For this, JR handed us over to our new guide, Sydvicious, his cowboy name.
“The only people who don’t call me ‘Sydvicious’ are my children, who call my ‘Pop,'” he said.
Despite the name, Syd was anything but vicious, a friendly man who seemed to think everything was funny, his laughter mixing with shrieks of the Jeep passengers as they bounced over rock and uneven road providing the soundtrack to my tour.
The Coconino National Forest encompasses 1.856-million acres of Ponderosa Pine, alpine tundra, woodland lakes, inspiring mountains and trails for hiking, horseback riding, camping and picnicking. Not only that, but it’s full of red rocks forming familiar shapes, from Abraham Lincoln to a snoozing Snoopy to Superman. The most famous of these rock shapes is Cathedral Rock, with a semblance unsurprisingly to a Cathedral. Interestingly, Cathedral Rock was once known as “Courthouse Butte,” until people realized it looked more like a church. What was THEN known as Cathedral Rock is now known as Courthouse Butte.
Confused? Don’t worry about it. Just stop thinking and take in the view.
Another interesting concept to understand when exploring Sedona’s red rock country is “vortexes,” which Cathedral Rock is one of (along with Airport Mesa, Boynton Canyon and Bell Rock). Vortexes refer to places with spiritual and cleansing energies. Standing in one of these vortexes and breathing in this special air strengthens one’s inner being.As stated on John And Micki’s Metaphysical Site, a website dedicated to Sedona’s vortexes and New Age culture, “This resonance happens because the vortex energy is very similar to the subtle energy operating in the energy centers inside each person. If you are at all a sensitive person, it is easy to feel the energy at these vortexes.” While I’m not 100% sure I believe in vortexes, it doesn’t hurt to give it a try. If the energy funnels don’t revitalize you, taking in the landscape certainly will. While Cathedral Rock is the most photographed formation, our best vista comes once we’ve bounced our way to the top of a steep incline, putting the Jeep in park in front of Carousel Rock. From here, the red rock monoliths intermingle with bright green trees for a Christmas-gone-wild vista that will be forever imprinted in my mind. Rolling mountains in the backdrop add a laziness to the otherwise powerful and energetic scene. One we’ve bounded back down the mountain, we’re given some free time to explore Uptown Sedona, literally located higher up into the mountains than Downtown. While I’m not big into shopping, I do love exploring artisan shops and eateries, which luckily abound between New Age storefronts selling crystals, salves, aromatherapy, curative oils and, sometimes, spa treatments (like at Body Bliss Factory Direct). My first stop was Sedona Olive Oil Co, offering free samples of oils like white honey ginger balsamic, chocolate cherry aged balsamic, white truffle and garlic olive oil, and Persian lime olive oil. From there, the Sedona Candle Gallery immersed me in a world of creative (and sometimes eccentric) ball-shaped candles, while the free-to-enter Motion Picture Museum showcases black-and-white photos from the many Old Western films produced locally (Sedona was once known as “Little Hollywood”). While I didn’t spend too much time here, I recommend visiting the Tlaquepaque Arts & Crafts Village, home to over 40 creative galleries and shops and a landmark since the 1970s. While there were plenty of restaurants offering burgers, sandwiches and salads, as I was visiting a new place I wanted a novel dining experience. Cue the Cowboy Club & Silver Saddle Room. Along with dishes like wings coated in smokey house-made Poblano ranch, buffalo-infused chili, and raspberry plum BBQ-coated pulled pork, they served some truly quirky fare. My order: a Diamondback Rattlesnake Trio featuring bone -in rattlesnake, beer battered filet skewers and char-grilled rattlesnake sausage with a tequila prickly pear sauce, and a side of cactus fries. Needless to say it was not my typical weekday lunch back in NYC. After these savory experiences, it was time to satiate my sweet tooth, which I did at the Sedona Fudge Company. Amidst savoring free samples of chocolate cream cheese and maple walnut fudge, I watched truffles being made through a window looking into the small onsite factory. During the final portion of the tour we were reunited with JR, who would be our guide for a local bus tour. Along with viewpoints like the Airport Mesa and Bell Rock, we also stopped at the historic Garland’s Indian Jewelry which is, according to JR, the best in Sedona for authentic Native American jewelry and turquoise pieces. Again, I’m not into shopping; however, this store was interesting as it was also a sort of museum, if you will. While on one side a display showcased different colors of turquoise — surprisingly they’re not all turquoise — and how the hues and features can tell you where the gemstones came from, another told the story of the Hopi kachina religious icons, beautifully carved by local Hopi people. Possibly the most interesting stop on this portion of the Sedona excursion was the Chapel of the Holy Cross, a church literally built into the city’s red rock. The chapel was built by a local Frank Lloyd Wright student named Marguerite Brunswig Staude, who became inspired by the construction of the Empire State Building, a brick New York City skyscraper held together by a cross of steel. She, too, wanted to construct a building, a chapel, held together by a cross, symbolic of the Lord’s power. It came to her exactly where this chapel should be constructed when she happened upon a Native American petroglyph (although some believe it’s actually from an even older culture), appearing like an Rx prescription symbol. Since 1956, it is in this spot the chapel has stood, with the Rx still visible underneath from the road. The Chapel of the Holy Cross still holds mass on Sundays, possibly the most scenic religious experience one can have. Whether you explore Sedona by Jeep, bus, on foot or by climbing its red rock monoliths, a trip to this bright and colorful desert city is highly recommended for anyone who finds themselves in Arizona.
Have you visited Sedona, Arizona? What was your experience like? Please share in the comments below.
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