Tuesday, February 28, 2012

2012 SW Travel Destinations - SEDONA, ARIZONA

Sedona, Arizona is truly a unique, special place.  Featuring the wonder of what Native Americans consider the spiritual vortex of the Southwest, and absolutely sublime red rock formations, Sedona and Oak Creek Canyon (previous post) challenge many national parks in their beauty.
Enjoying mild weather throughout the year, sunshine and clean air abound at Sedona's elevation of 4500 feet. Located 90 minutes north of Phoenix, and 40 minutes south of Flagstaff, Sedona is home to numerous resorts, golfing, and artistic events year round - one of Arizona’s premier tourism, recreation, resort, retirement, and art centers, all of which contribute to its economic base. Its history is that of a rural ranching community, far off the beaten track - its beauty became known through the motion picture industry with such classic films as John Wayne’s “The Angel and the Badman,” and Robert Mitchum’s “Blood on the Moon.”  The second photo here is the view from the courtyard of our motel.
Sedona's main attraction is its stunning array of red sandstone formations, the Red Rocks of Sedona. The formations appear to glow in brilliant orange and red when illuminated by the rising or setting sun. The Red Rocks form a breathtaking backdrop for everything from spiritual pursuits to the hundreds of hiking and mountain biking trails.  The majestic red rock scenery and evergreen vegetation are two reasons for the unique energy of Sedona and its tangible regenerative and inspirational effects.

I can't talk about Sedona without mentioning the Vortex sites, as you'll hear references to them no matter where you go in town.  Though never experienced firsthand, the Vortexes are popular tourist attractions. Simply stated, Vortex sites are said to be locations having energy flows, in those "deeper dimensions", that the Soul can soar on.  A wide variety of lectures, texts, and Guides are available through Sedona's bookstores and Spiritual Centers to assist you in experiencing the power of Sedona's Vortex sites - just ask...someone will point you in the right direction.
Many, many unique shops, sounds, and sights line the main drag through town ~ like these non-smelly (I've been told that the real ones give off a horrible stench), large (and colorful) bronze versions of the Javelinas that are native to the area... 
to this array of delightful, large bronze frogs that I encountered at various spots throughout the day...
cute enough to kiss!
In addition to roaming the main street shops of Sedona, your trip MUST include spending time at internationally renowned Tlaquepaque (pronounced Ta-lah-keh-pah-keh) Arts & Crafts Village (for those of you who just want to park and walk, there is a free shuttle that runs between the main street area, and Tlaquepaque, at the bottom of the hill…every 15 minutes).
Nestled beneath the shade of huge sycamore trees on the banks of beautiful Oak Creek, Tlaquepaque (meaning "best of everything") is authentically fashioned after a traditional Mexican village, and has been a Sedona landmark since the 1970's.
Its vine covered stucco walls, cobble-stoned walkways and magnificent arched entryways give you the feeling that it’s been there for centuries.
Originally conceived as an artist community, Tlaquepaque houses over 40 unique specialty/gift shops and exclusive art galleries, as well as 4 restaurants and a micro-brewery. 

Within these walls, you'll find everything from western and eclectic bronze sculpture; functional and traditional ceramics; breathtaking blown glass creations, contemporary and Southwestern fine art; fine contemporary jewelry; designer casual wear; to truly unique gift items – there’s a little something for everyone - if nothing else, go for the scenery...
or the margaritas, food, and atmosphere on the patio at El Rincon Restaurant...
the perfect ending to a day of walking, shopping, and soaking in the sights of one of the most beautiful settings in the Southwest.
Many unique shopping areas abound throughout the canyon – from two locations for Garland’s Indian Trading Post, to "Hillside Sedona" ~
another array of beautiful galleries, shops, sculpture gardens (and real gardens - yep, that's an artichoke!), and restaurants...
such as The Javelina Cantina - it's all located "around the corner" from Tlaquepaque, on the hillside, like the name says.  The benches and peaceful quiet of the after-hours gallery area also make it one of the best places in town to catch the spectacular Sedona sunsets, after that delicious meal and margarita.

Heading through Jerome and Prescott, AZ, while wending our way towards Las Vegas, next...Happy Trails, and a wonderful Wednesday to you and yours!

Tuesday, February 21, 2012


I spent the night with Guitar Gods this past Sunday!  Or listening to and watching Guitar Gods, at least.  We rounded up the old posse of girlfriends and headed to the MGM Grand for what was set as THE "bar" by which to gauge all concerts this year...it will be hard to top what we saw!  DJ Lil John onstage before the opening act of Raphael Saadiq, both started off the evening on a fabulous note...
Which built to the crescendo which was THIS...Mr. Lenny Kravitz, Guitar God - incredible in and of his own right...
And as if that wasn't enough, THIS was thrown into the mix for "Always on the Run"...SLASH, GUITAR GOD!...
Which segued into THIS!  Boxing legend, Muhammad Ali in the house, and on the stage, having spent a 70th birthday celebration at the MGM the evening before...
Joined by music legend Quincy Jones, in a chair at his side, while Ali was serenaded by the concert arena on "Happy Birthday to You", and more from Lenny...
To yet, a third guitar master, in the form of Joe Perry!  Like I said, it will be the standard by which I measure all concerts, yet to come, this year.  I haven't left an event, in years, where my ears were ringing and it sounded like I was underwater, listening to my friends jabbering excitedly about what we had seen. 
And thanks to the wonder of YouTube and a "videography legend", nameless behind that I-Phone, you too can enjoy Lenny and Slash, as we did...you may have to close your eyes for the first few seconds, so as to miss the flashing strobes.  I just realized my ears are still ringing - holy crap, what a great evening!

Thursday, February 16, 2012

2012 SW Travel Destinations - FLAGSTAFF, ARIZONA, AND SUCH

Beautiful, little FLAGSTAFF, ARIZONA lies near the southwestern edge of the Colorado Plateau, along the western side of the largest Ponderosa Pine forest in the United States...just south of the San Francisco Peaks, the highest mountain range in the state of Arizona.
Route 66 was completed in 1926 and ran through Flagstaff. Incorporated as a city in 1928, Flagstaff went on to become a popular tourist stop along Route 66, particularly due to its close proximity to the Grand Canyon.  Laid-back “Flag” is also home to NAU – a quaint little college town, with some pretty fun and funky little shops in the downtown area, across from the old train depot.
Though the Grand Canyon is, undoubtedly, the biggest draw of the area, several smaller and equally interesting destinations are all within an approximate 35 minute (or less) drive from the heart of Flagstaff, and not to be overlooked…while none of the photos in this post are my own (but gleaned from NPS sites and the like), I have been to all of these sites and wanted to share some of the beauty and uniqueness of the area.
WUPATKI NATIONAL MONUMENT can be found about 33 miles northwest of Flagstaff. Once home to prehistoric Anasazi and Sinagua Indians, you will discover scores of ruins scattered over a large section of desert. You can observe freestanding masonry pueblos, field houses, and rock art - remarkable signs of a diverse and complex way of life. The structures all have a distinctive deep red color and were built from thin, flat blocks of the regional sandstone. In all, over 2,700 archeological sites have been cataloged at Wupatki National Monument, the largest being the Wupatki Ruin - an expansive three-story pueblo that contain nearly 100 rooms.

Five sites are accessible by car - the monument provides numerous trails for visitors to walk, hike, and view the different pueblos. At the south entrance, a National Park Service Visitor Center offers literature and colorful information into the history of these ancient people.
Wupatki National Monument is located on the same road as SUNSET CRATER NATIONAL MONUMENT. Sunset Crater, itself, is a volcanic cinder cone within the Sunset Crater Volcano National Monument. The date of the eruptions that formed the 1,120 ft. high cone have been calculated to have been somewhere between 1064 and 1085 A.D. The Sunset Crater eruption produced a blanket of ash and lava covering an area of more than 810 sq. mi, and forced the temporary abandonment of settlements of the local Sinagua people. The volcano has partially revegetated, with pines and wildflowers.

A one-mile self-guided loop trail is located at the base of Sunset Crater but hiking to the summit is not permitted. A trail providing access to the summit and crater was closed in 1973 because of excessive erosion caused by hikers. A visitor center is located near the park entrance, 15 miles north of Flagstaff, Arizona, along U.S. Highway 89.
METEOR CRATER – “The most well known, best preserved meteorite crater on Earth!”  Meteor Crater sits approximately 35 miles from Flagstaff, on I-40 E., near Winslow (“It’s a girl, my Lord, in a flat bed Ford, slowing down to take a look at me…” Yes, THAT Winslow, AZ). A breath-taking result of a collision between an asteroid and Planet Earth, approximately 50,000 years ago. Meteor Crater is nearly one mile across, 2.4 miles in circumference, and more than 550 feet deep - an international tourist venue with outdoor observation trails, guided tours, and a beautiful Visitor Center located on the crater rim.
WALNUT CANYON NATIONAL MONUMENT - Located about 10 miles southeast of downtown Flagstaff, Walnut Canyon National Monument features a collection of single-story cliff dwellings built high on a canyon wall. The monument provides well-preserved evidence of how the Sinagua Indians lived more than seven centuries ago. They constructed 300 rooms in the shelter of the canyon walls and thrived in the canyon for about 150 years. Their descendants now dwell together with the Hopi Indians, whose first villages date from 1100 A.D, in northeastern Arizona.

Visitors are able to explore and enjoy the park by hiking the Island Trail, which is a one-mile round trip. The path winds along the cliff, near the dwellings for an up close view...there are a few of the dwellings that can actually be accessed. The trail also allows for spectacular views down into the canyon.
SLIDE ROCK STATE PARK in Oak Creek Canyon, leading from Flagstaff to Sedona, takes its name from a natural water slide formed by the slippery bed of Oak Creek. Tall red rock formations that are typical of the region also surround the park, which also contains a 43-acre working apple farm. Besides swimming and fishing, there are three hiking trails in Slide Rock State Park: Pendley Homestead Trail (.25 miles), Slide Rock Route (.3 miles), and Clifftop Nature Trail (.25). Slide Rock State Park is one of the most visited tourist attractions in Arizona.

OAK CREEK CANYON is often described as a smaller cousin of the Grand Canyon because of its scenic beauty. State Route 89A enters the canyon on its north end, via a series of hairpin turns, before traversing the bottom of the canyon for about 13 miles, until the highway enters the town of Sedona. The Oak Creek Canyon-Sedona area is second only to the Grand Canyon as the most popular tourist destination in Arizona - depth of the canyon ranges from 800-2,000 feet...and that leads us straight into Sedona, next post...

Monday, February 13, 2012


A small, sweet break in the travelogue before heading to Flagstaff.
To family and friends, near and far,
Kisses on your face!

Tuesday, February 7, 2012


In 1878, ten years after Navajos were allowed to return to their homeland from their U.S.-imposed exile in Bosque Redondo, New Mexico, ending what is known in Navajo history as the "Long Walk of the Navajo", John Lorenzo Hubbell bought a trading post. It was established on a homestead along an old trade route on the southern banks of the Pueblo Colorado Wash, located in Ganado, Arizona.
Hubbell bought the small buildings comprising the compound from another trader, and set up business. He was twenty three years old, single and he was trying to make a living among the Navajo, a people he did not know very well.  He probably learned "trader Navajo" very quickly.  John Lorenzo was trilingual, speaking English, Spanish and Navajo.
When the Navajos returned, they found their herds decimated, their fields destroyed - their way of life had been ripped apart and life would never be the same. Trade with men like Hubbell became increasingly important for the Navajos.  (The walls and ceilings of the interior of the post are hung with old baskets, rugs, small framed photos of rug weaving designs, pottery, etc. from long ago - a feast for the eyes.  Photography is permitted inside, without flash...hence, the blurrier photos.  Many newer, Navajo made items are available for purchase.  There is also a Visitor Center run by the Parks Department, where you can find more history regarding the post and the surrounding area.)
The trader was in contact with the world outside the newly created reservation; a world which could supply the staples the Navajos needed to supplement their homegrown products. In exchange for the trader's goods the Navajos traded wool, sheep, and later on rugs, jewelry, baskets, and pottery. It was years before cash was ever used between trader and Navajos.
Heavy sandstones from the area were quarried in 1883 for construction of the trading post.  Construction of the trading post barn began in 1897, and was completed in 1900. The walls are of the same local sandstone and the roofs were fashioned in the style of ancient Anasazi dwellings.
Mr. Hubbell homesteaded 160 acres before they were part of the reservation and territory. When the reservation expanded, it surrounded the Hubbell property. Through an act of Congress Mr. Hubbell got permission to keep his homestead. Additions to the family home to accommodate the growing family were finished in 1902. It started out as a plain adobe building which the Hubbell family gradually made into a comfortable, and in some ways, luxurious home. Paintings, artifacts, and many large Navajo rugs still decorate the interior.
The guest house was built in the early 1930s, in the shape of a Hogan (“hoe-gone”…Navajo for home). Most hogans are built of logs, and the door always faces the east. Hogans are one room dwellings and usually have six or eight sides. Mr. Hubbell built several traditional hogans on the grounds for the Navajos who came long distances to trade.
The corrals of the trading post held lambs and sheep purchased from the Navajo. The flocks stayed in the corral complex until they could be herded to the railroad. Freight wagons brought supplies to the store from the little railroad town of Gallup, two to four days of one way travel in good weather. Going back to Gallup, freight wagons hauled huge sacks of wool.

The cone shaped hill located northwest of the trading post is known as “Hubbell Hill”. The family cemetery lies quietly at the top. Mr. Hubbell died in 1930. Members of his family continued to operate the trading post until 1967, when it was sold to the National Park Service. The trading post is still active today, and operated by the non-profit organization, Western National Parks Association, which maintains the trading traditions the Hubbell family established.
Channelling old John Lorenzo, or perhaps just pondering the sights of the day and looking forward to what's on down the road...next stop, Flagstaff and Sedona.