Sedona: A Dazzling kaleidoscope
The reason I chose Arizona for a vacation was everything I had heard for a lifetime: the miraculous geological wonders of America’s landscapes, scenic roads that seduce travelers to wander off and climb a mountain, the dazzling spectacle of red rocks and mountaintop ranches, even Western movie images of Tombstone. I shivered with excitement as I studied travel guides, watched videos and tried to learn about the adventures that might fill the days & nights.
First stop: Sedona and the Canyon Villa Inn
Prepare your eyes for the splendor of Sedona’s red rocks; the grandiose views of its dramatic beauty guarantee that you won’t take a bad photograph. 4,000 years ago, the Hohokam (Pima word meaning ‘those who vanished’) Indians migrated up the Verde River settling in the valleys and cliffs. The symbiotic relationship of sandstone, limestone and mudstone that formed the higher part of the pinnacles and buttes of the stunning red rocks was unfolding as the first white settlers found the miraculous beauty of Arizona and its mysteries. Sedona (not an Indian word) and her husband T.C. Schnebly, were the first official settlers of the town in 1902.
The Canyon Villa Inn is a stunning ‘hacienda’ to call home during your Sedona visit. Hidden away from the rest of the visiting crowds, it blends flawlessly into the tall shadows of Bell Rock and Courthouse Butte whether you’re anticipating a romantic interlude or eco-adventure. Both are recommended! An inviting fireplace and luxurious contemporary furnishing await you at the end of your day whether you’ve explored hundreds of art galleries and Native American handcraft shops or taken a guided hike up the Schnebly Trail. Owners Peg and Les Belch make their Inn worthy of its AAA Four Diamond designation, the first to be awarded in Arizona more than 10 years ago!
With eleven scenic accommodations, each opening to a private balcony or walled patio, they capture every possible brilliant view of Sedona’s kaleidoscope of colorful landscape. The 3 hour drive from Phoenix prepared my appetite for Peg’s daily 5:00pm hors d’oeuvres presentation, a time for guests to relax by the pool, share the day’s adventures or indulge in Les’ well-stocked library. Their international clientele have returned time and again to spend a few days or a month; it’s clearly for adults only and each day’s conversations with newly formed friendships were a highlight!
Sedona boasts an abundance of restaurants, but one stood out...Dahl & DiLuca’s Cucina Rustica. The experience was extreme enjoyment, from the luxe Mediterranean décor and Spanish guitar music to the stunning service. A perfect blend of rustic Mediterranean cuisine with a Southwest twist, the first dinner of Shellfish in a white wine and garlic sauce over linguine and succulent lamb chops paired beautifully with robust red wine. Lisa Dahl and Andrea DiLuca’s first Sedona restaurant, Dahl & DiLuca, was our choice for the following night, their ‘ristorante Italiano’ serving equally memorable cuisine, service and exquisite old-world ambience.
A trip to Sedona should include at least one adventure with Mike Krajnak, creator of Southwest Outside Tours. Driving on narrow 2-lane roads takes practice, so allowing Mike the wheel of his comfy SUV as he pointed out the archaeological wonders gave us an opportunity to relax and absorb the scenery. If you’re a hiker, he’s a renowned, seasoned private guide/ hiking expert with a confident yet careful approach to exploring the trails and reservations of Arizona, Utah and Colorado.
Only an hour drive from Sedona, if you have the courage to drive carefully and face the challenge of hairpin turns traversing the huge mountains of the Black Hills, you’ll never forget the journey to Jerome. I loved this city with an amazing story dating to the late 1800’s when it was a settlement of simple tents, growing to a roaring copper mining town. Once known as the ‘wickedest town in the west’...it’s a true story of mines, men and money; today it’s a great outdoor ‘museum’ dedicated to its own amazing story of the picturesque town and powerful industrialists making it one of the most dominant copper camps in America.
I knew there had to be someone in town that could talk about the Hollywood films of yesteryear when John Wayne and the cowboys thrilled us with gunfights, brew halls and fantastic scenery. By chance, we met Charlie Piper, an amazing gentleman with a fascinating story, now a docent with the Sedona Heritage Museum. His family lived and often appeared in many of the movies during the decades they were camped in his hometown, years long before the roads and highways could access the sleepy Southwest. He entertained us with stories and photos of ‘Broken Arrow’, ‘Johnny Guitar’, ‘Apache’ and ‘3:10 to Yuma’. With a proud wink and occasional tear to his eyes, he explained the evolution of ‘his town’. When we left to return to Canyon Villa, we felt as if we had struck gold!
Early the next morning, I once again stepped out onto my balcony, blinking through the sunrise at the red, orange and dappled mountains that reminded me why Sedona was so captivating. I could smell the cinnamon buns and coffee enticing us to breakfast. Missing one of Peg’s breakfasts was against the rules, although warm cookies served before bed the night before were also too tempting to overlook...the ones we ate poolside under the western sky!
As we said goodbye, I knew I would return one day to discover the spiritual side of Sedona...where people travel to better understand its enchantment and their own place in the world.