COURTESY OF THE SEDONA CHAMBER
OF COMMERCE TOURISM BUREAU
Time has sculpted colorful monoliths in Sedona, Ariz. Hikers, mystics and historians all flock to view formations such as Cathedral Rock, shown here from Red Rock Crossing.
Aura of Arizona
Historians believe the earliest indigenous people settled in the area we know as Arizona as early as 12500 B.C. By 1539 A.D, when the first Spanish explorers arrived, some 15 different Indian tribes were living there.
Today, Arizona is home to 250,000 Native Americans from 21 tribes, about half of whom live on 23 reservations scattered throughout the state. One third of its 114,006 square miles is federal reservation land, the largest parcel in the country designated for that purpose.
The state's terrain is varied and often spectacular. The 277-mile-long gorge that inspired Arizona's nickname, Grand Canyon State, drops 6,000 feet at its deepest point and extends 18 miles at its widest.
Arizona also boasts 100 lakes, the largest pine forest in the United States (in Prescott National Forest) and one of the highest peaks in the country (12,643-foot Mt. Humphreys near Flagstaff).
Many other surprises await visitors to Phoenix and Sedona, two of Arizona's top travel destinations.
Sedona: Natural splendor calms the soul
Brushed with broad strokes of burnt-orange, russet, ocher and umber, the majestic mesas, buttes and mountains of Sedona soar over a mile above the plains and canyons of central Arizona. Ocean tides and desert winds patiently, painstakingly chiseled this glorious landscape over eons (scientists' best guess is 80 million years).
This is the heart of Red Rock Country, which often has been heralded as one of the most beautiful places in America. Residents like to say, "God created the Grand Canyon, but He lives in Sedona."
Only 51 percent of the 19-square-mile town is privately owned; the rest falls within the boundaries of 1.8 million-acre Coconino National Forest, a mesmerizing panorama of towering red rock sculptures; bleak alpine tundra; flatlands blanketed with Ponderosa pines; and deep gorges sliced by rivers, creeks and lakes.
COURTESY OF THE SEDONA CHAMBER
OF COMMERCE TOURISM BUREAU
Sunset shows off the formations at Cathedral Rock in Sedona, Ariz.
Hidden within this incredible tapestry are petroglyphs, pictographs, hearths, roasting pits and other archaeological treasures left by Native American tribes who inhabited the area as early as 10,000 years ago.
The highlight of Palatki Red Cliffs Heritage Site is a nine-room Sinagua dwelling dating to 1125 A.D. through which visitors may walk. Its location flush against the face of a cliff provided a natural roof and back wall, and took into account the sun's annual path.
In the winter, the structure is fully illuminated from about 10:30 a.m. until sunset. During the summer, light doesn't touch it until 1:30 p.m. Thus, its occupants received maximum heat during the winter, when days were shorter, and minimum heat during the summer, when the sun lingered long and high in the sky.
White men began moving to the area in 1876. Hardy outdoorsmen, they hunted, fished and farmed small plots to eke out a living. By the turn of the last century, 15 families had established homesteads there, including Missouri entrepreneur Theodore Carlton ("T.C.") Schnebly and wife Sedona.
On an 80-acre site now occupied by Tlaquepaque Arts and Crafts Village, Schnebly built a two-story house from which he ran a hotel and general store. As the community grew, he set up its first post office in the back of his home. In order for the station to operate as part of the United States Postal Service, however, the town needed to have an official name.
Schnebly came up with Red Rock Crossing, Oak Creek Station and Schnebly Station, but postal officials in Washington rejected all three, reportedly because they were too long to fit on a cancellation stamp. Dorsey Ellsworth Schnebly, T.C.'s brother, then suggested Sedona in honor of his sister-in-law. That name was approved on June 26, 1902.
The Sedona Heritage Museum shares that and many other fascinating stories about Sedona's early history. Operated by the Sedona Historical Society, it's housed in the former red rock home of Walter and Ruth Jordan (Walter's parents were among the area's first settlers). The structure, built in 1931, is on the National Register of Historic Places.
Displays feature photographs and personal belongings of several Sedona pioneers, including the Jordans and Schneblys. Of note are Sedona's spinning wheel; a black mourning dress that probably was part of her trousseau; and five white curtain panels (originally a dustcover for her bed), upon which she embroidered a pretty red floral design using a traditional German needlework technique called "turkey scratch."
The Movie Room recalls the 90-plus movies, TV shows and documentaries that have been filmed in Sedona since 1923. Clips from old Hollywood flicks, starring legends such as John Wayne, Jimmy Stewart, Henry Fonda, Glenn Ford, Hedy Lamarr, Joan Crawford and Barbara Stanwyck, are shown continuously.
Culture and history notwithstanding, it's the famed red rocks of Sedona that call to most visitors. The town is known as a spiritual mecca because of the vortexes of energy that supposedly emanate from the earth and mountains that embrace it. Followers believe this energy uplifts the soul, soothes the mind, and enhances prayer and meditation.
Sedona claims four major vortexes: Airport Vortex, Red Rock Crossing/Cathedral Rock Vortex, Boynton Canyon Vortex and Bell Rock Vortex. Sedona Red Rock Jeep Tours has a two-and-a-half-hour tour to the first three sites that includes time for personal reflection.
"Your vortex experience may not be dramatic," the guide warns. "Don't expect to see specters or feel the ground shake. Your 'connection' could be something as simple and subtle as becoming more peaceful and aware."
COURTESY OF THE SEDONA CHAMBER
OF COMMERCE TOURISM BUREAU
The Chapel of the Holy Cross, in scenic Sedona, Ariz., holds Eucharistic Liturgies daily, except Thursdays.
CAPITALIZING on the interest in vortexes, New Age centers offer alcoves for meditation; books covering everything from feng shui to past life regression; daily events and workshops, including prayer circles and chakra-balancing clinics; and healing crystals of various sizes, shapes and purported powers -- for example, amethyst to calm, onyx to cheer, smoky quartz to dissolve negativity and lapis lazuli to boost mental clarity.
Sedona's mystics draw clients from around the world who seek enlightenment and spiritual rejuvenation. Services include private vortex excursions; astrology reports; aura cleansings; metaphysical healing; and palm, crystal ball, tea leaf and tarot card readings.
While there are those who pooh-pooh all this as little more than well-orchestrated hype, Sedona's magnetism is undeniable. It speaks to the dreamer, muse and adventurer in all of us.
If you go ...
Sedona is 120 miles north of Phoenix, about a two-hour drive. For transportation, try the Phoenix-Sedona Shuttle. Call (928) 282-2066 or see www.sedona-phoenix-shuttle.com for fare and schedule information.
Sedona, at an elevation of 4,500 feet, is cooler than Phoenix. During winter, the mercury can drop to the 30s, but in the summer, it can hit the 90s. Day and night temperatures can vary by as much as 30 degrees. The busiest tourist seasons are March through May and September through October.
Those who prefer a full-service resort experience will enjoy a stay at Enchantment Resort (www.enchantmentresort.com), which borders the Coconino National Forest and breathtaking Boynton Canyon. The resort's spa has treatments such as the Sedona Clay Wrap, which uses a blend of the area's mineral-rich red clay and Mexican cocoa, a potent antioxidant. There are more than 30 bed-and-breakfasts in Sedona, including the AAA Four-Diamond Casa Sedona (www.casasedona.com) designed by Mani Subra, a protégé of Frank Lloyd Wright. Each of its 16 rooms has a fireplace; red rock views; and a balcony, terrace or patio. Breakfast is fabulous; think poached pears, raspberry strudel, hand-patted sausage, baked apple French toast, and quiche filled with spinach, mushrooms, zucchini, yellow squash and cheese.
Activities and attractions
In addition to hiking, biking, camping, picnicking, Jeep tours and hot air ballooning, Sedona, a renowned art mecca, is home to more than 40 galleries representing the work of 300 artists in all genres, from painting to sculpture to photography. Many shops carry the exquisite work of Native Americans, including rugs, baskets, pottery, Kachina dolls, and bead and silver/turquoise jewelry. One must stop is Garland's Indian Jewelry (www.garlandsjewelry.com). You also can buy directly from Native American artisans at stands set up daily beside the Dairy Queen Oak Creek Canyon and Oak Creek Vista along Highway 89A en route to Flagstaff. Visitors often plan a side trip to the Grand Canyon, 233 miles (about a four-hour drive) from Phoenix and 108 miles (two hours) from Sedona.
» Chapel of the Holy Cross: (888) 242-7359; www.chapeloftheholycross.com
» Palatki Red Cliffs Heritage Site: (928) 282-3854; www.fs.fed.us/r3/coconino/recreation/red_rock/palatki-ruins.shtml
» Red Rock State Park: (928) 282-6907; www.pr.state.az.us/Parks/parkhtml/redrock.html
» Sedona Heritage Museum: (928) 282-7038; www.sedonamuseum.org
» Sedona Red Rock Jeep Tours: (800) 848-7728; www.redrockjeep.com
» Sedona Trolley: (928) 282-4211; www.sedonatrolley.com
The Center for the New Age: (888) 881-6651; www.sedonanewagecenter.com
» Tlaquepaque Arts and Crafts Village: (928) 282-4838; www.tlaq.com
Sedona Chamber of Commerce Tourism Bureau: (800) 288-7336; www.visitsedona.com
Phoenix: Oasis in desert has something for everyone
Arabian legend tells of the phoenix, a bird known for its sweet voice and rich scarlet and gold plumage, that would appear each day at dawn to sing a song so lovely that it captivated Apollo, the god of music and light.
It was said the phoenix lived for 500 years, but only one could exist at any given time. As it approached the end of its life, it would gather fragrant branches, herbs and spices to build a pyre, in which it would nest and set afire. Three days later, the mythical bird would rise from the ashes to begin another 500-year life.
So was America's fifth largest city born amid desolation. Sprawled over 475 square miles along the banks of the Salt River in the northern sector of the Sonoran Desert, the hottest in North America, Phoenix has been the capital of Arizona since 1889.
COURTESY OF HOT AIR EXPEDITIONS
Hot Air Expeditions gives visitors a unique view of the desert as a balloon skims just above the saguaro cactus.
COURTESY OF SHERATON WILD HORSE PASS RESORT
The decor at the Sheraton Wild Horse Pass Resort reflects the history and culture of the Pima and Maricopa tribes.
Mountains stand guard all around this bustling metropolis of 3.3 million people -- Superstition to the east, White Tank to the west, McDowell to the northeast and Sierra Estrella to the southwest. The area's earliest inhabitants were the Hohokam Indians, who cultivated corn, beans, squash, cotton and other crops using a sophisticated irrigation system comprising 135 miles of canals fed by the Salt River.
The Pueblo Grande Museum and Archaeological Park preserves some of the last of these canals that remain intact, an excavated ball court, platform mounds probably used for ceremonial and administrative purposes, and other vestiges of the Hohokam civilization, which scholars believe lasted from 700 to 1450 A.D.
Records of the Hohokam vanish after that time; although their fate remains a mystery, it's widely believed that severe droughts forced them to leave the Salt River Valley. The Pima Indians claim they are descendants of those first settlers; in their language, hohokam means "those who have gone."
Phoenix was established in 1860 where the Hohokam had lived for more than seven centuries. Phillip Darrell Duppa, one of the founders of the small settlement, suggested the name, predicting a grand city would rise from the ancient Hohokam ruins just as the fabled phoenix rose from its ashes.
If you've never considered Phoenix as a vacation destination, it's time you did, especially if golf is your game. Greater Phoenix claims 200-plus courses, many of which cut through canyons; cross deep ravines; and meander around saguaro cactus and other native vegetation. The sun shines an average of 325 days per year there, so the weather is apt to be good no matter where you tee off.
Ballooning also ranks high among the options for visitors to Phoenix. Depending on weather conditions, you could drift a mile above ground, admiring 360-degree views of the magnificent desert landscape. Closer to earth, you'll float within a few feet of the stately saguaro, and perhaps jackrabbits, javelinas, coyotes and other critters.
Hot Air Expeditions concludes its morning flights with a champagne breakfast of quiche Lorraine, chocolate-filled croissants, cheese and fresh fruit. Seasonal sunset flights from November through March include champagne and gourmet appetizers.
Art and history buffs could spend weeks exploring the 60-plus galleries, museums and cultural attractions in Phoenix. Notable among these is the Heard Museum, whose permanent collection comprises more than 35,000 artifacts representing the cultures of Southwestern native peoples. Prized acquisitions include a Navajo hogan (traditional house); Oodham baskets; Pueblo pottery; Apache clothing; Yaqui masks, rattles and musical instruments; and Hopi Kachina (also Katsina) dolls, jewelry and textiles. The oldest artifacts date back 700 years.
Another worthwhile stop is the Phoenix Art Museum, which has more than 17,000 objects of American, Asian, European and Latin American origin. Its renowned Fashion Design Collection holds 4,500 American and European garments, shoes and accessories ranging from an 18th-century embroidered wool gentleman's coat to contemporary couture from Chanel, Christian Dior and Yves Saint Laurent.
COURTESY OF ADAM RODRIGUEZ, ADAMSPHOTO@COX.NET
The Desert Botanical Garden in Phoenix includes 139 rare, threatened and endangered species in its collection.
COURTESY OF THE HEARD MUSEUM COLLECTION
A Katsina set from a Mixed Katsina dance is among the works displayed at the Heard Museum of Native Cultures and Art.
Taliesin West, the former winter home of architect Frank Lloyd Wright, now serves as the headquarters for the Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation, the site of the Frank Lloyd Wright Archives and the winter campus for the Frank Lloyd Wright School of Architecture. Tours of the sprawling property take you into Wright's living quarters, private office, cabaret theater and music pavilion, all linked by terraces, gardens and walkways overlooking the Sonoran Desert.
Nature, of course, is the world's greatest architect, and nowhere is this more evident than at the Desert Botanical Garden. Set amid spectacular red buttes, it showcases one of the finest collections of desert plants in the world, including 139 rare, threatened and endangered species.
Several weekends over the fall holiday season, the garden opens after dark for Las Noches de las Luminarias, which will celebrate its 30th anniversary this year. The plants take on a dramatic look at night, and paths lit by luminarias lead to food stations, wine tastings and musical performances.
Add great shopping; dining; spas; and sports (including professional football, basketball, baseball and hockey), and you'll agree Phoenix truly is an oasis in the desert.
If you go...
Hawaiian Airlines offers daily nonstop flights between Honolulu International Airport and Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport.
You can get great deals at the city's finest resorts between June and September. Be aware, however, that although low humidity helps mitigate the summer heat, daytime temperatures during that period can climb above 100 degrees F. The weather is ideal for outdoor recreation most of the year, with winter highs in the mid-60s and spring and fall highs in the mid-80s. November through March is the most comfortable time of the year to visit.
Accommodations run the gamut from campgrounds and dude ranches to bed-and-breakfasts and luxury hotels.
» Of note at the Hyatt Regency Scottsdale at Gainey Ranch (www.scottsdale.hyatt.com) is a 1,200-square-foot Native American Learning Center staffed by Native American cultural interpreters who offer demonstrations of beadwork, Kachina doll-carving and other traditional crafts, and explain the displays of jewelry, clothing, pottery, games, textiles, baskets, edible seeds and more. If you're lucky, Moontee Sinquah, who is of Hopi descent, will be on hand to play a haunting song or two on his handcrafted cedar flute. Thriving in the resort's Native Heritage Seed Garden are more than 30 different varieties of plants native to the southwestern United States, including blue corn, chilies, pumpkin and garbanzo beans. Both attractions are free and open daily.
» The Sheraton Wild Horse Pass Resort & Spa (www.wildhorsepassresort.com) is owned by the Gila River Indian Community and located on their 372,000-acre reservation 11 miles south of downtown Phoenix. Its architecture, art, decor and cuisine reflect the history and culture of the Pima and Maricopa tribes. Cultural concierge Ginger Sunbird Martin, a Pima who was born and raised on the reservation, leads complimentary property tours, and AAA Five Diamond Award winner Kai, the hotel's signature restaurant, presents imaginative dishes based on corn, squash, beans, melons, citrus fruits and other crops that have been cultivated in the region for centuries. During the winter, a resident of the community shares music, legends and stories during an hour-long storytelling and song program around a blazing outdoor fire.
Activities and attractions
Hiking, biking, camping, picnicking, horseback riding, Jeep tours, hot air ballooning -- there's plenty to keep outdoor enthusiasts busy in Phoenix and Sedona. In addition, Phoenix offers water-skiing, swimming, boating and white-water rafting at nearby lakes and rivers. More than a dozen world-class resort spas pamper guests; some treatments are based on Native American traditions and ingredients.
» Desert Botanical Garden: (480) 941-1225; www.dbg.org
» Heard Museum: (602) 252-8848; www.heard.org
» Hot Air Expeditions: (800) 831-7610; www.hotairexpeditions.com
» Phoenix Art Museum: (602) 257-1222; www.phxart.org
» Phoenix Zoo: (602) 273-134; www.phoenixzoo.org
» Pueblo Grande Museum and Archaeological Park:
(602) 495-0901; www.pueblogrande.com
» Rawhide at Wild Horse Pass: (480) 502-5600; www.rawhide.com
» Taliesin West: (480) 860-2700; www.franklloydwright.org
The Greater Phoenix Convention & Visitors Bureau: (877) CALLPHX (225-5749); www.visitphoenix.com