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By: Zdenko Kahlina
Discovering Arizona: A day trip to the north Arizona and the Red Rock of Sedona.
There is an old saying: “God created the Grand Canyon, but he lives in Sedona.” One trip to Sedona and you know it has to be true!
My first visit to Sedona was in November 2004, when I was on a business trip in Phoenix. It was a Sunday and my wife and I decided to make a day trip to Sedona. That day we drove from Phoenix to Sedona, than turned south-west to Cottonwood, Jerome town, Prescott valley and back to Phoenix on highway 60. The whole loop thru Arizona was about 450 kilometers and we were back in our hotel before dawn settled over the Phoenix city.
Sedona is only about 2 hours away from Phoenix (180 km). We took interstate highway 17 north towards Flagstaff early in the morning. About 1 ½ hour later we reached Hwy exit 289 to Montezuma and decided to explore national monument Montezuma Castle, five-story cliff dwelling that was once home to the prehistoric Sinagua Indians.
Montezuma Castle is an imposing and majestic cliff dwelling in central Arizona dating back to the 12th century. Although some call it an ‘ancient high-rise apartment building’ due to its height (five stories) and 20 rooms, that is misleading because it implies times were peaceful, on the contrary… it was more a fortress to fend off attacks. Although it was abandoned in the 15th century, its majesty seems to have remained. So regal, so stately, so proudly standing erect… seemingly a silent proclamation from the Middle Ages about its 800 year-old claim. Haughty, confident, yet enveloped with poignancy too it seems, nestled protectively, the desert breeze whispering… I am Aztec, I am Aztec.
It is considered to be one of the most well preserved cliff dwellings in North America. The desire to preserve the site was a major factor that influenced the preservation movement in the United States. Thus, in 1906, Montezuma castle was proclaimed as a National Monument. In your travels to Arizona, you are sure to find many similar monuments of this kind. Be sure to put them into your Arizona travel itinerary.
The Red Rock of Sedona:
Sedona’s main attraction is its stunning array of red sandstone formations, the Red Rocks of Sedona. The formations appear to glow in brilliant orange and red when illuminated by the rising or setting sun. The Red Rocks form a breathtaking backdrop for everything from spiritual pursuits to the hundreds of hiking and mountain biking trails.
Sedona is at a 4000 ft elevation, which in real terms means that it has the fresh, crisp climate of being in the mountains. The people of Phoenix often have summer houses in Sedona because it is always at least 30 degrees lower in temperature, making it pleasant and bearable in the summer, where Phoenix can get up to 130 degrees and then they winter in Phoenix at around 90 degrees.
I had been told by friends who had been to Sedona many times what to expect and the beauty of the city. Even today I cannot explain to anyone just how beautiful it is.
Sedona was the perfect place and I was beginning to experience a calm within that I hadn’t felt in so long. While in Sedona you will be surrounded by beauty. No wonder there are so many artist in one area. Over 200 world renowned artists call Sedona home.
It’s hard to imagine that in this little town over 40 galleries showcase the works of these artists. Everything from jewelry, to photos, sculptures, paintings, clay, and metal are just some of the mediums that you can find.
Chapel of the Holy Cross
This was my favorite thing that we did in Sedona. The chapel itself was amazing, and the gift shop was great – but the view, and the proximity to the red rocks was incredible! A quick, easy drive from town, this is a must do for everyone. And it’s free – what’s not to love??? Beautiful, inspiring, a marvel!
When first approaching the church parking lot it can look like you will NEVER find a parking spot. But, have no fear and STICK IT OUT. You just have to go up a small hill. Even though you aren’t moving, there is a parking guide at the top directing traffic. Simply put, they will move you to a parking spot as soon as someone else leaves. Really a VERY good job!
Inside you can read the story of how the church was constructed. AMAZING… the chapel itself could be a little quieter. Take a trip downstairs too. They have a great gift shop. I recommend the Christmas ornaments. They will be on my tree this year!
Sedona first was captured by Max Ernst, a surrealist painter and sculptor in the 50′s. Now creativity is overflowing from every gallery that you step into. A major gallery sells celebrity paintings; another offers top-notch native-American pottery and baskets.
More art, knick-knacks and ultra-chic clothing are found at a bucolic Mexican-themed arts-and-crafts village on the south side of town, called Tlaquepaque.
Looking for something to do in the evening while in Sedona? If fine dining, a great wine selection of wine and relaxing live entertainment, then you might want to plan a night at Rene’s in Tlaquepaque. Sedona is the quaint retreat that has exploded into a hidden oasis for the Hollywood Elite and your Average Joes. It has become the perfect place for a relaxing vacation full of activities and well needed rest.
Sedona – Prescott. The best drive of the trip was Alt Highway 89 south through Sedona and Prescott valley. This road also took us up past Jerome through the Mingus Mountains, a steep and twisting road full of pines and fabulous views. We left Sedona on the highway 89A to Cottonwood which is only 27 km away. Surrounding scenery is beautiful and driving is very enjoyable. We reached Cottonwood in no time.
Historic Old Town Cottonwood
Located in the heart of the Verde Valley, Old Town Cottonwood is home to over 60 businesses that attract visitors and support local area residents.
Cottonwood is surrounded by jagged mountains on the south and west, and to the north and east by mesas and buttes. Named for the beautiful Cottonwood trees that grow along the Verde River, the town grew from a small farming community to the Verde Valley’s population center, called “the biggest little town in Arizona” by the late 1920s. At that time Old Town businesses supported residents and workers of the many mines that operated in nearby communities.
Located just minutes from Sedona, Jerome and Clarkdale, Old Town Cottonwood is ideally situated near the Verde River offering a variety of recreational activities that include camping, picnicking, horseback riding and fishing.
Mining town Jerome:
Only one hour drive from Sedona thru Verde valley is a small ghost town Jerome. Jerome Arizona’s history is rich with copper mining. See Historic Jerome Photos.
A mining camp named Jerome was established atop “Cleopatra Hill” in 1883. It was named for Eugene Murray Jerome, a New York investor who owned the mineral rights and financed mining there. Eugene Jerome never visited his namesake town.
Jerome was incorporated as a town on March 8, 1889. The town housed the workers in the nearby United Verde Mine, which was said to produce over 1 billion dollars in ore over the next 70 years. Jerome was reincorporated as a city in 1899 and a building code specifying brick or masonry construction instituted to end the frequent fires that had repeatedly burned up sections of the town previously.
Jerome became a notorious “wild west” town, a hotbed of prostitution, gambling, and vice. On 5 February 1903, the New York Sun proclaimed Jerome to be “the wickedest town in the West”. In 1915 the population of Jerome was estimated at 2,500. Great Jerome Fire In 1918 fires spread out of control over 22 miles of underground mines. This prompted the end of underground mining in favor of open pit mining.
For decades dynamite was used to open up pits in the area, frequently shaking the town and sometimes damaging or moving buildings; after one blast in the 1930s the city jail slid one block down hill intact. In the late 1920s Jerome’s population was over 15,000. Mining decline and closure deserted buildings in the Gold King Mine and Ghost Town, northwest of Jerome. In 1953 the last of Jerome’s mines closed, and much of the population left town. Jerome’s population reached a low point of about 50 people in the late 1950s.
Jerome Art Galleries are some of the finest in the southwest. When visiting Jerome, be sure to stop into each gallery as each displays its own unique kind of art and mediums. From photography to jewelry and fabric, Jerome artists have a multitude of talents.
Nestled in the conifer forests of the Bradshaw Mountains, Prescott is a historic city boasting much in the way of adventure and culture. Golfers flock to its six pristine courses, while outdoors enthusiasts find exciting hiking trails, secluded picnicking spots and adventure on the waters of its five lakes.
In the small town of Prescott I managed to get lost. I knew I had to follow road 89, but somehow lost it. It took us more than 30 minutes to find our way out of the town.
Discover the history of the Old West in the city’s museums, historic railways and the Pioneer Home Cemetery, where “Big Nose Kate” Elder, wife of Doc Holiday, found her final resting place. We were back in our hotel in Phoenix before down settled over the city. This was an exciting day exploring northern Arizona and I would do it again in a flash.
Have a good and healthy season.
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