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.
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.