Oh Sedona!

Yesterday’s repost of Ben Stein’s very pertinent comments on the holidays went a little long so I’ll try to make it up to you by keeping this post short.

I was reading a magazine a few weeks ago and in the travel section was a 2 page spread about Sedona, Arizona. Now that in itself is not unusual. Sedona is a beautiful place deep in Red Rock country and a major vacation destination. What caught my eye was the list of “must do” items while in Sedona.


I was thrilled to see that I have hit them all. (Except the Vortex tours). That must be a sign of a good vacation or maybe a well planned one. I’ve actually been to Sedona twice, once on my own and once with my sister. There was some overlap on the two vacations because some things were too good  not to do a 2nd time.


For example, we took the drive to Williams to catch the train to the Grand Canyon. The first time my impression was beyond words. It was dizzying to step off the tour bus and see that majesty spread out before me. The second time was no less breathtaking but it was sweetened by being able to see my sister’s response to this amazing wonder.

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The article recommended the Out of Africa Safari which I did on my first trip.


My sister and I skipped that on the 2nd trip to visit Montezuma’s Castle instead. I place those ruins high on the must see list. I enjoyed Out of Africa but if time is an issue, I’d have to vote for Montezuma’s Castle.

montezumas castle

Before we went to the “castle” we stopped at Montezuma’s Well. That isn’t as spectacular as the “castle” but it was still interesting and I climbed down the 100 steps the the base of the well.

Slide Rock State park was another spot on the list. I remember exploring that on my first trip and we made a short stop on our 2nd trip as well.

slide rock

The renowned shopping area in Sedona is Tlaquepaque. Our exposure was limited to the trolley tour through the area. I did the same thing on my first trip but if you are someone who likes to shop, this is not to be missed.


Last but not least is the Chapel of the Holy Cross.

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This was a stop on the trolley tour so it became a stop on our tour as well. I took the trolley tour both times I was in Sedona. It is well worth it. The guides are fun and knowledgeable and it gets you familiar with Sedona. We had plenty of time at the Chapel. Clearly it was a major stop and a must see attraction. From the courtyard you can see such iconic landmarks as Bell Rock, Cathedral Rock, Courthouse Butte and Madonna and Child, all beautiful red rock.


Oh Sedona, those were 2 great vacations!

Oak Creek Canyon

It’s the last full day in Arizona. Tomorrow we have to be up early to drive to Phoenix and board a plane back to reality, in this case reality is Albany Airport. So what to do today? We can take a drive…Monument Valley, Sunset Crater, Cameron Trading Post, Meteor Crater, Petrified Forest, Painted Desert…or a spa day…no more tours. I’m “toured out”.

We’ve been kicking this around all week. About the only thing we know for sure is that we’re going to do our souvenir shopping this morning then the day is ours!

Turns out the souvenir shopping didn’t take us long. Sandy knew exactly what she wanted to get and for whom. I stopped by the camera shop and Sandy actually found the last item on her list there so we were done in record time. We decided to take one last run up to the Native American stands on 89 A  for a last look at the jewelry and dream catchers.

After we made the last of our purchases there I asked Sandy if she wanted to stop at Slide Rock Park and she said no she wasn’t in the mood for hiking and it was still too cold for swimming in my book so we drove on up the winding canyon road of  89 A for the last time.

 At the top of the canyon where the road begins to straighten and flatten there is a sign for Oak Creek Overlook. I have never stopped here but figured why not. I don’t know when or if I’ll get back so let’s take 5 minutes and see what it’s all about.

Rand-McNally, that premier publisher of road maps, named this section of 89 A that winds through Oak Creek Canyon a “most beautiful drive” . The designation made it the first scenic drive in Arizona. A breathtaking series of switchbacks and hairpin curves makes maneuvering this highway a challenge unless you obey the speed limits…then it’s not too bad. I can now say I’ve driven this road at least a dozen times and I know what the road is about but as I mentioned in my post about the Bottom of The Canyon I had never looked into the canyon before. As the driver it is far better to keep your eyes and attention on the road.

Now as I parked my car at the top I wasn’t sure what awaited me at the overlook. We could see a lot of people. Far more than either of us expected but as we got closer we realized it was because the Native Americans had set up tables to display their crafts similar to the ones we had left just south of Slide Rock. I wandered through the tables but didn’t see anything more than what I had already purchased. I mainly wanted to see the canyon and it didn’t disappoint.

The walkway along the canyon rim follows a curving path giving you breathtaking  views into the depths of the canyon. Trees rise up and tower along the slopes. I had no idea the canyon was so deep or huge! Now I understand why  Oak Creek Canyon is sometimes referred to as a smaller cousin of the Grand Canyon.

The views reminded me of Joe’s (guide for Native American Journey’s) explanation that Oak Creek Canyon was formed along a fault line and that the fault had shifted twice to create this massive rift. Oak Creek, a tributary of the Verde River, flows along the bottom of the canyon and is credited with carving out much of what is today the existing Canyon. Oak Creek is one of the few perennial streams in this high desert region of Arizona.

As I continued on along the rim I spotted a red tail hawk floating on the thermals. To my surprise I was actually above the hawk when I first spotted him. The sun rays caught his back and feathers and turned him into a golden raptor and then he was circling higher and soon above me. It truly took my breath away to realize that the canyon was so deep that I could stand on the rim and watch a hawk start his upward spiral from below me. I would have expected that at the Grand Canyon but it was a surprise to me here.

As the moment passed I moved onto the last section of the lookout and there was the shot I have wanted since I first drove Oak Creek Canyon in 2008. There were the switchbacks and hairpin turns all laid out before me. Three big loops of highway and if you looked closely way down at the bottom the last bit of highway peaked through.

I am so very happy we stopped here. Even though the stop was short compared to some of the other things we had done, it was a real high point for me in this trip.

We had decided to drive on toward Winslow and the Petrified Forest. That’s quite a long drive so we wrapped up our visit and headed back to the car. I think I was still walking on air!

Schnebly Hill Road and Vista

Back in Sedona we parked the car in the same lot we’d used before with the 3 hour parking limit. We stopped in the Candy Shop to ask if we would be ok this late in the day if we ran over the limit. We didn’t know much about this tour or how long it would take.

Snoopy Rock

When we were talked into booking this tour we were just passing by a little kiosk and had stopped to look at the Montezuma’s Castle photos on the  wall. That was all the salesman needed. After he hit a brick wall with several other tour offers he noticed the camera around my neck and suggested this tour for Sunset Photos of Sedona. The tour was being booked through the concierge department of Diamond Resorts, the Time Share Group that I belong to so he offered us a discount if we took the tour. After some private discussion we agreed since Schnebly Hill Rd was not someplace we could really take the rental car on our own…or so we’d heard.

We arrived at the kiosk at 5 pm just like the salesman told us but no one was there. We hung around til about 5:10 when I said I would go look for the tour group. The tour was through “A Day In The West.” and I had seen their ticket booth down the street. I left  Sandy at the Diamond Resort booth in case the salesman came back and headed off to find the other ticket office.

At the “A Day in the West” ticket office I explained we were waiting down at the other location but that no one was there. The ticket agent said the salesman must be new because we were just supposed to come right there. She had our reservations in the computer so I trotted off to get Sandy. When I got there Sandy said no one had shown up there yet so back to a”A Day in the West” we went.

The folks at “A Day in the West” were a lot of fun. They all had a great sense of humor and were joking and kidding each other while we waited for our driver. One of the things I love about these tours in the jeeps is how gentlemanly the drivers are. I have seen women drivers but I haven’t had one for a tour, but the men offer their hand to help you in and out and are very attentive to your needs. I can’t say comfort because if you are looking for comfort you don’t want to take a jeep ride!

These jeeps are  four-wheel-drive high-clearance vehicles and although I won’t say for sure that they have special axles it sure feels like each  wheel can move independently. When they tell you to buckle up …do it !

On my last trip I took the Soldiers Pass off-road trip and I sat in the front. It was bumpy but I didn’t feel like I was being tossed all over. This time I let Sandy have the front seat thinking I would have a good vantage point for pictures in the back. Boy oh boy! I don’t know what the ride up front was like but if it hadn’t been for the seat belt I would have been on the floor or bounced  out of the jeep as soon as we hit Schnebly Hill Rd.

On a map Schnebly Hill Rd looks like any other meandering ride through the region but in fact with our guide pointing out the various rock strata and filling in the cultural background, this tour became a lesson in time, geology and local lore.

Back when Sedona was first settled the farmers and tradesmen took their goods to market in Flagstaff. The trip required the settlers to travel south 11 miles to  Beaver Head Station where they could then head east then north and in the process travel up a mountain. The whole trip took 4 days  one-way. Needless to say they were always on the lookout for a shortcut. The result of that quest was Schnebly Hill Rd. It took persistence, back-breaking manual labor using the picks and shovels of the day and a little black powder to eventually carve  a rough wagon road out of the steep canyon and connect with a dirt road that ran from Phoenix to Flagstaff.

Carl Schnebly wasn’t the first to use the wagon route but he was the one whose name stuck. He first used the road to transport lumber to build his home. Then once his home was complete he used it to make regular runs to Flagstaff taking produce for sale and returning with supplies and eventually the mail for his general store.

On a side note once Schnebly started acting as postmaster he had to submit a name for his settlement. Oak Creek Crossing and Schnebly Station were rejected as being too long so the little settlement became Sedona, named  after Carl’s wife.

Along with regaling us with these stories, our driver was mindful of the fact that we took the tour for photo ops. No camera in the world has a fast enough shutter speed to over come the shaking I was taking in the back of the jeep so frequent stops became the name of the game. We still had a lot of haze in the atmosphere but I did manage to get some photos although not the  really above average shot I am still looking for! (Any excuse for a return trip )

Schnelby Hill Rd zigs and zags 13 miles before it intersects any other road but our tour only covered about half that. 6 miles up rugged Bear Wallow Canyon we pulled over to a scenic overlook. This is Schnebly Hill Vista. We hopped out to stretch our legs and shake off the bumps and of course enjoy the view. It wasn’t sunset yet but it was close and it was beautiful.

We got pictures and also took some of the jeep and out guide before we clambered back into the yellow monster for the return trip down through the canyon. Sandy hates heights and expressed that concern to our driver. He was really nice so if nothing was coming the other way, he hugged the far side of the road away from the canyon drop off. Of course perched high in the back as I was, I could see it all! 🙂

You can see the winding dirt road we traveled in some of the pictures.

All together we were probably out for about 2 hours. It was a worthwhile trip but if you have back problems or any physical issues that can be aggravated by being shaken up like a cocktail mixer, I would suggest a different tour. By the time we got back I was treating the jeep like a bucking bronco and using my legs to absorb some of the worse  of the bounces and that seemed to make it a bit easier.

All in all it was a fun tour and I didn’t mind the bumps that much. It wasn’t a “sunset” tour but you could call it a “late afternoon” tour.

Writer’s Block

Well it was bound to happen one of these days. I set a pretty ambitious goal to post something 6 days a week. The biggest problem is time. There is lots to write about but I like to give you up to date information and pictures. In fact, I subscribe to the old adage that a picture is worth a thousand words so if I have no pictures, I have no tales.

The past few days were a combination of things including weather that kept me from getting much exploring done. I didn’t even have much time to take pictures for my photo blog. I had my car in for maintenance so with no wheels to get around I missed being out and about gathering stories. It still need some more work too so I hope it won’t be tied up too long. After all I have places to go and people to see and things to do and then tell you all about it all here!

I asked Scout if he had any new tips and he admitted he hadn’t put anything together. He said he could have some in a day or two but by then I should be back on track.

I thought my friend Julie would bail me out with stories of her recent trip to Arizona and California but she had the day off so I haven’t caught up with her at work yet.

My cuz in Florida is going to share her experiences on trip she took to Ireland but she’s still putting that together. I have another co-worker that went to Ireland as well but I haven’t set up a time to get his stories yet. My fault on that one.

My friend Diane still has many, many stories and pictures to share but again I dropped the ball and didn’t leave myself enough time to get together  with her.

Another friend and co-worker, Jay, just got back from his rafting vacation but we haven’t had a chance to chat about that in any detail yet. I can’t wait to see his pictures and he says I can share them here. That will be a treat for us all, I am sure!

Well, sometimes it seems I spend more time making excuses and if I’d just taken that same time I would have had something to write but it’s just human nature, I guess.

I will be on my work schedule now for the next 2 days so I won’t have any time to go anywhere but maybe I can dredge something out of the archives that you might enjoy.

Or maybe I should remind you that you’re welcome to contribute too! I love your comments but you can also share you travel experiences too. Don’t be shy. Sometimes a fresh voice is just what’s needed. In the meantime I’ll share some photos from some of my jaunts. I’ve written about all of the trips shown in these photos but selecting the pictures makes me think that there may be more stories in them to share. Something to think about.

Well enjoy the pictures until I get my next post together. Remember my next trip is fast approaching and we know there will be a lot of things to share from that.

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Sedona and Grand Canyon …Tentative Itineary

All right! Things are starting to come together. Here’s what I have so far. This is all subject to booking and my co-traveler’s approval.


Saturday is a travel day. we’ll fly out of Albany into Phoenix and pick up the rental car. The goal is a morning flight so we will have time to swing into Scottsdale for the trolley ride with “Boston Jim”. We can have our lunch there.

Then back on the road for the rest of the drive to Sedona & check-in. ETA between 4 & 6pm. Once checked in we’ll be off to the grocery store for a few food staples and any other essentials we might have forgotten or chose not to pack.

Finish the day watching the sunset at the Airport Mesa.


Recover from yesterday’s full travel day. Take our time getting out and about. Once out, head for Upper Sedona and take the double trolley tour.

 Then get lunch in Tlaquepaque.

After lunch browse the shops in Upper Sedona and relax.

Spend the evening at the time share relaxing and grilling dinner. It needs to be an early night because we’ll be headed to Williams early the next morning.


Grand Canyon Railroad and Rim tour with Lunch at the canyon. This is a full day so nothing else is planned here.

Day 4

Back to the Grand Canyon. I’d like to do one of the tours here. Maybe the Bottom of the Grand Canyon? That one is quite unique. Depending on the time we may be able to get the IMAX show in as well. This is still being “fine tuned”.

Day 5

A little closer to “home” we’ll head south toward Cottonwood and check out Montezuma’s castle & Montezuma’s Well. My plan was to do this on our own but we can consider a tour. Then over to the Blazin’ M to see the Olde Towne they have set up. From there catch the Verde Canyon Rail Road trip and then return to the Blazin’ M for the Dinner Show.

Day 6

Slide Rock Park in the morning. Lunch back in Sedona at the Canyon Breeze and then the Trail ride and dinner at the M Diamond Ranch. there might be time for a spa treatment before lunch if we are so inclined LOL

Day 7

This is the last day and depending on how we did up to this point we can chose from a bunch of things.

Red rock Jeep Tour

The Ghost Town of Jerome

Grand Canyon of the Little Colorado

Painted Desert

Out of Africa Safari Park

“Spa Day”

Sunset Crater

Meteor Crater

So that is where the planning stands at this point. There’s enough left on the to-do list for another week!

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