But the love of wilderness is more than a hunger for what is always beyond reach; it is also an expression of loyalty to the earth, the earth which bore us and sustains us, the only home we shall ever know, the only paradise we ever need–if only we had the eyes to see. –Edward Abbey, Desert Solitaire
We spent a long-awaited, much-needed vacation week in Sedona, Arizona, about 100 miles north of Phoenix. (I bought Desert Solitaire: A Season in the Wilderness, the book containing the quote above to read while we were there.) We’d been through the area on several occasions over the past few years, but never had much time to explore. Donny remembered some spots from his trip to the area with his step-mom, Mayra long ago, and he was looking forward to seeing how his impressions would change from that first visit as a teenager. We were joined for most of the week by my Dad. To start things off, we began at some of the more well-known rock formations, taking lots of photos. There were plenty of opportunities! (Bell Rock, Cathedral Rock, Courthouse Butte, Chapel of the Holy Cross).
Sedona has an extensive network of trails, and hiking is one of the most popular activities. There’s a wide range of degrees of difficulty, but all provide amazing views and, we feel, a quiet, spiritual nature. Our first big hike was around the Boynton Canyon area. It was a classic red rock, dusty and open trail with some of those beautiful views, highlighted by towering, red sandstone buttes. Boynton Canyon is a wide, box canyon and the proximity of the trail to town and paved roads make it a popular hike. It had become even more popular since developing a reputation as a “vortex” site. These spirals of spiritual energy are said to emanate from the center of the earth itself. Being close to a vortex (if you’re in the right state of mind) is said to leave you with positive energy that can last for days! Whether you embrace the New Age viewpoint or not, Sedona has long had a reputation as a spiritual place.
Cathedral Rock was another hiking highlight. This is a more challenging endeavor, a steep climb to the saddle of the rock formation. There was more forest, and it was so nice to be by Oak Creek for parts of the walk. From here we were able to get that classic shot of Cathedral Rock with water in front. On our last day, we hiked around, making sure that some of our hikes took us by more of Sedona’s famous vortexes.
Native American Ruins near Sedona
One of the most interesting parts of our time in the area was visiting some of the area’s Native American ruins. Montezuma Castle was built by the Southern Sinagua people who once occupied the Verde Valley, probably around the early 1100s. It’s said to be one of the best-preserved prehistoric sites in the Southwest. The pueblo is made of limestone, and built into the cliffs overlooking the valley and river below. It was once a six-story building with various living rooms, storage rooms, kitchens, etc. About 11 miles away is Montezuma Well, a limestone sinkhole formed when a huge underground cavern below it collapsed. The well is fed continuously by warm springs. As water flows in (1.5 million gallons!), water also flows out, and the level of the well is always the same. We were able to walk down and see where the water runs out through a cave and into ancient irrigation channels built by the Sinagua. There are more cliff dwellings built into the limestone above the well. The well’s isolation has produced amphipod and leech species found nowhere else in the world!
Tuzigoot (Apache for crooked water) is found on a long ridge above the Verde Valley, near Cottonwood, not far from Sedona. There’s a very informative museum here, and the ruins (also Southern Sinagua) are extensive (originally 2-stories high with 77 ground-floor rooms!). There’s also a nice walk along the Tavasci Marshland, with lots of birds-watching opportunities.
Ghost Town Jerome
In the distance, up on the mountain slope, you can make out the historic copper mining town of Jerome. The historic copper mining town of Jerome (founded in 1876) lies on top of Cleopatra Hill. Once known as the wickedest town in the west, Fires and landslides destroyed large parts of the town in its early history, but there are still many historic buildings that have survived (saloon, hotels, a sliding jail, parts of the red-light district). From a peak population of 15,000 in its heyday, Jerome’s residents slowly abandoned the site first when mining slowed during the Depression, and then more definitively when mining ceased in the early 50s. At its low of 50 to 100 people, Jerome was officially a “ghost town.” It’s now inhabited by around 500 hardy souls including many artists, with good food, interesting history, and a fact and artifact-filled museum. There are some interesting stories and links in the Jerome Times.
For more pictures click HERE