Over One hundred million people got a glimpse of the massive gorge that resides in the Grand Canyon State of Arizona. Super Bowl XLIX’s cameras took full advantage of displaying one of nature’s magnificent wonders, and that my folks is the Grand Canyon.
Traveling to a place like Sedona is not just about getting to the destination, but being in the elements. Not just as an observer, but as a participant. I studied the maps, did online research and read books to learn the flow of the terrain. I jumped right in and tested my abilities to see if the physical activities would fit me or not. In Sedona and its neighboring regions, the scale of participation can vary in intensity and desire. Exploring the rugged terrain by foot, horseback, motorized vehicle, helicopter or hot air balloon can take on an ever changing visual perspective. Arizona’s desert sun and powdering clouds can accent the region’s picturesque landmarks much like the technology used to enhance the Super Bowl’s halftime show.
Wherever I may be, I enjoy the adventure of hiking. There are no shortages of hiking venues in Sedona. Each hill and earthy monument has a unique name that evokes ancient spiritual feelings. In some cases they let me visualize what type of rituals and events transpired on the site many moons ago. Chimney Rock ranks as my favorite. My name is Paul Scopel and I will be your guide for the rest of the tour.
I have hiked up to the pinnacle, which is at the base of Chimney Rock. The trail forms a perimeter at the base of the entire mountain. Whether dodging cactus thorns, evidence of a Javelina or simply loose gravel, I keep a watchful eye for both unique scenery and harmful hazards.
Situated behind Chimney Rock is Doe Mountain, followed by Bear Mountain and the secluded Village of Enchantment Resort. I hiked up the elongated plateau of Doe Mountain and was rewarded at the top with an infinite panoramic view of the Verde Valley, neighboring mountains and the surrealness of the desert’s topography.
Every hiker has their specific tolerance level for endurance. We usually make it a family affair and take into consideration the type of mountainous terrain to be explored. We look at the steepness, the narrow cuts through the rocks, its treacherous elements and any unsafe conditions. We then take the utmost care and attention needed by being well equipped and clothed. A good pair of hiking boots and plenty of water is a must.
From the trailhead to the top of Doe Mountain is only seven-tenths of a mile and relatively a short, but intense hike. The rewards for reaching the top for me are experiencing the exhilarating sense of accomplishment and the 360 degree view! The 450 foot sheer drop can be a little scary!
After a morning of hiking there is still much more to do! The city of Sedona has vendors who provide bicycles, ATVs and other motorized vehicle rentals. Don’t want to drive, bike or walk? Then take a Pink Jeep Tour! They will pick you up at most of the hotels. On this trip we took a Pink Jeep tour to the ancient Honanki or Bear house Ruins. As we drove to the Honanki site, which is not far from Doe and Bear Mountains, I looked at the many different sandstone formations and attempted to give them my own descriptive names like Mushroom Cloud or Bran Muffin. With little effort, one can elect to use their inherited name or engage your own childhood imagination by giving them a fitting new moniker.
According to the Sedona’s Verde Valley Tourism Council, the cliff-dwelling ruins housed successive Native American cultures like the Sinagua, Yavapai and Apache over a period of seven centuries. They represented one of the largest population centers in the Verde Valley. Archeologists estimate that at least 400 people lived in the cliff-dwellings at a time. Some of the dwellings were three-stories high. The Sinagua Indians built their dwellings around present day Sedona that dates back as far as 650 A.D. and then left the Verde Valley around 1400 A.D. As the Sinagua moved out, the Yavapai and Apache moved in. Some scholars believe that the Hopis are descendants of the Sinagua. As I studied their hieroglyphics and artwork scribing’s on the cave walls, I had an overwhelming sense of awe and respect for these ancient cultures.
I cannot emphasize enough on the need to be vigilant. At the entrance to the Honanki ruins, I read the faded sign warning that the area I was entering is home for snakes. I really didn’t expect to get up close and personal with one of the desert’s most dangerous residents. But thanks to my trusty long lens, there was sufficient distance between me and the deadly reptiles. Please understand that these photos are not intended to scare anyone, but rather to inform you that when in the wild, caution and respect are highly advised. Most tour companies have protocols intended to protect you and should be practiced during your excursion at all times. When you are hiking on your own, using common sense is the best medicine for safety.
When a poisonous snake or other hazards are sighted by the guide, they radio the leader of the next group and give him or her the specific descriptions and location. The 3 1/2 foot Black Tail Rattlesnake (shown left) eventually left its protective cave and slithered across our path.
In my opinion, a visit to the Red Rock Country that surrounds Sedona is not complete without a helicopter tour of the area. We were fortunate enough to book a full-loop tour with the Sedona Air Tours Company. The pilot narrated the region’s history and landmarks while we floated smoothly along on cloud nine. The helicopter easily negotiated the lengthy canyons and rugged peaks giving our group some amazing views of the terrain. I let my imagination run wild thinking about how the Sinagua and Yavapai natives used the caves to shelter their families from the brutal environment. Thankfully the hieroglyphics survived many centuries that tell their stories, which in turn beckons me back to learn more.
Imagine that over the horizon you see a band of Apaches on Pinto horses come rushing up, much like a Hollywood movie portraying these noble people in such a desolated area. The Red Rock Country was the setting for over 60 western movies, which included stars such as John Wayne, Ernest Borgnine and Elvis Presley. Our helicopter tour provided an excellent bird’s eye view of the mountainous formations that drape the landscape. Your perspective changes from being a ground hugging earthling to an ethereal drone maneuvering the heavens above. With a new camera in hand, I’m hoping to do a repeat flight the next time I am in Sedona.
The following photos will speak their own on how beautiful the canyon’s landscape really is.
This was my first time seeing this American treasure. Words and pictures barely convey the awesomeness of this natural wonder. From Sedona, the Grand Canyon is only a short 2 ½ hour drive by way of Flagstaff. You can chose to either experience this monstrous canyon by ground or soaring helicopter. Whatever your choice of exploration is, you will not be disappointed!
My future trips to this area will definitely include seeing Lake Mead, Hoover Dam and “Sin City” (Las Vegas) while exploring other natural treasures in this sun drenched state of Arizona!