Sunrise at Mather Point
I headed to Mather Point for the final sunrise of my duration at the Grand Canyon. Again, it didn’t disappoint.
As the crowds began to gather pace, I decided it was time to end my pretty incredible time at the grand canyon and head further South.
From Grand Canyon Village if you head West you will stumble across Vegas, Hoover Dam and Havasapai-a place I unfortunately won’t get to visit this time-but will be right at the top of my list the next time I visit the Grand Canyon. Instead I am heading East, towards Flagstaff and the Wupatki National Monument, before heading all the way south to Phoenix via Sedona.
° ° °
Wupatki National Monument
Wupatki National Monument is situated on the northern reaches of Flagstaff, a little more than an hour from the Grand Canyon. The monument forms an old ancient ruins of housing formations, built in the shadow of Sunset Crater volcano by the ancient Pueblo colonies.
I followed the turn-off towards the monument, driving past smaller ruins of the Citadel Pueblo and Box Canyon Pueblos, before reaching the visitor centre and talking a walk around the largest ruin: the Wupatki Pueblo.
Wupatki means ‘tall house’ in the ancient Hopi language and the monument used to house about 100 people.
I took about a half hour to walk around and through the main hall spaces of the ancient ruins, before continuing the road further south to the Sunset Crater Volcano, which proved to be the catalyst in encouraging a large ancient settlement.
° ° °
Sunset Crater Volcano
When the volcano erupted in the 11th century, the ash provided agricultural sustainability to the dry land; The soil now had the ability to grow crops, which led to the growth of the Pueblo civilization.
The road from Wupatki, took me past the Kana-a Lava flow and then to Bonito Lava flow, two areas drenched in thick volcanic magma that encompass the cone-shaped Volcano. It was in fact, the first National Monument that I had visited within the Utah and Arizona region that wasn’t dominated by Sandstone and fiery red landscapes.
After a short one mile hike around some of the lava flows, I returned to my truck and headed along the 89 to Flagstaff for lunch.
Sedona- Chapel of the Holy Cross
After grabbing an early lunch I continued South and forked from the 17 onto the 89a, heading to Sedona- another fire-red sandstone retreat, deep in a surrounding forest valley.
I drove through Slide-Rock State Park, a river opening gorge to the North of Sedona, but didn’t find time to stop. Instead, I chased the river (now running parallel with the highway) further South and headed straight for the heart of Sedona and the scenic by-way-Highway 179.
The Scenic by-way covers all of the notable geographical landscapes and attractions within the area, starting with a pretty incredible Church- the Chapel of the Holy Cross.
Having already declared in a previous post at how striking a Mormon temple looked as it stood, pure, against the harsh, blood-soaked sandstone mountain peaks of St.George (http://wp.me/p3Mm4F-4q) this stood in a similar vein but with a more modernistic twist. The spiked sail, was recessed half-way up the rock, offering up a perfect panorama across the Sedona, Mesa landscapes.
The Church, south facing, must house some pretty incredible sermons, with such a view and flood of natural light through the huge stain glass windows.
I continued further down to meet the Cathedral rock trailhead- one of the most popular treks in Sedona.
The trail, a 1.5 mile loop, is a sharp incline up to the ‘saddle’- a series of detached rock spikes that are anchored into the redbed sandstone. The central columns stand individually, like swords pointing to the sky.
I took about an hour to complete the loop, taking my time to examine the views on offer before heading down to the creek for a good hour or so to cool off in the late afternoon sun.
One thing which I unfortunately missed out, which was slightly further North, in the Slide Rock Park region, was Devil’s Bridge. It looks like a pretty cool, albeit fragile, natural arch that spans above the forest valley. (Photo, Google images)
If I had a full day, I would definitely visit that first and would have liked to explore the Slide Park area before heading further South. As it as though, I am a little pushed for time and continue my journey along the Scenic By-Pass-eventually coming to Bell Rock and the Courthouse Butte- the larger of two of the most prominent Butte’s in the area.
Bell Rock, the Courthouse and the Sedona Vortex
For the ease of the hike, the views are some of the best of my trip and well worth doing! Starting at the trail car park I walked along the Bell Rock Pathway, circling the Butte before joining the Courthouse trail and doing a larger loop around the circumference of the rock.
Along the trail there were many murmurings of the Vortex- I assumed this was a specific rock or observation point, but it was not until someone said ‘can you feel the Vortex?’ that I had to intervene.
Apparently Sedona is famous for its Vortex’s- surges of incredible energy that have a spiritual impact on a person’s well-being. It would explain the incredibly ‘hippy’ vibe around the area and the number of significant Churches and Yoga sanctuaries that I passed along the way. In short, Sedona is basically a spiritual Mecca-where people come to ‘find their way’.
I can’t say I experienced any such uplifting experience, no more so than any other place I have visited along my roadtrip. But, it did catch my eye the way the Juniper’s were twisted and crafted all along the trail- as if they had been morphed and bent.
I wouldn’t deny there being some sort of wind energy and tunnel like force that would have an impact on the landscapes- but whether this would be an uplifting, life- evaluating experience for me, I would be skeptical. I always think stuff like this is more in your mind than anything else.
Nonetheless, it would be interesting to spend more time around the area as things like this always intrigue me to delve deeper into it.
I could easily have spent another couple of days in Sedona; It’s a very chilled, laid back, camp-style retreat- which is always cool- and there are some great hikes in the area, many of which I haven’t had time to explore; But from what I did do, I would highly recommend it as the ideal stop-over between flagstaff and the South. If I’m honest, if I hadn’t already booked into a hostel in Phoenix, I could happily have stayed longer and crammed another couple of hikes in and hunt for these supposed Vortexes.
With dusk now well underway, I continued along Highway 179, rejoining the 17 to taking me into Phoenix.
With no sat-nav and lack of daylight, I struggled to make my way into the city centre.
I have had no sat-nav or map with me for the duration of my trip; Instead, I have always been able to rely on the free wifi service at McDonalds at various service stations, to upload maps etc. and give me a sense of direction. But, it was pretty hard to navigate into and around a very busy, chaotic Phoenix city centre.
When I did eventually make it to the hostel, on the outer loop of central Phoenix, I was completely knackered and after a quick shower, headed straight for bed.
Next up Joshua Tree National Park- one of the best rock climbing sites in the West!