Last trip to Arizona, I hit Phoenix and Sedona. The difference between them is summarized in these waiter interactions.
At the “Taco Chelo” on Roosevelt Row in downtown Phoenix, the waiter asked where I hailed from, then “Vikings or Packers?” (Packers, duh.) The next day, I parked in the lot at “ChocolaTree” in Sedona and immediately became “present to life’s bounty” as required by the sign. “Vegetarian fare in bohemian surrounds” doesn’t really begin to describe it. The earnest young waiter asked “Have you read ‘Seth Speaks?” before I could even sit down.
He told me that we’re not people talking to each other right here, heck, we’re not even a MAN and a WOMAN talking to each other. Now normally when we’re talking eternal validity of the soul I could go on and on. But all I wanted was one of those organic pale ales before my dehydrated soul evaporated right out of its mortal coil.
Yep, Sedona has more than its share of new age seekers and seers, crystals and dreamcatchers. Raw, living and sprouted things on the menu. Blood red rocks and sky blue sky. Mysterious rock formations wee humans make sense of by assigning shapes: Tea Cup, Coffee Pot, Bell.
Vortexes? Check. Apparently we don’t call them “vortices” in Sedona. There are four in town: Airport Mesa, Cathedral Rock, Bell Rock and Boynton Canyon are spots where the earth’s energy is apparently so concentrated it leaps up and grabs you by the nuts. Go ahead and check out a vortex if one calls you, but you don’t need a special plot of earth to feel Sedona’s vibe. You don’t need a map with an “x” marking “vortex” on it to plant your yoga mat and feel renewed here. Everywhere you go, there’s the magic.
You can hire a Pink Jeep tour for an excursion into the backcountry, even the vortexes, and the guides I’ve heard are enthusiastic and knowledgeable about the geology. But you will see plenty without one. The hiking is so plentiful and accessible, your own two legs can power you deep into those red rocks. I stayed at an Airbnb studio literally one block from the Sugar Loaf trailhead in West Sedona and from that one point, you’d have enough hiking to keep you busy for days. The Teacup Trail in particular is a family friendly one that won’t require scrambling up rocks or deciphering cairn markers. And since we’re talking caffeine, pour me a warm-up of that Coffee Pot trail because it gets your heart pumping like a cup of joe.
Personally, I’d be real sure of your 4×4 skills before taking on Schnebly Hill Road, a classic scenic drive in Arizona. If you’re heading north on Highway 179, it’s a right turn just before you hit downtown Sedona. The steep road bucks and twists down 2,000 feet of elevation, with stunning views around every turn. Pioneers scratched this route through the rock to Flagstaff and kudos, my button-shoed and bonneted sisters, for doing what I could barely do in Salomon hikers. Since I had a low-clearance rental car, I drove only to the West Trail Head off Schnebly Hill Road, and hiked in from there. The Munds Wagon Trail parallels the 4×4 road for a bit, so expect a passing Jeep every now and then, and some mountain bikers on the trail itself.
You could hike north from the West Trail Head to another stunning sight, this one a Sedona architectural landmark. However you get there, don’t miss it. The Chapel of the Holy Cross is a small, man-made gem placed in nature’s incomparable setting. And I mean RIGHT IN THERE; the exterior cross of the Roman Catholic chapel is wedged right into the buttes of Sedona. I’d like to think my mother wouldn’t have had to drag me to mass here back in the day. The work of God, if you believe in one, is hard to deny through those floor-to-ceiling windows.
That’s Sedona’s real spiritual power. Stand there and breathe. The beauty is so moving it requires no church, no guide, no words.
BEST HIKES AND BEYOND: Drive the 4×4 Schnebly Hill Road if you have a high-clearance vehicle and some technical driving skills. If not, drive only to the West Trail Head for access to Munds Wagon Trail, Hangover Trail and Cow Pies Trail (watch your step!) The Sugarloaf Trail Head in West Sedona is a winner, with access to a whole network of trails, many of them family friendly. A few years ago, I did a rugged hike starting from Slide Rock State Park, about seven miles north of Sedona on 89A. The park takes its name from a natural water slide formed by the slippery bed of Oak Creek. It’s never been hot enough for me to slide down into the swimming hole, but dipping my toes in the water after a hike sure does revive the dogs.