Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Red Rocks and Cliff Castles

Sedona PanoramaAs we slowly migrated northward, we decided to deviate a little out of our way to spend a couple of days in Camp Verde, Arizona and the Distant Drums RV Resort (our review).  We had never visited Sedona, and were intrigued by the stories of it’s beautiful red rocks and majestic scenery.  So on a warm day with the top down, we headed out for a day of…..sitting in bumper to bumper traffic.  To describe Sedona to someone who hasn’t been there, imagine the Grand Canyon.  Then fill it with upscale shopping strip malls, upscale day spas, upscale art galleries (note:  upscale = overpriced), then add the traffic from a Los Angeles rush hour.  Although we were there on an April weekday, every parking lot, viewpoint, and street were full of cars and tour buses. 
Sedona Area View
From the visitor center with it’s beautiful views of Bell Rock in the distance, we joined the line of traffic leading into town.  Sedona uses a system of traffic circles, a concept which is demonstrably beyond most visitors.  At each circle, cars entered without yielding, departed the circle without signaling, and I watched one apparently confused senior lady who drove around the circle at least three times……for all I know, she may still be there.  We finally decided to cruise the residential streets, admiring the homes while trying to get a view of those beautiful red bluffs.  The homes here are very, very high end; which is a good thing since their residents are trapped in them most of the time. 
Sedona Bluff
We finally managed to find a parking place at one of the shopping areas, where we had a nice lunch at the Wildflower Bread Company.  Although a chain restaurant found throughout Arizona, their sandwiches are innovative and tasty.  I had the Spicy Cuban, which was amazing.  I really enjoyed it until I visited their web site and clicked on the link labeled “nutritional information”.  AAARGHH……they should call this the “stuff that will kill you” information.  Ah well, at least we skipped the “Ultimate Chocolate Cake”.
Back on the road, we worked our way through another residential area to the parking lot of the Chapel of the Holy Cross, one of the landmark Sedona sights.  It’s a beautiful building, but keeping with the the day’s theme of everybody in the Southwest visit Sedona, the parking lot was full and we had to be satisfied with a quick look before moving on. 
Sedona Chapel
Sedona Chape Close Upl
We’re glad we visited Sedona, but frankly we were disappointed with the commercialization of the area.  It’s simply too much trouble to fight the crowds, and there are so many other beautiful areas in this country that are relatively unspoiled.  So we said goodbye to Sedona, and can’t imagine a reason to return.
Near Camp Verde, we visited the Montezuma Castle National Monument, a quiet and unspoiled area outside Camp Verde.  I love the heading of the web site, which says “Would your house look this good 800 years from now?”  We started with a tour of the visitor center, then took the short walk down the tree-shaded path to a view of the “castle”.  They’ve done a marvelous job in shielding the castle from your view until suddenly you walk around a corner and…..there it is!  As you stroll along the walk for the different views, there are placards describing the history of the monument and the people that lived here.  It’s an interesting story with many questions about why it was abandoned unanswered.  It reminded us of the Gila Cliff Dwellings National Monument of New Mexico, similar in their history, type of terrain, and construction.  Unfortunately, while you can tour the inside of the Gila Cliff Dwellings, Montezuma Castle can only be enjoyed from a distance due to the difficult access high on the cliff and because of the large number of people who stop off of the nearby interstate highway to visit. 
Montezuma Castle
Montezuma Castle Sycamores
The creek that flows below the cliffs was flowing, the grass was green, and the Arizona Sycamore trees were beginning to bud.  It was a beautiful, sunny day; perfect for a visit to this magical place.  On the walk back to the parking lot, we came across this brightly blooming cactus:

Montezuma Castle Cactus Flowers
We’ve enjoyed good weather on our travels through so far – we’re off to Las Vegas for a short stay at Nellis Air Force Base before continuing on our journey to Oregon.  Stop back and check with us!


  1. LOL...I love your description of the traffic circles...what a hoot!
    I have never seen the Chapel...amazing.
    I also didn't know how commercialized that area is. Not happy about that.
    We are in Boulder City. Wonderful little place with so much to do. Enjoy LV. We will be there next week.

  2. We felt just like you did about Sedona - SOOOO beautiful, but it simply isn't worth it to visit in fine weather... WAAAYYYY to crowded. Go when it is snowing, raining, or 100+ degrees. :) When you think of some of the similarly gorgeous spots in Utah with minimal crowds, it is obvious how Sedona suffers from its proximity to Phoenix and Flagstaff.

  3. I'm so happy to read your description of Sedona. We felt the same way but with everyone saying - "You've got to go to Sedona!" , we figured that we must be missing the attraction. So many other places are just as or even more beautiful.