Every year I travel with my former college roommates for a long weekend. We live in five different areas in the country, so we choose someplace unique that supports our need for the urban environment, nature, solitude, experience, or culture. The five of us met the first week at University of Kansas years ago. Arriving, I didn’t know a soul but left with lifelong friends (and a great education!).
This year, we spent a long weekend in Sedona, Arizona. The quietness and beauty of the geological formations were enhanced by perfect weather and friendly people. Initially, the darkness of the city was maddening, as no street lights made it hard to find our lodging late at night; however, that big open sky, the beauty of the vast heavens chock full of stars, quickly dispelled our modern day navigational frustration.
Right off the bat, I could not help but notice how the built environment takes a backstage to the beauty of this natural environment. Man just cannot compete with Blue Sky, Red Rock, and Sage Green plants, which makes the southwest in general so appealing.
We started the weekend with a Honanki Heritage site tour, where our guide, Ed, showed us the structural ruins of cliff dwellings, the most noted of the SW vernacular. The cliff dwellings we toured highlighted three different levels of expertise with rock stacking; certainly in the same family as the rock stacking techniques from the old worlds across the pond.
The Sinagua Indians, ancestors of the Hopi, were here at this site (1100-1400AD). Later, the area was inhabited by the Yavapai and Apache between 1400 AD and 1875AD. There is even evidence of occupation around 2000BC. All dwellers at Honanki left intriguing pictographs and petroglyphs that both raise questions and bring an understanding of the long history of this area.
We also visited the Chapel of the Holy Cross, inspired and designed by sculptor Marguerite Brunswig Staude, built in 1956; its architecture rises out of magnificent red buttes in the Coconino National Forest. With the exception of the peel and stick faux slate floor in the chapel, the view is simply spectacular from all angles. The mid-century modern sculptures provide a different perspective to the rock drawings we learned about at Honanki. A ceremonial candle was lit, in remembrance of my mother, who would have naturally gravitated to the draw of the vortices and magical qualities Sedona offers.
On our last day, we ventured on a 3.6 mile hike to Devil’s Bridge; at 54’ high, 5’ wide, 45’ long, this is the largest natural sandstone arch in the Sedona area. Easy to moderate they said, and in that order. What wasn’t advertised was the sense of community that was felt among the hikers we encountered. All ages, all backgrounds — our favorite was the Uber driver who brought a New Jersey tourist to the trail head. While the first part is relatively flat, the second part was comprised of a rock staircase that rewarded us with spectacular views. I didn’t obsess on the opportunities for a disastrous fall to occur, although I did google the statistics afterwards. The great vastness of the big open brilliant blue sky, complementing the beauty of the Red Rocks with the junipers and pinyon pines, offers peace, inspiration, and reflection.
Next year, we will go someplace different, but I will hold in my heart the magical qualities of Sedona.