well (no relation really to the Aztec) demonstrates how advanced these natives were and how well they lived in this hostile environment. Pueblos throughout the area also show an ancient advanced, way of life.

Shopping is everywhere, from the Tlaquepaque Arts and Crafts Village just outside of Sedona with works of art in textiles, jewelry, watercolor and more, to the roadside booths next to the Dairy Queen halfway to Flagstaff and even the ubiquitous outlet mall. We found items way out of our price range as well as quality items at a reasonable price.

To get to the Petrified Forest, we traveled old Route 66 through Winslow. Lunch at the last railroad hotel built by Fred Harvey, La Pasada (designed by Mary Coulter) in the exquisite Turquoise Room and a photo-op on the famous “corner” provided a welcome break from the expanse of Painted Desert that begins just East of Sedona and extends into Utah. The pink, red, blue, gray and green hues resemble a sand painting done at a kid’s art fair, but the scale is vast. Once at the National Park, huge logs, petrified into beautiful agate, dot the landscape.

A 12 hour tour to the Grand Canyon was unparalelled, although statistics say visitors spend an average of 10 minutes looking into the canyon. We saw Sunset Crater’s extinct volcano, the lava river, ate Navajo Fry Bread and Stew at Cameron Trading Post, and stopped at 9 overlooks into the Grand. The Desert View and Watchtower (also by Mary Coulter), Bright Angel and El Tovar were by far the most stunning. It was far more spiritually moving than any Vortex. Our guide said fewer than 10% of visitors actually go below the rim. At Desert View we walked down a treacherous (for me) trail to the platform overlook about 20 feet below the rim. That was enough!

A final trip to Walnut Canyon to hike, and restful evening at the resort before driving back to Flagstaff to catch a plane (we ended up getting transported by car to Phoenix) and we were headed home with incredible pictures, wonderful memories and some lovely turquoise. And a song that just kept on going…”Standing on a corner in Winslow, Arizona….”

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