We drove along the Red Rock Scenic Byway into Sedona, AZ, just before sunset. The sun bouncing off the red rocks made the drive enchanting. Our first stop was to check into our hotel, the Inn above Oak Creek. Our room was small but very attractive. The balcony, complete with two chairs and a table, was perfect for reading while enjoying a glass of wine or hot tea and taking in the view of the creek below and the rock formations in the distance. We enjoyed watching people playing and getting married in the park across the creek. My husband even saw an otter in the creek. We were in room #2 on the first floor, so it was only a short walk to the Inn’s main area where we could get coffee and tea 24/7 and breakfast in the mornings. There were places to eat inside, but we loved eating on the large patio while watching the hummingbirds eat from the feeders.
The Inn was centrally located so we were able to walk to many places including Creekside Restaurant, where we ate dinner our first night, and Tlaquepaque that we explored the next morning. (Note: If you are visiting during a busy season, make reservations way in advance. We started trying 2 weeks before our visit and were already too late for many of the more popular restaurants.) The food and service at Creekside were wonderful as we dined overlooking the creek in a quiet location. Shopping and eating are the main attractions of the area near the Inn.
Day 1–Terrains, Planes, and Automobiles
We drove (automobile) up to the parking lot at the Sedona Airport and hiked Airplane Loop for our first trail of the trip. We started the trail at the parking lot near Sedona Airport Scenic Lookout, the location of a major vortex. As we circled the mountain through its various terrains, we were able to watch airplanes take off and land which is a favorite of my plane-loving husband. At the end of the trail, we ate at Mesa grill which has a great view of the runway. Calamari, with its accompaniment of jalapeño coleslaw, was delicious. Fried trout with trout-skin chicharrones was good. The complimentary elote (corn) was wonderful. After dinner we strolled back to Sedona Airport Scenic Lookout and watched as the sun neared the top of the mountains, but we decided to miss the mad exodus down the mountain and left a few minutes before nature’s final show. (The sunset reflecting on the surrounding mountains provides a beautiful show, even walking along the streets of downtown.)
Devil’s Bridge Hike was the goal for our second day’s journey. We left from Mescal Trailhead parking lot—although I use parking lot loosely because parking was so limited and so crowded that we parked about 1/4 mile from the lot. (Expect challenges with parking at trailheads.) Using the Mescal Trailhead added 1 mile to our hike each way, but we had decided to hike about five miles daily to leave time for other explorations. The hike featured many terrains with the end being very steep. We skipped the hour-long line at the top to get pictures of ourselves on Devil’s Bridge arch and simply admired the awe-inspiring views before returning down the mountain. (Note: Be careful hiking no matter where you are! Every day we saw hikers, even experienced ones, with serious injuries. Cellphones are often useless in these areas, so please don’t hike alone.)
After hiking Devil’s Bridge we headed to Palatki which turned out to be an interesting, challenging failure. We kept following signs to Palatki over roads that became increasingly bumpy and less used. We finally arrived at the turn to Palatki—only to discover that the road was closed for safety reasons! With no other option, we continued down the bumpy, unpaved road towards Jerome. We did have difficulties obeying the signs that admonished us not to stir up dust. How do you not stir up dust when you are driving down an unpaved road and your only companions are ATVs?!?!)
Jerome was founded as a copper mining town and once had the reputation of being the Wickedest City in the West, perhaps a well-deserved name since there were 37 bars, 13 bordellos, and 4 churches in 1903. After the Phelps Dodge Copper Mine closed in 1953, the populations dwindled until enterprising people came up with the idea of marketing itself as a ghost town. Jerome has maintained that moniker and now markets itself as the largest ghost town in the U.S. (It may also be the busiest ghost town in the U.S.)
Our first stop was in the Jerome Museum, operated by the Jerome State Historic Park. The museum is housed in the Douglas mansion built by the developer of the Little Daisy Copper Mine. We enjoyed the video showing the history of the town including the story of Jennie Bauers, a famous madame who lived there. In 1905, the city council told all prostitutes to leave town. The next year, the newly elected city council asked the prostitutes to return! People truly vote where their passions lie.
We wandered around the town after a break for snacks at Bobby D’s BBQ located in the historic English Kitchen building. The original owner, Charley Hong an immigrant from China, served the best Chinese food in the state—even though the name, English Kitchen, seems to suggest another type of cuisine. Jerome has a great supply of breweries, wineries, and restaurants. It is also home to the largest kaleidoscope store in the world, Nellie Bly. The store sells kaleidoscopes from inexpensive to very expensive, all equally fascinating and beautiful. The artsy town had a live band playing that made wandering the streets even more enjoyable before our drive back to Sedona, this time on a well-paved road! A walk to the Sedona Piazza and Pasta Company ended our day and gave us time to rest for another busy day of sightseeing and hiking.
We had to see what all the talk was about. What is a vortex and why is Sedona known for theirs? The Safari vortex tour with Doc as our guide was a fun way to have our questions answered. First, a vortex is a special spot in which energy flows either out from or in toward the earth. Sedona has been identified as a location of many major vortices. We started our tour with a visit to the Amitabha Stupa and Peace Park, a tranquil refuge from the hustle and bustle of Sedona. The park is open to everyone, but it is a consecrated site so visitors are asked to be respectful of others. Our next stop was Rachel’s Knoll which is not on the regular map. Whether or not one believes in the presence and strength of vortices, the view from the site was awe inspiring. Doc was excellent at presenting the historical and scientific history of vortices in Sedona but not forcing everyone to believe in their powers. The last stop of the tour was at the Sedona Airport Scenic Lookout which we had already visited. After the tour we finished our day with a visit to the intriguing and beautiful Chapel of the Holy Cross before hiking the Bell Rock Loop.
We could have stayed many days longer in Sedona and not run short of hiking and sightseeing opportunities, but the Grand Canyon was calling our names, so we left early on Day 4 to continue our Arizona adventure.