When I told my dear cousin I would visit him in San Diego over a weekend before my trip to the Grand Canyon, he suggested visiting Sedona and promised that it would be worth the time. I was not one to take that suggestion lightly, especially since it came from him. To boot, he and his wife took a week off and came along, and the trip only got better!
We flew into Phoenix from San Diego. On a clear day on this flight path, passengers in the window seats are treated to great views of the earth below. After picking up the rental car, we had a leisurely breakfast and waited for my daughter’s arrival. She and we had actually synced to arrive at Phoenix around the same time, but a delayed flight at her end meant that we had some extra time that we used to visit the Hole in the Rock. Once she arrived, and after analysing if I had shrunk or she had grown taller (question remains unanswered ;-)), we drove on to Sedona, stopping on the way at Montezuma Castle.
We reached our accommodation and stepped out in the evening on a ‘trial’ hike. My cousin and his wife are big into hiking and have been in some of the best regions of the world. My daughter is active and energetic. I was the weak link in the chain; I was not sure how much my old knee could labour. Given these conditions, it was decided to try hiking Bell Rock, which is termed an easy-moderate hike.
Bell Rock is what geologists would call a butte. A butte is a hill with straight sides and a flat top, a miniature plateau. These geographic formations shape that way due to weathering.
The rocks in Sedona are inherently orange because of the presence of iron oxide. The sun bathes the landscape with its light, and the rocks take on this vibrancy that is a stunning sight to behold. We took several breaks along the way just to soak in the vista and click lots of pics. We managed the lower and upper trail well and I even managed to perplex my family by scrambling over one rock face with so much ease that I started to believe that the bad knee might be a figment of my imagination. The last third ascent was too steep and not one bit easy-moderate. So we turned back.
The next day, we hiked the Airport Mesa Trail, a loop track around Sedona Airport. If a butte is a miniature plateau, a mesa is a bigger flat hill, but still not as big as a plateau. The Sedona Airport is located on top of the mesa, and the track runs around the hill, just off the top. The whirring of planes is a constant companion on the walk.
The trail offers sweeping views of the town of Sedona and the red rocks. We could see and identify Bell Rock and Courthouse Butte in the distance. The lookout point is a great place to spot a series of cliffs, buttes, mesas, etc.
Cacti and thorny bushes line the path. Some sections of the hike are through lightly wooded areas. Sometimes the path is narrow and steep with slight ascends and descends but primarily flat.
Sedona is also famous as a ‘vortex’. A vortex is a spot or specific area where people apparently feel the energy that is conducive to meditating, healing and spiritual transformation. Ayers Rock, the Pyramids of Giza, Machu Picchu, and Stonehenge, to name a few, are also considered vortexes (vortices is also a valid plural). While all of Sedona is considered a vortex, there are certain spots in Sedona that have a higher energy level. So people visit Sedona to experience and be enriched by this energy.
The Airport Mesa is a vortex. A few steep steps just off the Loop trailhead take you to the summit, the centre of the vortex. The 360-degree views are simply spectacular! After hiking in the hot sun and despite the sun, the cool air on the summit was very relaxing.
We didn’t do much else that day, out of respect for my knee 🙂 We spent some time at the Tlaquepaque Arts and Shopping Village. Designed to look like a Mexican village, the place has restaurants, art galleries, stores selling jewellery, souvenir, pottery and art handcrafted by Native American artists, etc. It is a lovely ‘chill’ place to stroll around after a hard day’s work at the mesa 😉
On the day we returned, we visited the Chapel of the Holy Cross, a Roman Catholic Church and a vortex. A minimal-looking engineering marvel of a cathedral, it has been standing tall since the 1950s.
In the evening, when the sun went down, we visited the Amitabha Stupa and Peace Park, a Tibetan Buddhist Temple and also a vortex. Unlike a temple which is usually a closed space, this one is open with simple elements of a Buddhist temple – the prayer wheel, a stupa and a statue of the Buddha. The place is quiet and tranquil. Several bird feeders on the trees around the temple attract birds of various species. Their chirping is certainly mood-lifting and adds to the serenity.
On our final day in Sedona, my daughter and cousin’s wife left really really early in the morning to hike to Devil’s Bridge. That was the only way to beat most of the hiker traffic on this easy-moderate trail. The Devil’s Bridge is a much ‘Instagrammed’ place in Sedona. The place is so popular that there is a queue to take that one special pic, not to mention the panoramic view the rock bridge rewards all those who climb the last short but steep climb.
Sedona is definitely worth more than a day’s visit. Other than the several different trails and scenic routes, for those who fancy spas and wine trails, they have got that too. After three great days in Sedona we were back on the road to Phoenix to catch our respective flights to San Diego and New York. My cousin planned, booked and ferried us around. It was a nice change for me from being in the driver’s seat (literally and figuratively). Lots of good food, good music and poor jokes (my cousin and I are so good at it to the point of annoying my daughter and SIL!) were also thrown in to the mix making the trip simply fabulous and memorable!
More pics here and here.