Seduced by Sedona

October 11, 2012 — Thursday

Sedona evokes sighs and wows.  This is Red Rock Country, where the earth is truly red.  Its rock formations impress with their towering beauty, and you know immediately you’re in the foothills of the Grand Canyon just north.  Add a thriving arts scene, New Age practitioners and worshipers, stunning but pricey real estate that draws East Coasters and Hollywooders, a sprinkling of hippies, world-class galleries, endless shopping, great resorts and restaurants, well, Sedona’s a grand mishmash.

A day and night in Sedona was a side trip from Route 66.  It looked like rain as we left Holbrook, driving an hour southwest into the Red Rock along AZ Hwy 89A, often ranked as one of the top 10 scenic drives in the U.S.  The weather got better the closer we got to Sedona, and so did the scenery.  Oak Creek Canyon and its namesake creek flows on the west side of 89A, then seems to hop suddenly to the east side of the road.  Along the way is Slide Rock State Park, aptly named because you can slide down a long canyon of massive, smooth rocks, 70 feet of natural water slide.  Early Autumn leaves dotted the landscape, especially Arizona cottonwoods which are Aspen cousins, their golden leaves quaking in a light breeze.  With every roll, twist, curve and climb in the road, something beautiful emerges.

When we arrived in downtown Sedona, it was a sunny but steamy 88  degrees and it unexpectedly looked like Christmas weekend traffic.  We ambled the main drag’s long line of shops.  Sedona is chockablock with Native arts, jewelry, Western art, tchotchkes, New Age paraphernalia, and a lot of great glass art.  I hit most of the jewelry stores, hoping to replace some pieces stolen when our home was burgled earlier this year.  No luck here, but I felt consoled by a handful of unique pieces I’d already bought on this trip at trading posts or directly from native artists.

We wandered through Tlaquepaque (pronounced tee lockee pockee), designed to recreate a venerable, walled Mexican village.  For a small mall, it charms with its cobbled streets, fountains, gardens, chapel, quiet nooks with benches, and variety of galleries, shops and restaurants.  No McDonald’s here, thank you. We did a quick run to the Chapel of the Holy Cross, a striking small church built into a steep red rock mountain.  On a Sedona visit last year with Steve, we noticed a large building project at the base of the church hill.  Egads, that construction is now a Mediterranean-styled mansion with formal gardens, one of those monster mansions on a postage stamp lot.  Whoever owns it must have whined, wheedled and greased many palms because it simply doesn’t belong there.  I wouldn’t mind if an earthquake, lightning or alien ship destroyed it beyond repair.

Late afternoon we began the highlight of the day, The Pink Jeep Tour.  Right, pink jeeps with grinning pink pig logo.  We had a terrific guide and two couples to keep us company.  The sun and heat had changed to thunderheads and dropping temps, so of course it started to rain as we climbed up steep back mountain roads.  Fortunately, the jeep was covered and our guide handled the jeep super well; the information he imparted was like a lesson in geology, nature, biology sugarcoated with humor and his easy style.  He anticipated good photo ops and paused whenever any of us wanted more photo time or a particular shot–unusual but appreciated.  Halfway up the mountain, we paused to watch a couple having their wedding photos taken in the heart of a massive red rock formation.  Everyone yelled “congratulations” and snapped photos.  What a memorable place for a wedding ceremony!  No sunset that day, but the sky was beautifully moody with clouds, and even in grey light, the monolithic rock formations were fabulous: Cathedral Rock, Bell Rock, Coffeepot Rock, Castle Rock, even Snoopy Rock.  If you ever go to Sedona, spring for a Pink Jeep Tour, worth the time and money.

Here’s a couple of other Sedona recommendations, though we didn’t do them on this visit: see the sunset with a jeep or helicopter tour, or for free on the local airport mesa.  If you’re so inclined, Sedona has countless folks who will read your aura/hand/cards, balance your chakras, massage or tattoo your body, or lead you to its touted energy vortices.  If you’re interested in glass art, some of the world’s best art glass is here, especially on Gallery Row at the far end of town.   Indian ruins, check out nearby Honanki and Palatke.  Spend a long weekend in a creek-side cabin, or pricy but worth it spa resorts, or one of many bed & breakfasts.  Sedona lives up to its reputation, another of unique American places, especially blessed with natural beauty year-round.

This great day ended with a great meal at our Kings Ransom Hotel.  The hotel’s Elote Cafe was hopping busy, and for good reason.   Chef Jeff Smedsted, acclaimed by food magazines and TV shows, creates amazing food based on his 15 years of traveling Mexico and its markets, plus using local food sources.  I savored every spoonful of my Cuitlacoche Corn Soup, with its distinctive Oaxacan corn pollen, corn truffle and white truffle oil blended to a Rockefeller rich mix of wonderfulness.  Our waitress and Margaret out-sassed each other, which added to the fun, and we finished with a Mexican Chocolate Pie that kicked chile essence with each sinful, deep chocolatey bite.

Today’s auspicious 10-11-12 was definitely a day to remember.

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