May 22 – 25, 2016: Our first day in the Verde Valley area of Arizona kicked off with a drive up a mountain to the quaint town of Jerome.
Jerome is an old mining town and a National Historic Landmark. We walked around town and stopped in, amongst other stores, the establishments owned by Maynard James Keenan. These included Caduceus Cellars (a winery) and well as a record store with a barbershop inside. Maynard is the lead singer of Tool, A Perfect Circle, and Puscifer.
We then stopped at Montezuma Castle National Monument to check out the cliff dwellings of the Southern Sinagua people dating from somewhere between 1100 and 1300s. Although we didn’t visit, nearby is the affiliated site of Montezuma Well. Additionally, Tuzigoot National Monument, remnants of yet another Southern Sinagua village can be found nearby.
We were now ready to check out the beautiful red rock landscape; we got our first look, as many do, at the Coconino National Forest Red Rock Ranger District Visitor Center just south of the Village of Oak Creek. The visitor center is worth a stop; not only for its spectacular views, but also for maps and information from the stationed rangers. We had intended on moving from our campsite at Dead Horse Ranch State Park to the Cave Springs campground within the Coconino National Forest (north of Sedona) but decided against this due to residual smoke from fires that were in the area. Additionally, the road north to Cave Springs is more mountainous than the trek back to Dead Horse Ranch State Park from Sedona and Camper Dan appreciates less strenuous travel.
However, Camper Dan must have been in awe, as we were, of the scenic drive from the visitor center towards Sedona on Highway 179. The landscape reminded me of some lovely rocky landscapes in Utah but these rocks were predominately red and were surrounded by forested areas.
We stopped at Bell Rock and began the upward climb of about one mile. However, after a short while we decided we should turn back and save the hike for the next day.
The next day we hiked Courthouse Butte Loop; a fairly flat 4.5 mile hike with beautiful views. The hike starts and ends near Bell Rock so we attempted, for the second time, to climb Bell Rock at the end of the Courthouse Butte Loop trail. Unfortunately, after struggling to find a decent trail up, we realized we weren’t on the right ride of Bell Rock and just gave up on climbing it any further than we already had.
We moved on to Airport Mesa after stopping at the unique Holy Cross Church. Airport Mesa, along with Bell Rock, is considered an energy vortex spot. Since I don’t believe, I won’t try to explain. Look it up. Needless to say, we didn’t feel the energy.
Our last hike of the day was at Fay Canyon. This relatively flat hike (2.2 miles round-trip) is down a wooded box canyon and provided for a nice change of scenery. The trail dead-ends to a quick climb that provides a great view back out of the canyon and to Bell Rock. Nice circular reference for the days’ end. Also, on the way back, we located a side trail that allowed us to climb up to a beautiful detached arch.
We finished a near-perfect day with a perfect dinner at Elote Cafe. Both the service and food at this upscale (and a bit expensive) restaurant were fabulous. Highly recommend, as does the rest of the internet world, this place.
Our final day in the Sedona area, we headed to Cathedral Rock and hiked to the top (0.7 miles, elevation gain of 608 feet). We had read that it wasn’t for those fearful of heights (me!) but I didn’t find it to be bad. There were some rock scrambles and climbing but I never felt that I was going to fall off a cliff (which is what frightens me).
We completed our time in the area with some window shopping. We first visited Tlaquepaque Arts and Crafts Villa in Sedona; this upscale shopping destination primarily had pottery, crafts, jewelry, art, rocks, and ‘vortex’ (energy) rocks. We also frequented the downtown shopping area of the Village of Oak Creek; this was more kitschy, traditional souvenir shops.
Sedona is one of those places that everyone seems to love. Now I see why. If you’re into hiking amongst stunning scenery or just taking a scenic drive, and upscale art, food, and shopping; this is the place for you. A bit of something for everyone!
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