Sedona is an unusual, magical place. Its red rock buttes and spires emerge unexpectedly from the surrounding desert, casting a rosy glow over the landscape. I can see why the area has been viewed as sacred by peoples for many thousands of years.
We happened to arrive here during college spring break season, which made the area unexpectedly busy. The town of Sedona is divided into two sections: the original “Uptown” Sedona and the sprawling, newer West Sedona. Uptown Sedona reminds me of Gatlinburg, with its shops full of souvenirs, T-shirts and jerky. However, Sedona offers a new age twist with a number of crystal shops and places to get psychic readings or aura photos. (As opposed to Gatlinburg’s moonshine breweries?!) Both get quite crowded during high season, and that’s what we hit. We also got hit by 15+% tax when we ate one lunch downtown! There’s a county tax, city tax and a health fee (?). Definitely a tourist town with tourist town prices. But fun to explore nonetheless.
The best way to see the area’s beauty is to get out on trails and hike or bike. There are a variety of trails of all levels (easy to difficult), and many of the most interesting and beautiful vantage points can be reached with just a moderate hike. One such point is devil’s bridge, a natural sandstone arch that the brave can cross. I wasn’t that brave. I clutched firm rock from a safe distance away and watched as the courageous waited in line to venture out on what appeared to be a VERY thin bridge hundreds of feet up in the air, in order to get that great Facebook photo. I am told that the bridge was wider than it looked, but I will take their word for it!
Other trails lead to the Sedona energy vortexes, four purported energy centers spaced around Sedona city. A vortex is said to be an area of particularly strong subtle energy, that works on your body’s energy field to uplift and energize. People travel from all over the world to visit and experience these vortexes (properly, vortices, but that’s not how people say it here). We visited all four during our stay. Each vortex was placed in an area of unusual beauty. One can’t help but feel grounded and peaceful in such surroundings, out in nature, drinking in the beauty, soaking up the sunlight. And maybe, that’s the point.
The area is also known for the extensive network of mountain biking trails. According to Jeff, it is sweet single track through hard pack clay and slick rock. He liked that most of the trails could be done in loops (rather than out and back) and he never felt truly isolated anywhere (unlike the Big Bend area). He is so busy having fun that he is a couple of months behind in his mountain bike trail reviews!
As we found in New Mexico, ancient peoples left their marks on the landscape here in the form of cliff and hilltop dwellings and petroglyphs. Interesting historical sites in this area include Montezuma Castle (cliff dwellings), Tuzigoot historical monument (ancient hilltop village), and Palatki Heritage site (cliff dwellings and petroglyphs). All are unique, but the Palatki site’s petroglyphs were especially interesting in that they showed a continuous record of rock art spanning back more than 10,000 years. It is always fascinating to learn about the interweaving of ancient cultures. And all of the sites are covered by our National Park pass!
Our exploration of the area isn’t complete without sampling the local cuisine and wineries. The Verde Valley area (where we camped) is known as Arizona wine country with a dozen or so vineyards. We visited several, but our favorite was Alcantara Vineyards, the first and oldest in the area, with over 13,000 vines and 12 varietals. The sociable lady pouring our wine tasting also happened to be a knowledgeable mountain biker and she and Jeff launched into a discussion comparing trail systems from here to Vancouver. Their super Tuscan blend and Merlot were particularly tasty and a bottle of each now resides in our bus. Not for long, though.
Our favorite eatery was a small, family owned diner known as Pepe’s Café. It’s got all of the attributes of the best kind of diner – quick service, good food, and inexpensive. A full dinner plate of home made goodness runs about $8. We went there twice.
Our fun here was enhanced by the fact that Jeff’s brother was able to fly out and join us. Sedona is a place we’ll definitely come back to – and stay longer. Tomorrow, we pack up and head off to Las Vegas as our westward track continues!