The Wild West: Grander than Grand

Blood on the Moon was shot in Sedona in the late 1940s.

Sundance Kid: “You remember the time you and me and Etta went to Denver one summer for a vacation?”

Butch Cassidy: “I’m glad you brought that up, Kid. That’s an important topic, considering our situation.”

Sundance Kid: “The night we went gambling, you remember?”

Butch Cassidy: “We had dinner at the hotel. Etta had roast beef and I had chicken, and if I can remember what you had, I’ll die a happy man.”  

Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid

First, a disclaimer: I’m the daughter of a man who is a Western film aficionado. I don’t know why this is relevant, except that perhaps it lends some credence to this post.

That said, by default of a wedding in New Mexico (congrats, Sarah and Joe!), I recently spent a few days in Sedona, Arizona and at the Grand Canyon. Both of these locations astounded me with their natural beauty, even in light of the hot desert climate this time of year.

Incidentally, the place where I spent most of my time in Sedona—Oak Creek Canyon—is the site of the original Western settlement in the area: here, J.J. Thompson, under the 1862 Homestead Act, took squatters rights. But it was Native Americans who first populated the greenest region in the state (known as the Verde Valley): hunter-gatherers roamed this area for centuries and then between 900 and 1350 AD, the Sinagua (‘without water’), built pueblos and cliff houses in the valley.

Sedona is now believed to be the site of several spiritual vortexes, and while I did not participate in a healing/vortex tour (there are dozens offered locally), I can attest that the area certainly hums with a distinctly liberating energy—a connection between the human world and the natural one that is often lost in contemporary times.

During my brief stay in Sedona, I discovered there are two necessities for a visit: one, hiking; and two, visiting a psychic.

Oak Creek

On the first, Oak Creek Canyon is one of the most spiritually-centered hikes I’ve taken in a long time. What is a spiritually-centered hike you ask? I’d say it’s one that requires you to take pause as much as it asks you to move along.

A mostly flat path following a 16-mile gorge (with streams and waterfalls between sheer rock walls that crisscrosses the eponymous creek), the vistas of Oak Creek Canyon are astounding no matter the time of day—the beauty of hiking in a canyon is that the light illuminates the surrounding red cliffs without heating up the trail itself. As a result, the canyon is damp and cool; it’s also home to a plethora of butterflies, dragonflies, and birds (such as the painted redstart, lazuli bunting, hooded oriole, and broad tailed hummingbird).

After hiking, the nearby Indian Gardens Oak Creek Market offers a surprisingly delicious array of homemade chocolates, pastries, coffee, and other sundries. One suggestion is to grab a lunch here on your way to the area’s hikes so that you have a meal in tow. Also, don’t miss the salted caramel chocolate truffles made by local Sweet Box Treats.

Sweets at Oak Creek Market

Farther north (two hours from Sedona), is the Grand Canyon South Rim entrance. I’d never been to this American landmark, nor had any of my traveling companions, and we expected some nice vistas, a red canyon, hot sun—the sort of thing one sees in travel photos. However, we were completely blown away by the expansive nature of the Grand Canyon. Without waxing poetic, there was something both awe-inspiring and comforting in witnessing a place so deeply earthbound and ancient. We hiked the Bright Angel trail, ate lunch at the historic El Tovar Lodge (built in 1905 and once home to Teddy Roosevelt and Albert Einstein), and watched highly-endangered California condors (three of only 226 living in the wild) perch on the petroglyphed cliffs.  Despite the crowds, the expansiveness of the Grand Canyon allows you to feel uniquely alone and at home.

California condor, perched on a dramatic ledge and marked #16

(Note: If you plan on hiking in the Grand Canyon, do your homework—every year, numerous hikers are rescued due to heat exhaustion, dehydration, and other health-related factors.)

Back in Sedona, the hunt for a psychic continued. I found solace in the Center for the New Age, both a building and a state of mind, where spiritual seekers find routes to higher consciousness. The center hosts a bookstore, crystal shop, and psychics and healers. I spent half an hour with a man who performed an Akashic records reading on my soul. Essentially, after tapping in to my

Center for the New Age

record keepers, I was told I need to stop asking so many existential questions and to start meditating. Not bad advice.

Still desiring more concrete insights, a companion and I received Tarot Card readings by Akasha at Mystical Bazaar on Sedona’s main drag. While surely there’s some Tarot Card Code of Honor not to read and tell, suffice it to say, I found the service worth the money—if only to remind me that there are questions in this world that defy answers.

Leaving Sedona’s red cliffs and the shadowed vistas of the Grand Canyon behind, I can wholeheartedly say this is a place that begs you to abandon your daily concerns at the door. Instead, you will be bestowed with an awareness of that which is much more grander than you—and the fact that this grandness will outlast your stay here is comforting indeed.

***

For those other necessities (sleeping and eating), here’s a list of suggestions in the area (certainly not an exhaustive list as I only spent a few days here):

To Sleep:

View from the Amara pool

Upscale

Enchantment Resort

Mid-range

Amara Resort and Spa

Bed and Breakfast

Briar Patch Inn

To Eat and Shop:

Tlaquepaque Arts and Crafts Village

Indian Gardens Oak Creek Market

About Kaitlin Solimine

Kaitlin Solimine was raised in New Hampshire but has considered China a second home for the past two decades. She is the author of the award-winning forthcoming novel Empire of Glass and co-founder of Hippo Reads, a media start-up connecting academic insights with real world issues. She lives in Singapore.
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