Sunday, April 15, 2007

Sedona Arizona

Sedona: An Arizona Masterpiece

Sedona is one of those truly special places that refresh my body and spirit every time I visit. Located about 95 miles straight north of Phoenix, Sedona sits at an elevation of roughly 4500 feet above sea level. The town has about 10,000 permanent residents and is geographically situated in Arizona's high desert under the towering southwestern rim of the vast Colorado Plateau. Directly to the north of town is spectacular Oak Creek Canyon, which has been cut deeper over millions of years by the sparkling waters of Oak Creek, leaving behind towering cliffs and pinnacles of red and white sandstone dotted with Ponderosa Pine and Juniper. To the south of Sedona is the Verde Valley and it’s open expanses of desert filled with Buttes, Mesas, and flanked by the Superstition Mountains toward the south.

Sedona itself is most famous for its amazing red rock formations that have taken names such as Belle Rock, Courthouse Butte, Cathedral Rock, and Devils Tower. These amazing formations are the result of millions of years of erosion and weathering that have left behind a landscape that truly amazes. In many of the formations you can see the different layers and colors represented as horizontal bands in the rock that were originally deposits of sediment underneath an ancient ocean eons ago. As this sediment piled up in layers, the weight of the top layers in combination with pressure and heat formed sedimentary rocks which lay hidden under the earth’s surface until exposed once again by forces or water and wind millions of years later. Today’s unique landscape is a result of this process of erosion.

Sedona is blessed with a beautiful climate that includes warm summers, mild winters, and lots of sunshine. Unlike the Phoenix area, Sedona is spared from the extreme heat because of its elevation, which leaves its summer temperatures dry and in the 90’s. Winters may see occasional snowfall, crisp and frosty nights, and cooler but pleasant and sunny days. There are four distinct seasons with the fall colors usually peaking in November. Along the creek, the deciduous trees form part of what is known as a riparian community which is characterized by cottonwoods and other water dependent species that shimmer brilliant shades of orange and yellow as the transition between summer and winter takes place.

Sedona is great for the visitor in all four seasons but sees most of its tourist traffic between March and October. The natural beauty of the area enhances activities like championship golf and scenic drives. The surrounding Coconino National Forest and Red Rocks Wilderness areas have large numbers of hiking trails for all ability levels, and in addition offer great backcountry camping and exploration. Off-road adventures in Jeeps, mountain biking, picnicking, and visiting ancient ruins and Native American cultural sights are other intriguing options for the outdoor enthusiast.

For those who prefer to be pampered and simply “see” the beautiful landscapes, Sedona offers an abundance of 4 star accommodations, exclusive spa resorts, a lively and diverse culinary scene, and a fast growing and prominent art scene. Wither it’s browsing boutique shops or galleries, having coffee at a local café looking out at 20 mile vistas, or doing a week long camping trip out in the backcountry, Sedona has something for just about everyone.

My perfect day in Sedona starts with a fresh cup of coffee at Ravenheart Cafe while sitting out on their deck overlooking Oak Creek and Cathedral Rock. After coffee, it is up to the Chapel of the Holy Cross to light a candle, and have a quiet moment to reflect. A good day hike up Jack’s Canyon or Wilson Mountain always challenges me to the fullest. After dinner, I enjoy relaxing at the Junepine resort, nestled half way up Oak Creek Canyon, listening to the waters of Oak Creek rush relentlessly over boulders and rocks. All the while I also hear the crackling of pine logs, and the sweet smell of cedar coming from my fireplace. The final ingredient to make all of these activities truly memorable is to be in the company of my mother and sister, who both also share a special place in their hearts for the magic of Sedona. We have been coming out for years together to spend time together as a family while feeling connected to a place that the three of us in many ways consider a second home.

By Erik Rasmussen