Explore the Splendor That Is Sedona
By Doug Hansen
Soft orange rays from the rising sun cascaded through the boughs of stubby junipers that lined the trail to Sedona's famed Bell Rock as we hiked along the well-worn dirt trail that circled the base of the massive, bell-shaped red dome. During the 4-mile hike we marveled at the otherworldly beauty surrounding us: In every direction, both near and far, red rock formations inexplicably arose from the scrubby beige high-desert landscape.
Our foursome had come to Sedona, one of my favorite places, on our first post-COVID-19 trip mainly to hike and check out its well-known spiritual vibe. Because few places in the world rival the red-rock grandeur of Sedona, many others had made the same travel choice. By 7 a.m. the small parking lot was already almost full, a reflection of the COVID-19-weary Americans who have been pouring into popular travel destinations like uncorked Champagne. Fortunately, the trail never got crowded and we kept silent as we tried to tune in to the world-famous vortex energy that Sedona manifests in certain spots, including Bell Rock and Cathedral Rock.
Because the daytime temperatures in early May hovered in the mid-80s, we embarked on our hikes before 7 each morning. Our greatest challenge was choosing which hike to take from the 136 trails available. Ultimately, we decided on three of the most popular hikes: Bell Rock, Boynton Canyon and Cathedral Rock via the Baldwin Trail (a highly recommended alternative to the most commonly used access trail, which can get quite congested).
To add some spice to our stay, we opted to join an Arizona Safari Jeep Tour excursion to Outlaw Trail on the outskirts of town. As our animated and knowledgeable guide pointed out, "Riding in a four-wheel-drive through these hills gives you a special appreciation for the natural beauty of this area that you can't get in any other way." Indeed, for more than two hours we bumped along dirt roads that led to remote areas we wouldn't have seen otherwise.
After our morning hike the next day, we drove a half-hour across the valley to the former mining town of Jerome. Splayed across the face of a mountain range that borders the west end of the Verde Valley -- a region that also includes Sedona, Cottonwood and Clarkdale -- Jerome is a unique place. Today only 455 people reside there, but in the 1920s the town hosted more than 10,000 residents who were attracted to the richest copper deposit ever found. The mining museum at the edge of town presented the convoluted but fascinating history of the mining operation and was well worth the time to visit.
My wife, Sharen, and I spent the night in neighboring Prescott on our drive to Sedona, but if you have the time, I recommend making it a full-day outing. Located less than an hour from Jerome -- or an hour and a half from Sedona -- Prescott retains the flavor of its Old West heritage, especially in its historic Whiskey Row, filled with vintage restaurants and gift shops.
Across the street from Whiskey Row is the 150-year-old courthouse with stately cottonwood trees, a flag-lined main walkway and several bronze statues commemorating famous cowboys and their horses. In fact, the Bucky O'Neill statue by Solon Borglum claims to be "one of the finest equestrian monuments in the world." Not far from town are five lakes, my favorite of which is Watson Lake, with boulders around it that look like a bag of gigantic granite marbles was spread around the lake.
All good things must end, but as we said farewell to Sedona, we were grateful to have experienced its positive energy and profound beauty. We've already planned our next hikes for when we return to this red-rock wonderland.
WHEN YOU GO
For general information: www.sedonachamber.com or www.visitsedona.com. 928-204-1123
Arizona Safari Jeep Tours: www.safarijeeptours.com, 928-282-3012
Doug Hansen is a travel writer and photographer. See more photos and articles at www.hansentravels.org. To read features by other Creators writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators website at www.creators.com.Copyright 2021 Creators Syndicate, Inc.