See the Rugged Beauty of Sedona, Arizona

John M. Dabbs

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Image by Richard Hay from Pixabay

The cowboys of yesteryear may have been busy rough men. Riding on horseback and braving the elements as they scratched out a living for themselves and their families, they had many spectacular views.

In canyon-land, some 100 miles south of Grand Canyon National Park, Sedona, Arizona has some of the most awe-inspiring vistas in the lower 48 states.

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One thing that I noticed early on, was the lack of large amounts of cactus, as seen on cartoons in my younger days. Though traveling through the Phoenix area during my drive left little doubt those areas do exist.

Backcountry camping, cowboys, and Indian nations come to mind as I traveled through these lands. The landscape is beautiful as it is rugged.

Artists frequently use pastels to draw the scenes from this area. The red rocks and purple hues are magnified at dusk and dawn, in the golden hour of photography.

How I arrived

My journey began with a modest travel assignment for a hotel in the area. We made our reservations and flew out of Knoxville’s McGhee-Tyson Airport, and through a connection in Atlanta and Detroit, landed in Las Vegas with my girlfriend for a mini-vacation. After a couple of days seeing the local ‘Vegas sights, and rented a car and headed east.

The prices weren’t too bad, and the traffic was very forgiving — yet we were driving through the desert. We made our way to Hoover Dam for a quick stop and made our way to Sedona, where we’d meet some of my girlfriend’s family and stay a few nights.

We stayed at the Arroyo Pinion Hotel, where the free breakfast was decent and the pool was very welcoming. The spa tub was very relaxing as we wound down from our long drive. As the hotel was comfortable, quiet, and very relaxing, I could handle spending a week here enjoying the amenities.

It was dark when we arrived. I do not recommend exploring a new location in the dark, especially in the desert.

Off-Road Touring

Before going to bed, we managed to book a tour with Pink Jeep Tours for the next morning. A tranquil sleep left us quite rested and ready for adventure the next morning.

We arrived at Pink Jeep Tours, near our hotel. We’d booked the Broken Arrow Tour for a three-hour excursion. We saw Sedona’s iconic red rocks and held on tight while our jeep made its way over the rough terrain. The Broken Arrow trail is where many famous westerns were filmed.

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Our tour guide, Jake, was very informative about the flora, fauna, and names of the different features. His off-road driving skills were spot on. During a break, he told us about the off-road driving school the business requires them to complete before trusting them with any customers.

Windy!

I mentioned how windy the area was, compared to what I had expected. Jake told us many tourists underestimate the winds, and that at least three or four get blown off the edge of cliffs every year. Later the next day I heard a news report of a tourist getting blown off the rim of the Grand Canyon. (Keep that in mind when near any overlooks!)

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You have to leave the city of your comfort and go into the wilderness of your intuition. What you discover will be wonderful: YOURSELF -Alan Alda

Inspiration

There’s more inspiration for artists in the area, you’ll find many paintings, photographs, and portraits featuring the sights of Sedona. I was personally inspired to write a few poems in the area during my stay and took many photographs that continue to bring me joy.

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The area reminds me of many of the pastel chalk drawings my mother would make of the west. She taught art in an elementary school near our home for several years. Chalk was her favorite medium for this setting. Pastel chalks worked well to capture the imagination and worked equally well on paper and blackboards.

Eat Local

We ate lunch at the Cowboy Club, a bar and grill in town. The atmosphere was very welcoming and the food was excellent. The service was very accommodating, as we had difficulty deciding what to try.

While nothing stood out as the best or any worse, the cactus fries stood out. I’d never eaten cactus before, and these fried cactus strips and Prickly Pear Dipping Sauce were very tasty! The server was very friendly. I was sure to thank her and tip nicely for service and excellent suggestions. I recommend the place if you are in the area.

Shopping

The shopping was decent for any town of similar size. Though most of the wares were not of my interest, they caught my girlfriends' eye and could have easily exceeded our budget if we’d had more time.

Calm your inner spirit — Enjoy your time here

My whirlwind adventure here was much too short. I could have spent days enjoying the natural beauty of the area. The many formations and trails lend themselves to exploration.

The people we met were very genuine and a pleasure to interact with as we dined and toured the area. Stories are to be had from shopkeepers, bartenders, and restaurateurs. Ask them a few questions and they gladly open up and share a warm inviting history of the area that beckons you to come for more.

While our stay involved a specific hotel for a review, there are many fine choices in the area. If nature travel isn’t your thing, there is shopping and golf to help you pass the time.

The climate was indeed relaxing, warm, and hot days with a wind to cool you and chilly nights as you’d expect in the desert. The food is scrumptious. All the trappings are here to enjoy yourself as if you were a kid again.

I hope you too have the opportunity, it’s worth the trip. You could even make this a nice day-trip if visiting Grand Canyon National Park.

Movies — on location

Some people wonder how the area seems to embody the west, as most of us experienced from the big-screen and televisions. There’s a good reason… a great many western films were shot in the red sandstone hills of Sedona. You may recognize a few, here’s a list:

Call of the Canyon 1923
Riders of the Purple Sage 1931
Robber’s Roost 1932
Texas Trail 1937
Billy the Kid 1941
Angel and the Bad Man 1946
California 1946
Desert Fury 1947
Cheyenne 1947
Albuquerque 1948
Last of the Duanes 1948
Gunfighters 1948
The Fabulous Texan 1948
Corner Creek 1949
Tall in the Saddle 1949
Station West 1949
Blood on the Moon 1949
Comanche Territory 1950
Copper Canyon 1950
Eagle and the Hawk 1950
Broken Arrow 1950
The Red Head and the Cowboy 1951
Indian Uprising 1951
Half Breed 1952
Pony Soldier 1952
Flaming Feather 1952
Gun Fury 1953
Johnny Guitar 1953
Apache 1954
The Outlaw’s Daughter 1954
The Strawberry Roan 1954
Drum Beat 1954
Stranger on Horseback 1955
Shotgun 1955
The Last Wagon 1956
3:10 to Yuma 1957
Yellowstone Kelly 1959
The Legend of Lobo 1961
The Rounders 1964
Fire Creek 1965
Stay Away Joe 1967
The Legend of the Boy and the Eagle 1967
The Wild Rovers 1972
Gambler II 1983
The Quick and the Dead 1987
Riders of the Storm 1994
Deadman 1995

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Sedona is a beautiful place to visit. It pulls me to a time and place in my childhood. I wanted to be here, camping under the stars and riding horses. The rugged beauty is not lost on those who live and visit here. Many return, drawn to the views and experience.

Plan your trip here. Put it on your bucket list. You'll be glad you did.

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An outdoor enthusiast with a passion for travel and adventure. John is a professional consultant and photojournalist.

Johnson City, TN
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