Today we took a whirlwind tour around northern Arizona so JJ could see some of the fantastic scenery in the area. We crammed way too much into a day and I am now exhausted, but at least he was able to get a sense of the natural beauty and understand why I love to visit here (I have been here many times but this is JJ’s first).
We started off bright and early out of Flagstaff for the 35 mile drive through Oak Creek Canyon into Sedona. We saw elk along the way and enjoyed beautiful views of the canyon walls high above us as we followed alongside the meandering creek. Before long we were in Sedona, with its stunning red rock formations that offer some of the most spectacular scenery in the world.
The backdrop of red rocks should be enough of a draw for anyone, but there is also pretty heavy new-age vibe in Sedona on account of the energy vortexes that are supposedly situated around the area (shockingly enough, they are all located immediately adjacent to the main roads and hiking trails for convenience). There are also lots of places to get your aura photographed or to buy candles ”infused with the spirit of the white buffalo.” Of course JJ had to ask HOW they infuse the buffalo spirit into the candle. Evidently they collect the fur from the white buffalo during molting season, burn it, and capture the essence from the smoke. This explanation was delivered in a completely irony-free manner by a woman who went on to explain that the person who makes the white buffalo-infused candles was instrumental in getting the herd relocated to Oregon, which frankly may end up putting a dent in the local white-buffalo-essence-infusing market.
All of this new-age stuff is fine if you’re into that sort of thing, but the vibe has melted over into the art scene with oddly disturbing results. Let’s just say that Santa Fe has nothing to fear in defending their title of art capital of the southwest. Though there are lots of galleries in and around Sedona, the work mostly falls into two categories: idealized but inaccurate depictions of Native Americans and/or wildlife, and mind-blowingly ugly “contemporary” art (read: splashy abstract works in colors so bright they make your retinas bleed) . We saw numerous examples of both types but the epitome has got to be this artist, who we instantly dubbed “the Thomas Kincaid of southwest art.” His name is Bearcloud. That’s Mr. Bearcloud to you. Be warned, you cannot un-see what I am about to unleash upon you. Behold:
Like other things we saw later in the day (but for very different reasons) the photo simply cannot do this work justice. Not sure if you can tell, but in the clouds there is a woman and a – raven? Eagle? Phoenix? Some winged thing. Plus a buffalo and a whole mess o’ galloping horses for good measure. This work is obviously symbolic (in light of that, let’s just ignore that rock formation in the foreground – too tired to go there tonight). On some of his original pieces the clouds extend out onto the mats and frames. Every piece has that weird pastel-blacklight-glitter thing that I thought only Kincaid could capture. But – the guy has a gallery in the most expensive shopping center in Sedona (and Kincaid doesn’t) so obviously he knows something we don’t.
After a couple of hours you get used to the general weirdness, so that when you eventually encounter a giant fiberglass chicken overlooking the road you simply think, “sure, why the hell not?” (see main photo)
A few miles down the freeway is an amazing Native American cliff dwelling called Montezuma’s Castle. It has been abandoned since around 1400 but is still standing. It is a really amazing thing to see the dwelling perched near the top of a cliff overlooking the river and surrounding valley. I’d love to show it to you, but the blog is not cooperating and gives me an error message every time I try to add the photo, so here’s the next best thing: http://www.nps.gov/moca/index.htm
Next we drove north for a quick look at the Grand Canyon. We made it about an hour before sunset and walked a mile or so along the rim. The photos can’t do it justice either, so I’ll only share one of JJ sitting on the ledge. He was rendered speechless, and for those of you who know him, you understand that is no small feat.
Tomorrow we’re back on Route 66 through Arizona with an overnight jaunt to Las Vegas where we will visit the neon boneyard in the afternoon and renew our wedding vows at the Graceland Chapel with Elvis in the evening. Stay tuned for updates.