Winter in the Desert - 2013 travel blog

Bell Rock

Bell Rock panorama

Cathedral Rock from afar

Cathedral Rock

Sedona overlook

admiring the rock

Bell Rock

a touch of snow

Slippery Rock

wintry agave


In Illinois I-80 is a clear line of demarcation between upstate (urban, Chicago affiliated) and downstate (rural, agrarian, conservative). It's a rather arbitrary line, but folks who live on one side or the other can feel different and somewhat alienated from their Land of Lincoln colleagues on the other side. We've seen this same phenomenon in Florida where the redneck panhandle feels like another world from the cosmopolitan lower part of the state.

In Arizona this line is much less political and delineated by geography. Phoenix is at about 2,000 feet in elevation; Flagstaff is over a mile high. Flagstaff is a well known skiing area; it had over a yard of snow last night. Phoenix had some rain. Separating the two is the Mogollon Rim. The first time we drove the rim in the summer of 1979 we were shocked when we left the piney coolness of Flagstaff and got out of the car into the hairdryer heat that was Phoenix.

Today we traveled halfway up the rim to Sedona. We knew it would be colder, but weren't expecting to see the cactus covered with snow. The first stop at the aptly named Bell Rock was spectacular in the sunshine. The snow was melting in the sun, and added a beautiful accent to the red rock and green vegetation.

Then we drove a bit farther up to Slide Rock, a spot I remember fondly from the summer of 1979. It was a hot day and people were sliding down the flat rocks in the creek. It looked like so much fun, I plunged into the whirling water wearing shorts and a T-shirt. In the arid sunshine my clothes were dry again in no time. Today the area was covered in heavy clouds and occasional snow flurries fell. I was wearing two coats, mittens and a wool hat, but I was still cold. Somehow I couldn't get nearly as excited about photographing this water filled chasm when it was surrounded by snow drifts and icicles.

We took a group photo on the overlook above Sedona town. It's in a beautiful setting surrounded by red rocks. Our guide said it was an area that Teddy Roosevelt shouldn't have let get away. It would have made a wonderful national park. The town is full of classy shops and trendy restaurants. You could spend some serious money here.

Our last stop was at Cathedral Rock where we waited for almost two hours for glimpses of sunshine to illuminate the red rock. Good photographers need infinite patience, something that I sorely lack. I was cold and frustrated by sunset and wished that the weather had been more benevolent in such a beautiful spot. We'll need to return on a better day.

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