The Incredible Red Rock Country of Sedona— and a Chapel… Part 1

Sedona west

The town of Sedona (center photo) is surrounded by striking scenery. I took this picture from near the airport looking west.

 

It’s time again for the Wednesday Photo Essay. Today and next Wednesday, I will be featuring Sedona, Arizona.

 

I still remember the first time I followed Oak Creek Canyon down from Flagstaff, Arizona to Sedona. I had been up backpacking down in the Grand Canyon in 1986 and the side trip was something of an afterthought. I’d seen photos of the area’s striking red rocks and knew of the town’s New Age reputation. There were supposedly vortexes found there, psychic hot-spots that UFOs liked to visit. How could I resist? On the other hand, how could it possibly match my experience in the Canyon? Would I be disappointed?

The answer is a firm no; the detour was different— but very worthwhile.

I’ve been back several times since. The beauty of the red rocks calls to me and I find the New Age character of its inhabitants both interesting and amusing. I read recently that there are 176 New Age-oriented businesses in Sedona. I doubt that any other community in the world can claim such a concentration. The Age of Aquarius is alive and well!

Sitting on a vortex in Sedona, Arizona

Ommm. Here I am, sitting on a red rock vortex point below the Sedona airport practicing my meditation technique and waiting for a UFO. A heretofore unnoticed aura is wrapped around my head. Grin. (Photo by Peggy Mekemson.)

My last visit was three years ago when Peggy and I visited for a week in November along with our friends Ken and Leslie Lake. The pictures from this and next week’s Wednesday photo essays are from that trip. Today’s will be mainly from the east side of town. Next week I will post photos from the west side including a hike up Boynton Canyon. Enjoy.

Chapel of the Holy Cross

One of Sedona’s most famous sites is the Chapel of the Holy Cross. (Photo by Peggy Mekemson.)

Chapel of the Holy Cross in Sedona

I decided that the chapel and its surroundings would do well as a black and white photo.

Chapel of Holy Cross in Sedona, Arizona photo taken by Curtis Mekemson

Another perspective.

Twin rocks in Sedona, Arizona

These striking rocks are located east of the chapel. We took several photos. This one was by Peggy. I think this pair is known as the Two Nuns.

Twin rocks in Sedona, AZ

I added a tree for contrast.

Sedona Cactus

Peggy caught this cactus just down from the chapel.

Cactus and twin rocks in Sedona

And I took a photo of its companion with the Nuns!

Twin rocks in Sedona

Several other towers were located above the Nuns…

Sedona red rock column

Including this beauty. (Photo by Peggy Mekemson.)

Sedona, Arizona

The view south wasn’t bad either!

Sedona Arizona rock

Bell Rock in Sedona

Most of the prominent rock formations around Sedona have been named. I’ll close today with Bell Rock. Be sure to check in next Wednesday for more of the red rocks of Sedona as we journey east of the town to the area featured at the top of this post.

 

FRIDAY’S POST: My sister Nancy Jo is attacked by the Graveyard Ghost. A very scary tale.

MONDAY’S POST: A trip through the Grand Canyon by raft on the Colorado River.

WEDNESDAY’S POST: We return to Sedona for more gorgeous red rocks.

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The Chapel of the Holy Cross and Boynton Canyon… Two Sedona Icons

Church of Holy Cross in Sedona Arizona. Photo by Curtis Mekemson.

While Sedona is known for its spectacular colors, I felt this black and white rendition of Sedona’s Chapel of the Holy Cross emphasized the dramatic look of the church in its natural setting.

Peggy and I have seen numerous beautiful churches in our wandering around the world over the years, but few have matched the simple beauty of the Chapel of the Holy Cross in Sedona, Arizona. Rarely do buildings reflect the areas where they are built so dramatically. (I would place the Greek Orthodox churches on the island of Santorini in such a category.)

Another perspective on the Church of the Holy Cross, this time emphasizing its colorful surroundings. (Photo by Peggy Mekemson.)

Another perspective on the Chapel of the Holy Cross, this time emphasizing its colorful surroundings. (Photo by Peggy Mekemson.)

An inside view of the Church of the Holy Cross in Sedona, Arizona. Photo by Curtis Mekemson.

Inside, looking out.

Madonna and Child rock formation in Sedona, Arizona.

Surrounding rock formations are also impressive, as they are throughout Sedona. This one is appropriately known as the Madonna and Child. (Photo by Peggy Mekemson.)

View of rock formations near Church of Holy Cross in Sedona Arizona. Photo by Curtis Mekemson.

A distant shot of the Madonna and Child (in the center).

We found this cactus on the road going up to the Church of the Holy Cross. (Photo by Peggy Mekemson.)

We found this cactus on the road going up to the Chapel of the Holy Cross. (Photo by Peggy Mekemson.)

A local rancher from Sedona, Marguerite Staude, commissioned the church. Inspired by the Empire State Building, she had originally wanted to build the church in Hungary. When World War II aborted her plans, she decided to build the church in her hometown. Barry Goldwater helped Staude obtain a special land use permit to build the church on national forest land. It cost $350,000, took 18 months to build, and was completed in 1956. The American Institute of Architects gave the church its Award of Honor in 1957.

The clearest way into the Universe is through a forest wilderness.

John Muir

While I understand the importance of churches in people’s faith, I tend to agree with John Muir in terms of my own spiritual path. A quiet walk in the woods has always made me feel at peace with myself. Seen from this perspective, Boynton Canyon in Sedona is good for the soul.

It’s also a great place to hang out with friends— and a camera.

A view up Boynton Canyon in Sedona, Arizona. Photo by Curtis Mekemson.

One of many of the views Peggy and I, along with our friends, Ken and Leslie Lake, enjoyed on our walk up Boynton Canyon.

Boynton Canyon rock formation in Sedona, Arizona. Photo by Curtis Mekemson.

A close up of the same knob as a black and white photo. Note the various patterns in the rock.

The wilderness sign warned people they might find a bear wandering around in the canyon. While most people might find this worrisome, I was looking forward to it. No such luck.

The wilderness sign warned people they might find a bear wandering around in the canyon. While most people might find this worrisome, I was looking forward to seeing one. No such luck.

Rock formation in Boynton canyon, Sedona Arizona. Photo by Curtis Mekemson.

Another dramatic rock formation. I liked the light and dark contrast.

Black and white photo by Curtis Mekemson of a rock formation in Boynton Canyon.

The contrast is even more powerful from a black and white perspective. Check out the halo of light on top.

Face-like rock formation in Boynton Canyon, Arizona. Photo by Curtis Mekemson.

Always on the lookout for faces, I named this open-mouthed fellow, Scream. Maybe he had seen the bear.

Colorful walls of Boynton Canyon, Sedona reflected in the sun.

At one point, the sun reflected off the canyon wall like it was glowing with life. This is the natural color as we saw it.I had never seen anything like it. No wonder the New Agers think of Boynton Canyon with awe. (Photo by Peggy Mekemson.)

Native American cliff dwellings found in Boynton Canon in Sedona, Arizona.

At several points along Boynton Canyon, we saw where Native Americans had once built cliff dwellings. (Photo by Peggy Mekemson.)

Photo by Curtis Mekemson of a grinning rock formation in Sedona, Arizona.

This formation seemed to be grinning at me. Or maybe it was hungry. I know, I know… I have an overactive imagination.

Rock formation in Sedona Arizona.

This rock formation looked like an ancient fortress. I wonder if the Native Americans ever used it at such? On another note, a number of early Westerns were filmed in the Sedona area.

Statue of horse from downtown Sedona, Arizona. Photo by Curtis Mekemson.

Found this horse in downtown Sedona.

A final photo from Boynton Canyon. NEXT BLOG: A look at Native American rock art near Sedona and a visit to an ancient 'well.'

A final photo from Boynton Canyon.

Old friends. Ken and I have been hanging out causing mischief for close to 40 years. Peggy's sister, Jane Hagedorn, and I hired Ken in 1977 when we co-executive directors of the American Lung Association in Sacramento.

Old friends. Ken and I have been hanging out causing mischief for close to 40 years. Peggy’s sister, Jane Hagedorn, and I hired Ken in 1977 when we were co-executive directors of the American Lung Association in Sacramento. Jane wanted him for his degree in public health education. I wanted him because he had just bicycled across America and I needed his expertise for the long distance Bike Trek program I had created.

NEXT BLOG: It is time to check out some Native American rock art in the Sedona area and visit a very old ‘well.’