It was another bright, beautiful day in Williams, AZ at the Grand Canyon Railway RV Resort when we headed for another favorite destination, Sedona, a place we had visited several times in our pre-RV days.
Another opportunity to experience the potholes of I-40 heading east towards Flagstaff. But once we turned onto AZ-89A, designated as one of America’s most scenic drives, the gorgeous scenery as we traversed through Oak Creek Canyon made us forget all those nasty potholes. This winding road with its hair-pin switchbacks drops about 4,500 feet over 14 miles as it makes its way into Sedona. Even Rob was able enjoy the scenery – driving was slow due to Spring Break traffic and even completely stopped along some stretches of the road where it was narrowed to one lane due to construction. Traveling 89A in a big rig is probably not ideal, however, Rob felt the hairpins had been widened and had enough leeway that we would be OK doing it in our 45′ motorhome. The alternate route is to take I-17 which has a significant elevation change but no hairpins.
When USA Weekend compiled their Most Beautiful Places in America list, Sedona claimed the top spot. Why is it such a popular tourist destination? Not only because of its gorgeous red rock buttes, steep canyon walls and surrounding pine forests but because there is so much to do there. New Age shops, boutiques, spas, art galleries for those looking for the ultimate shopping experience; four vortexes (cyclones of energy that come directly from the earth that can be felt by those in their presence) to enrich one’s spirituality; the Chapel of the Holy Cross that protrudes from the red cliffs, designed in the 1950s by local rancher and sculptor Marguerite Brunswig Staude (a student of architect Frank Lloyd Wright); hiking on one or more of the 100 hiking trails; trolley tours and pink jeep tours or vortex tours to name a few. The tours, among other things, provide details about the history of the area and explain the ties to the film making industry, which have used the red rock formations of Sedona as a backdrop in many movies, TV shows and commercials over the years.
Having done considerable sightseeing in the past, we weren’t terribly disappointed when all the roads were clogged everywhere especially in the “downtown” area. What were we thinking coming here during Spring Break? It seems we weren’t!
Our first stop of the day (not by choice but just to take a break from the traffic) was the Tlaquepaque Arts & Crafts Village, an outdoor shopping center designed in the style of a traditional Mexican village complete with stucco walls, cobblestone streets and mosaic fountains. Populated with high end galleries, stores and restaurants in the midst of a charming, old-fashioned atmosphere. After window shopping for a bit, we stopped for lunch at René Restaurant which serves Continental and American cuisine. Nice atmosphere outside on their patio where we had fun people watching while eating. A Monte Cristo ($14) served with Arizona honey for dipping was my choice while Rob had a Chicken Salad Croissant ($14). Good service, nice presentation and the food was good, but nothing special.
From there, we once again tackled the traffic taking a drive out to a very scenic vista located at the very small airport (only has one runway and helipad) located on the top of a high mesa where the views of Sedona and surrounding area are spectacular. On previous visits when we actually stayed in Sedona, we watched several glorious sunsets from this location.
We wanted to drive around some more and revisit some of the more scenic areas but there was just too much traffic and it was just too frustrating. Plus we figured it would be a very slow ride back to the resort so we decided to forego any attempt at further sightseeing this time around, maybe we’ll try again next fall.
Once again on 89A heading north, we stopped at the Oak Creek Vista which is on the rim of Oak Creek Canyon located in the Coconino Forest about 14 miles south of Flagstaff. Oak Creek Canyon is about 12 miles long, ranging in width from 0.8 to 2.5 miles with a depth from 800 to 2,000 feet and an elevation between 6,500 feet (east rim) and 7,200 feet (west rim). The North Gateway Visitor Center is located here but it is closed in the winter. In addition to the beautiful scenery, you can shop for Native American jewelry and other craft items from the local Native American artists who set up displays along the pathways.
Our sightseeing for the day was over but we had more planned. Stay tuned for what we did next.