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Getting to Know Sedona Arizona

West Sedona red rock formations include Thunder Mountain and Coffee Pot Rock.

Some say it's an anagram for "anodes," proof that powerful earth energies surge and swirl around red rock canyons and spires. Actually, Sedona is the name of a woman, one of the first pioneers drawn to what was once an isolated, rough land, where carving a life from the rocky soil meant hard work and even heartbreak.

Sedona's red rock country is a place of intensely blue skies, greens of every hue, and reds and golds from the palest peach to deep vermilion. The colorful buttes, spires, and canyons are carved from the southern edge of the Colorado Plateau, a vast upland extending around the Four Corners area of the Southwest. The southern edge of the plateau, the Mogollon (muggy-own) Rim, forms the escarpments to the north and east of Sedona.

From the Rim, rugged canyons extend like fingers. One, the canyon of Oak Creek, cuts through a 2,500-foot geological layer cake on its 12-mile length, revealing the power and majesty of a living, changing earth. For more than 300 million years, this land has been sculpted by oceans, deserts, swamps and volcanic flows.

Much of red rock country is public land, part of the Coconino National Forest, three wilderness areas and two state parks. Sparkling Oak Creek, fed by springs and snowmelt from the high country, draws humans and wildlife alike to its lush banks.

Seasons add variety, with springtime wildflowers, booming summer storms, autumn's gold, and winter's snow and fog. The mild climate makes it possible to enjoy the natural setting year round.

Sedona isn't as fierce as the Sonoran Desert, an hour to the south, nor as vast as the Grand Canyon, three hours to the north. Here, the landscape is human-scaled, friendlier, inviting exploration. And here, explorers will find dramatic contrasts: Short-lived waterfalls tumble down sheer rock walls after a rain, then vanish in the sun. Delicate wildflowers burst from rocky outcroppings. Small town charm peeks out between sophisticated resorts and art galleries. You can direct your feet to the nearest hiking trail or treat them to a reflexology treatment. Watch sunset from a rocky cliff, or while savoring Southwest cuisine at an elegant restaurant.

Sedona - the word itself sounds like a beckoning whisper, mysterious, hinting at secrets.

Sedona is a diverse, even quirky, community made up of healers and seekers, outdoor enthusiasts and retirees, cowboys and Indians (both authentic and wannabe). What they all have in common is "Red Rock Fever." Who wouldn't be infected by the whimsy of places named Rabbit Ears or Merry-Go-Round, or by the majesty and mystery of a Cathedral Rock?

Those who take time to explore are rewarded by breathtaking vistas at nearly every turn. But be warned: Photographs can't capture the feelings inspired by a hawk's echoing cry or the sight of an ancient village tucked into sandstone alcove. And of all the magical things to be discovered here, the most magical might just be yourself.

Article by Kathleen Bryant, author of the children's book Kokopelli's Gift, also writes for Arizona Highways, American Archaeology, Plateau Journal and Sunset magazines.


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