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Published: December 25th 2014
After the Rain
Reflections of Cathedral Rock
From Billy the Kid to Wyatt Earp, General Custer to Geronimo, the American West was filled with legendary characters. Novelists and short story writers blended fact and fiction to create bigger than life characters and made them famous in the late 1800’s and early 1900’s. Thousands of young and old readers living on the East Coast of the United States followed the stories of the daring men and women who tamed a frontier seemingly filled with danger and adventure around every corner.
The cattle ranches were immense, the women were beautiful and the native people were both respected for their traditions and feared for their warrior-like aggression. According to the writers, the men who settled the west had to be brave, strong, wise and probably quick with a gun. They walked a little taller and talked a little louder than normal men and inspired generations to travel west seeking their own adventure.
Eventually Hollywood took over where the writers left off. Directors and Cinematographers needed to find filming locations that were as big as the stories they were going to tell. John Wayne, Clint Eastwood and Gary Cooper filled the screen and demanded landscapes that
1000 feet straight down!
were as big as the legends they were portraying
It led them directly to the iconic mountains, valleys, canyons and plains of Northern Arizona. Hollywood found the Monument Valley on the Arizona/Utah border. The canyons formed by the Colorado River over the millennium provided the perfect backdrop for these epic stories. The windblown, water eroded and nearly treeless terrain which changed color hourly with the angle of the sun proved to be exactly what they needed for their movies. They came and made themselves, the western legends and Arizona famous.
Just like those who came before, we were drawn to this area ourselves. Seeing the iconic photographs of the area as we have travelled around the Southwestern US over the last few months created a desire to see it, too. We left our harbor side condo in San Carlos, Mexico where we had spent the last month and headed north.
After an easy border crossing and a night in a Phoenix hotel, we arrived at our new home of Sedona, Arizona. Sedona is a small town about 1 ½ hours north of Phoenix in the beautiful Red Rock area of Arizona.
Road to north of Monument Valley. Forrest Gump ran here.
The main reason for most to visit Sedona is the heart-stopping, breathtaking scenery. Entering the area from the south was amazing. The road winds through a valley surrounded by dramatic buttes, cliffs and unusually shaped peaks. While predominantly red in color they can also be white, black, purple, orange or yellow. It is absolutely gorgeous and ranks with any natural scenery we have witnessed anywhere in the world.
Over millions of years, layers of sandstone and limestone were left in the area by a receding ocean. Iron oxide eventually covered the grains of sandstone and, in a natural process, rust formed. The stunningly beautiful red rocks of Sedona are the result of this process.
We spent our first couple of weeks exploring the local area. Sedona has more than 300 miles of trails crisscrossing the area. The trails are used by hikers, equestrians and mountain bikers to gain access to perfect views over the best rock formations. We quickly learned the names of the most famous formations as most hikers give directions using their creative and descriptive names. Coffee Pot Rock, Cathedral Rock, Bell Rock, Devil’s Bridge, the Sphinx, Snoopy Rock and Courthouse Rock
are just a few.
Oak Creek runs through the center of town. It is lined by wonderful Cottonwood trees that had just finished changing colors when we arrived. The beautiful yellow color of the leaves mixed colorfully with the green of Ponderosa Pines and giant Oaks that line the banks. Against the background of the red rock the colors were stunningly gorgeous. We took several long walks along the river and enjoyed the sounds of the rushing stream passing through the canyons.
Many know Sedona as a destination to find spiritual enrichment. They believe that Sedona contains many active vortex sites. Vortexes are points at which the earth emits swirling waves of energy. The energy interacts with all living things near the vortex location. It is believed that the earth’s energy strengthens ones inner energy core and provides renewed clarity and focus. It is common to follow a trail to a vortex site and find people doing yoga or just meditating quietly. Small rock pillars are found everywhere marking these energy emitting points.
We took quick journeys outward from Sedona to nearby small towns that were predominately founded by miners to
exploit the surrounding areas mineral wealth. The town of Jerome is high on a mountain overlooking the area and is filled with galleries, saloons, restaurants and haunted hotels. The nearby towns of Clarkdale and Cottonwood have restored downtown areas which give an excellent glimpse into the rural Arizona lifestyle of the recent past.
Before miners arrived to the area, Native Americans settled here for thousands of years. The Sinagua tribe built cliffside dwellings and farmed the area. Abundant water and game made for the perfect place to build permanent housing on hilltops and near the streams. The strangely named Montezuma’s Castle, Montezuma’s Well and Tuzigoot are National Monuments that preserve the ruins of these settlements and provide a glimpse into how these ancient people lived.
We expanded our surroundings farther and decided to travel north to the famous Monument Valley. The area was made famous by actor John Wayne and director John Ford who filmed some of the greatest western movies ever made amongst the dramatic scenery. Giant, eroded sandstone formations stand against enormous buttes. A seventeen mile loop road travels between the monuments and leads to overlooks that provide breathtaking views across the
Chapel of the Holy Cross
scarred plateau. A balloon festival had been scheduled for the day, but was cancelled early due to fog. While unfortunate for the balloonists, not many people were visiting the valley while we were there. It made for a surreal adventure as we slowly drove through the unforgettable landscape which was nearly deserted except for us.
Another road trip north led us to one of Arizona’s most photogenic locations. We travelled to the small town of Page, Arizona which is located near the massive Glen Canyon dam. The dam was built to provide power generation for much of Arizona. The building of the dam created a gigantic Lake Powell, which has become a popular destination for boaters from all over the Western United States.
A popular activity when visiting Page is touring the unique slot canyons located on the Navajo reservation. The most famous slot canyons are the Navajo run Upper and Lower Antelope Canyons. The water carved canyons are a twisted, time worn reminder of nature’s power to overcome the rugged earth. Our guide led us through the labyrinth of sculpted sandstone. The narrowly visible light from above the narrow canyon made for unique
Seven Sacred Pools
Coffee Pot Rock in the background
and changing colors as we made our way through the tiny underground passageways.
Our final adventure in the Page area was to the often photographed Horseshoe Bend. Over the millennia the Colorado River has worn a canyon through the red rock landscape. A short trail leads to an overlook of a huge bend in the river from the rim above. Brave photographers perch precariously at the top to capture the unique view of the river more than 1000 feet below. There are no platforms or railings present and it is quite frightening on normal days. On the day we visited, a large windstorm had kicked up and literally 50 mile per hour gusts filled with sand and pebbles were blowing on our backs as we leaned precariously over the edge to capture our photo remembrance of the view. It was quite frightening with nothing but certain death between us and the surrealistically beautiful river below.
We have plans to visit the Grand Canyon before we leave next week for further adventures north. We have enjoyed our time in Red Rock Country. This is a unique and truly breathtaking area of the world that everyone
should visit at least once.
We hope all of our readers and friends have an enjoyable holiday season. Thanks for following along on our travels this year and we hope to see you soon in the coming year.
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