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Red Rock Country

“God created the Grand Canyon, but HE lives in Sedona”
— New York Times 1997

After Marvin finished up the solar installation and the TV work, it was time to explore the area – Sedona and its Red Rock formation, numerous hiking trails, and vortexes; the old mining town of Jerome now the site of galleries and cafes; and, the rest of Verde Valley.

Though Sedona was founded in the 19th century, the discovery of energy ‘vortexes’ here in the 1980s turned this once modest sized city into a bustling New Age destination. Today the combination of New Age mysticism and red-rock majesty attracts a diverse group of tourists year-round.

The New York Times wrote….” Ask five people to sum up Sedona, and you’ll probably get five wildly different responses. Art lovers exclaim over the galleries specializing in Southwestern tableaus. Shopaholics rave about boutiques selling Western duds and American Indian jewelry. Pessimists rue the rash of T-shirt shops, while enlightenment-seekers wax spiritual about its “vortexes.” And outdoor enthusiasts rhapsodize about hiking among red rock spires and ancient Indian ruins. All of this is great news for visitors, who can sample it all — even a U.F.O.-viewing site — in a quirky city that some call the most beautiful place in the United States.”

In other words, it’s all here – and, the reason S decided to join me for a week and check it out. It’s a town we had visited before – did the spa resort thing – but this time the stay would be in the “Bunkhouse Resort” ☺ and the trip would be about hiking the numerous trails that weave in/around/over the red rock formations.

For me, the main attraction is the stunning array of red sandstone formations, the Red Rocks of Sedona. The formations appear to glow in brilliant orange and red when illuminated by the rising or setting sun. The Red Rocks form a breathtaking backdrop for everything from spiritual pursuits to the hundreds of hiking and mountain biking trails….and the subject for my photography ☺

The place is absolutely stunning – a “wow” moment after “wow” moment… with its “chimney towers”, grand buttes and flat-topped mesas carved in red sandstone, it could enter a geography beauty contest and hold its own against the national parks. The red is really red and it is due to a thick layer of red to orange-colored sandstone found only in the Sedona vicinity.

(I think it’s unquestionably going to prove to be one of the most beautiful places I see in Arizona – but, I am just getting started…)

Unfortunately, however, the photography gods were not on my side this stop. First, high winds stirred up the fine red dust in the area and reduced visibility dramatically – combine that with “severely clear” skies with no drama in the skies in any way and the photo opp’s simply were not there. Then, sadly too, the nearby AZ fires that were burning Forest Service land and some structures, were soon filling the valley and Sedona with thick black smoke – just the luck of the draw sometimes. But, did take the time to scout every recommended spot and came away with lots of great info for another visit ☺

However, neither the unseasonably warm temperatures nor the smoke filled skies kept us from hitting the trails. Sedona is a hiking paradise. Seems every road leads to one trailhead or another. We had a great time hiking several of the trails throughout the area. In fact, S thought I was trying to kill her the first day here with a total of nine miles in Boynton Canyon. Throw in a few more hikes and I think we covered nearly 30 miles in just a few days…still a bit stiff from all of it…

One Sedona landmark was definitely a highlight for us – the Chapel of the Holy Cross. The Chapel of the Holy Cross was nestled beautifully into a red rock “frame” and from the chapel you have breathtaking views of the majestic Cathedral Rock, Bell Rock, Courthouse Butte and much of the eastern rim of Sedona.

The Chapel rises two-hundred feet above ground surface between two red rock formations – the “frame” – that accentuate the front of the chapel – a 90-foot tall cross. A massive stained glass window turns the Chapel’s interior into a kaleidoscope of brilliant color.

It really is an amazing architectural wonder and a compelling Sedona landmark. It was built in 1956 by Marguerite Brunswig Staude, a student of world-renown architect Frank Lloyd Wright. Put it on your “must do list” for a Sedona visit. Even the blooming cactus along the walk to the chapel were stunning –and, they held a surprise that S spotted – birds nesting among the needles – wow!!

And, since this journey is also part “culinary expedition”, we found time to enjoy a ( OK, maybe a few ) prickly pear margarita — made from a local cactus — the must-drink cocktail in Sedona…and, if one must, you must ☺

Since Sedona is also noted for some great cuisine ( and we were ready to break the budget for good food !!) , we asked some of the locals for their recommendations. We were not disappointed – Café Elote, for instance, was a standout in a very unassuming location. Once again I’ll let the NYT summarize (those folks write better than me ☺ )

Elote is a Mexican preparation of corn on the cob that is made with freshly roasted corn that is slathered with spicy mayonnaise and sprinkled with white cotija cheese. Squirt on a little lime, and you have the ultimate south-of-the-border street food. Here at this treat’s namesake restaurant, the elote is sliced from the cob and served as a sort of dip. This dish alone, maybe with a side of guacamole and a margarita, is reason enough to eat at this highly creative Mexican restaurant. For an entree, try the braised lamb in sweet-and-spicy ancho-chili sauce. This is a casual and colorful spot, and feels a bit like a Mexican beach bar.

And, that’s exactly what I did try – an outstanding signature dish!

One thing we noticed, just like everyone talks about the Red Rocks, you can’t get far in Sedona without hearing about the vortexes — places where the earth supposedly radiates psychic energy. Believers claim that they induce everything from heightened energy to tear-inducing spiritual enlightenment –

So what is a vortex, anyway?

The vortexes –definitely not vortices ☺ – are not easily explained. In Sedona vortexes are created, not by wind or water, but from spiraling spiritual energy. The vortexes of Sedona are named because they are believed to be spiritual locations where the energy is right to facilitate prayer, mediation and healing.

Vortex sites are believed to be locations having energy flow that exists on multiple dimensions. The energy of the vortexes interacts with a person’s inner self – it obviously must be experienced – can’t explain it and couldn’t photograph it –but I think I felt something –might have been the prickly pear margarita though but maybe, just maybe, the vortex brought our emotional and spiritual bodies into alignment with the heartbeat of the planet.

Turns out that the same red rock formations I am out photographing or we are hiking on/around are among the major vortexes: Bell Rock, Cathedral Rock, Boynton Canyon, Airport Mesa, Indian Gardens, and the Chapel….Wow!!!

All in all – the hikes, the vistas, the food and the spiritual energy ( and the margaritas ) combined to make this an incredible stop on the journey. If you ever get a chance to get to AZ be sure to get up to Sedona…

Safe travels…see you down the road…

6 Comments Post a comment
  1. Jim Walker #

    Very nice! Loved my brief visit to Sedona. I’m hoping to get back on day soon.

    May 21, 2012
    • Stephen #

      thanks for following along – sorry for the delay in responding – have moved up to the Grand Canyon and I-net has been hit/miss – got a few images to work on in Sedona but smoke/dust/haze made it tough to photograph – like you mention-simply have to go back 🙂 take care

      May 25, 2012
  2. Miles #

    Hi Stephen, love the article, your camera work and am in jealous admiration of your adventure.

    I only just read it after finally finding the ‘business’ card you gave me, whilst photographing my lovely lady Allison, on Airport Mesa(penultimate pic).

    Was a pleasure to meet you and read your stories, keep on chooglin & living the dream and letting us live it vicariously.

    Safe travels


    May 31, 2012
    • Stephen #

      glad you found the card – and glad you’re following along – thanks for taking a moment to comment

      best of luck on your own your journey – best of luck to you and Allison getting settled on the west coast

      take care

      May 31, 2012
  3. Allison #


    Your story of Sedona brought back such wonderful memories and good vibrations; thank you for sharing your journey and giving me the
    “Sedona experience” all over again.

    I’ll be following you along the rest of your exploration!

    Happy Trails,

    June 2, 2012
    • Stephen #

      glad you liked the post – Sedona is such a great place – thanks again for being such a great part of the shoot on Airport Mesa – and, thanks for following along – the journey has been great and meeting folks like you and Miles along the way has been a highlight – take care

      June 2, 2012

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