Turquoise and Red Rocks

Sunday was to include a scenic detour, shopping, a water slide, some insight into a question that had been on my mind for quite a while and finished up the day with the full moon rising as we left a fascinating church structure. Still enjoying sleeping in a bit in the morning and breakfast just down the hall in the hotel lobby.

We swung by the Flagstaff WalMart to pick up a few supplies and then headed for Sedona. Since we were on vacation, it really wasn’t that big a deal when we missed our exit on the way, although the one we took looked familiar. We ended up winding through a residential area where the houses were set into the trees and looked like a combination of retirement cottages and weekend getaways. From a sheer directions standpoint, I think the Garmin could have gotten us back on the right track without quite as extensive a tour but it was a pleasant diversion to somewhere we hadn’t seen before.

Rt. 89A takes one through Oak Creek Canyon and delivers some scenic forest and water views.

Also along this stretch of 89A is a bridge across a gully known as Hoel’s Wash. Adjacent to Hoel’s Wash is Hoels Indian Shop and Rental Cabins.  The open sign was lit so we stopped and went in. The merchandise was all Indian-themed and Mr. Hoel was very knowledgeable about his merchandise and his artists. We probably spent the better part of an hour looking at EVERYTHING and we found the piece that was “it”. Mr. Hoel wrapped it up and we were once again on our way. (It was a ring by Greg Lewis but I have no pictures. It was a gift for our daughter.)

Next along the way is Slide Rock Park, a joint venture between the US Forest Service and Arizona State Parks. Originally the Pendley Homestead, the park is a 43-acre historic apple farm located in Oak Creek Canyon. Frank L. Pendley, having arrived in the canyon in 1907, formally acquired the land under the Homestead Act in 1910. Due to his pioneering innovation, he succeeded where others failed by establishing a unique irrigation system still in use by the park today. This allowed Pendley to plant his first apple orchard in 1912, beginning the pattern of agricultural development that has dominated the site since that time. Pendley also grew garden produce and kept some livestock. Historically significant because of early efforts at agriculture and the 1930’s addition of guest cottages (no longer used). Recreationally, its significance is tied to the natural water chute and slide.

There were a number of families and small groups enjoying the park during our visit. Only one family seemed to be actually in the water and on the slide though. The rest were enjoying the sun and the view as we were.

We spent some time enjoying the warm sunshine and then trekked back to our rented car to head into Sedona. The midday ride was a bit faster-paced than yesterday’s but not rushed at all. As we had scoped out the town somewhat, we quickly recognized that an on-street parking spot would work and lucked into finding one in the first block or so. We had some time and wandered about trying to find just the right spot for a light lunch.  The Canyon Breeze is relatively open in a food-court sort of way and we chose tacos. My experience with tacos had always been either the crunchy corn shells or a soft flour more like a burrito. These were flour but with some crunch. A bit lighter and a good flavor. They hit the spot quite well.  

After we finished lunch, we made our way a few doors down to await our scheduled Jeep tour ride.

There were four of us scheduled to make the ride and the other two were being retrieved by our driver down the road a ways. We watched as other groups met with their drivers and departed. And then other groups would come along and depart with their driver. It was about to become an issue worth inquiring about when a red Jeep TJ pulled in off the main road and our driver, who introduced himself as Mike (I think), came to collect us. It turns out we had added another pair to the mix and there would be 6 of us plus our guide. Our tour was with the Red Rock Western Jeep Tours. It appears there are at least 6 tour companies in town specializing in this type of tour. Most of them use Jeep Wranglers of the YJ or TJ variety for those of you who know the difference. What they all share is modifications that include a higher canopy and additional seating in the rear area. In theory, the one we rode could carry 7 passengers plus the driver but it would be snug. The added seats were smooth and narrow so you really needed to cinch down on the seatbelt to stay in place when the going got rough.

 Our tour started going through town on our way to the Red Rock District of the Coconino National Forest. We passed through several traffic circles (or as they call them in Maryland — traffic calming devices!) We passed the house formerly owned by one of my personal favorites, Lucille Ball. A domineering and impressive structure with covered balcony porches overlooking the red rock landscape and the town of Sedona. This took us out Schnebly Road, named for one of the founders of the town. According to guide (and I add the appropriate disclaimer as all tour guides seem to have a blurry line between historical accuracy and delivering a good line, a practice commonly known by storytellers everywhere as not letting the facts ruin a good story) the town was to be named after the nearby Oak Creek Canyon but instead was named after one of the Schnebly brothers’ wives. Her death and the death of their only child within a few years lead to the Schneblys abandoning the area. 
Schnebly Road is typical US Forest Service (USFS) roadway, hard packed dirt and rock with gravel (of varying sizes up to softball size) which climbed up to our viewpoint.  Our guide went out of his way to communicate the full feeling of the early stagecoach. (Translation: It was an uncomfortably rough ride, especially when combined with the seats described above.)  This part actually surprised me. As most of the readers here would know, I recreationally travel/drive a 4×4 truck just to reach some otherwise inaccessible spots. I have often wondered why more folks didn’t share the interest and I wonder if their experience is with tour companies like this whose primary objective is to get the tour group from one spot to another on a schedule rather than to enjoy the journey. For example, traversing the same route, we would have lowered air pressure in tires to make it easier to negotiate the rocks and to make the ride more comfortable. Additionally we would have slowed down well below the 25 mph speed limit. In doing so, we would also have easily taken 6-8 hours to see the same sights that we were shown in 4 hours.


Old Bear Wallow
Climb this early stagecoach route along Schnebly Hill Road through Bear Wallow Canyon just below the Mogollon Rim to enjoy STUNNING VIEWS of Sedona and Oak Creek Canyon 2000 Feet below. Step onto Munds Wagon or Huckaby Trail and hear stories of Sedona’s early pioneer days. The 2-hour tour features a 4×4 excursion along the scenic volcanic Mogollon Rim Trail among the world’s largest continuous stand of Ponderosa Pines.
Canyons & Cowboys
Your Red Rock Western Guide takes you through a scenic wonderland surrounded by seven majestic canyons into historic Dry Creek Basin. Relive early cowboy days with tales of MURDER AND MOONSHINE at the old “Van Derin” cabin, a focal point of your tour, permitted ONLY to select jeep tour companies.
The murder at the Van Derin cabin was never solved although it was suspected that robbery was the motive. Mike, being a good storyteller made it an engaging story, of course. The difficult-to-reach cabin could be much easier to reach if one were to approach from the opposite direction. In the middle of the last decade, that property was developed as an expensive country club with houses on the golf course. The economic bust of the last few years stopped that development after only a couple of memberships and houses were sold.
Final thoughts on the Jeep Tour: They took us to places we would not have gone nor found in the rental car. We got to see some of the surrounding area close up and heard local color stories that we would not have otherwise heard. I’m glad we went and it was money well-spent. I recommend that you take one at least once but that you keep in mind that this is not necessarily what your wacky friends who play with their 4x4s do when they go riding on the weekend.
One more location we got to visit was the Chapel of the Holy Cross.
Built on a twin pinnacled spur about 250 feet high, jutting out of a thousand foot red rock wall, “solid as the Rock of Peter” the building of the Chapel was completed in April 1956. Just the physical construction was a physical miracle, overcoming difficult conditions to construct this chapel.
As before with the Watchtower, we arrived just before closing time for the day and it was located high up on the hill with a long winding ramp to the front doors. But the view was worth it! The wall behind the altar is made of glass with a floor to (very high) ceiling cross. The wall at the opposite end is also largely glass with the exception of two floor to ceiling doors. Around the perimeter the 14 Stations of the Cross were identified by Roman numerals formed from what appeared to be iron railroad spikes. Very dramatic! The pews were backless wooden benches and a woven tapestry hung on each of the side walls.  We’ve included a few pictures and invite you to visit the website (link above).
We finished the day with a last pass through the streets of Sedona and found a nice bar and grill, The Open Range. Looked like they enjoyed a brisk business and a nice view but since we were there after dark, the view was invisible. After finishing our dinner, we returned to Flagstaff via the Interstate and called it a night.

Unexpected Road Like a Malaria Germ and into Sedona

When we told friends that we would be staying in Flagstaff, several recommended that we include Sedona in our plans. When we mentioned we were including Sedona in our plans, the recommendation was to avoid the Interstate and make sure we took the scenic Hwy 89A. When we told the GPS we wanted to get from Flagstaff to Sedona, our plotted route sent us along scenic 89A.

We left Williams and headed back towards Flagstaff. We planned to go on one of the Jeep tours into the Red Rock country around Sedona on Sunday so decided to drive down and check out the area a little bit rather than just booking over the phone or internet.

The roadway started out as a two lane paved road moving through rural area actually passing by Fort Tuthill, a recreational campground associated with Luke AFB.

Then the road started to get a bit more scenic and um, interesting.

The speed limit decreased and the yellow road warning signs showed what appeared to be more correctly identified as u-turns.  If you drive in the mountains much, you are familiar with switchbacks. Although we didn’t get a picture of it, the path on our GPS map screen looked all squiggly, doubling back on itself and reminded of the line from the CW McCall song, Wolf Creek Pass.

Well, from there on down it just wasn’t real purdy: it was hairpin county and switchback city. One of ’em looked like a can full’a worms; another one looked like malaria germs. Right in the middle of the whole damn show was a real nice tunnel, now wouldn’t you know?  (Bill Fries, Chip Davis)

-CW McCall “Wolf Creek Pass”

The ride took us alongside the Oak Creek. As local schools were beginning a one or two week fall break, the several campgrounds along the creek and in the canyon were full. Traffic was not especially heavy although there were enough cars around to require close attention but we moved along at a reasonable rate.

Along the creek, there were a mixture of private residences, small commercial establishments (shops, B&Bs, eateries) and USFS campgrounds.

As we passed some of the more popular businesses like an outside ice cream stand, traffic got a bit heavier and slowed down with more traffic in both directions. About a mile or so outside of Sedona, it was bumper-to-bumper and essentially stopped. It was a pace that would rival the Beltway and 95 North interchange on a Friday afternoon…but on a much smaller scale that didn’t last as long. As we crept along we enjoyed the scenery and the deep red color of the rocks that the area is known for.

As we cruised (crept?) into Sedona, the landscape went from forest to citystreet in a very short stretch of 500-1000 feet. This main street was wide and pedestrian friendly with lots of on-street parking and numerous signs to off street public parking.  Wide sidewalks separated the street from one and two story storefronts. The storefronts were an eclectic mix of touristy shops, restaurants, tour operators, artistic galleries and mixed retail. It was almost as much fun to walk along remembering pre-Mall Main St as it was to investigate the shops and watch the people along the way.

We planned to make arrangements for a Jeep tour of the surrounding area the next day and wanted to look at some turquoise jewelry. We had done some research on the internet and there were some shops that had looked interesting but the jewelry wasn’t quite what we seeking. We did run into some very helpful and some very persistent shopkeepers but it just wasn’t “it”. So we bought no jewelry that day.

We did however make arrangements for our Jeep tour. We had wanted to take the Soldiers Pass tour but it was full up (and at 8:00 am) so we booked a combined tour for tomorrow afternoon which combined Old Bear Wallow and the Cowboys and Canyons tour.

It had gotten dark and it was time for dinner. There were plenty of restaurants to choose from and varied in their fare from typical pub fare, various barbeques, Thai, vegetarian and southwestern. We chose the Oaxaca Restaurant for some traditional southwestern/Mexican fare which was quite tasty. The margaritas were pretty good as well.

After dinner, we made our way back to the car and chose to make our way back to the hotel via the interstate rather than run the gauntlet of campgrounds along Oak Creek Canyon. After preparing a couple of postcards, we turned in for the night.