Sedona attracts seekers.
Arizona’s famous red rocks sandstone formations are a playground for hikers and mountain bikers. Brilliant blue skies yield to rock spires that glow eerily orange at dusk and dawn. For anyone with a camera, images pop.
Jeep tours weave around rock towers and windswept desert bristling with cacti. Spiritual guides lead meditations alongside burbling creeks and in canyons rife with Native American lore. Organic restaurants thrive with fresh fruits and vegetables during a generous growing season.
With more than 300 days of sunshine and semi-arid temperatures (the average high is 23°C), and a prime location just a two-hour drive north of Phoenix, Sedona is, for many, a paradise found. In the next four pages, we profile four Sedona residents who came to the small city (pop. 10,000) from elsewhere. Find out what drew them in and how they’re living their dreams.
The Mountain Biker
Jason First takes the sharp jut of a rock in stride, the delicious shock of it riding up his forearms as he bounces his mountain bike downward. The wind on double-black-diamond Hangover Trail washes over him, red gravel crunching as he steers past knife-edge Agave and Prickly Pear cacti.
Ducking an eroded rock shelf, he dips down and then up the canyon and red rock walls of Sedona held in a haze of heat. It’s a challenging trail that pushes a lot of obstacles into the paths of experienced riders, but there’s always a pay-off. The views alone are worth it. Blue sky stretches everywhere.
“With mountain biking, hiking, canyoneering and climbing, there’s forever something new to be discovered here,” says First, 30, a mountain bike “specialist” and co-owner of Over the Edge Sports in Sedona. “There are just so many epic trails right out the front door.”
First rode BMX bikes growing up in Santa Barbara, Calif., started racing mountain bikes after high school and turned a holiday trip to Sedona into a full-time business and residence a few years ago. He and others at the bike shop do volunteer trail work and improve maps to help encourage what First describes as “Sedona’s great outdoor lifestyle.”
Go mountain biking in the Boynton Pass area on the west side of Sedona. Try riding the flowy Aerie Trail or the beautiful red rock on Mescal Trail. The best times to go are mornings and evenings when it’s a little cooler. Later, try pale ale at the Oak Creek Brewing Company on Yavapai Drive and enjoy the patio.
“All you have to do is find a rock to sit on that’s facing the water,” explains Rahelio (locals and his clients know him just by his surname) as he guides the guests on his mystic tour to the edge of a creek and then begins to beat a Native American drum.
“Now, as you sit, catch the energy of the water with your hands and breathe into your energy field, all the time giving thanks to Sacred Mother Earth,” he says, amidst the cacti and gnarled trees and a cliff that rises at Grasshopper Point. Rahelio slowly leads his guests into a meditation, encouraging them to seek inner truths while connecting to nature. He’s been running “New Age” tours like this one for more than 20 years.
A shamanic guide, ordained minister and medicine person, Rahelio, 57, grew up in Des Moines, Iowa, but it was the six years he spent in Maui that led him to what he describes as his Native American spiritual path. He arrived in Sedona in 1987 to participate in an earth healing ceremony and has been there ever since. “My goal is to help people connect with the power of the earth and sky, and to develop a deep understanding of wonder,” he says.
Explore the Old Marketplace (1370 West Highway 89A). You’ll find lots of locals, including musicians and artists, and an outdoor stage with music in the afternoons and into the evening. The Field Coffee Shop has great coffee and a restaurant, and there’s also The Martini Bar for cocktails and local beers.
The Jeep Man
As Kevin Torres of Earth Wisdom Jeep Tours steers his jeep to the side of the road, a few haunting musical notes float over his guests’ heads. Looking up, they see a guy in a red T-shirt sitting atop a red rock outcrop that flanks the roadway, his flute poised, ready to continue playing.
“Who the heck is that?” a guest asks, and Torres says, “Oh, that’s Robert. He’s a lovely man who goes throughout Sedona looking for heart-shaped stones, and then he leaves them in different places, like on top of rocks and in trees. And he plays the flute.”
Where else in the world would this particular scene unfold? Nowhere. “It’s so Sedona,” says Torres, affectionately. The 2.5-hour Scenic Vortex Jeep Tour (one of many tours the guiding company offers) introduces visitors to Sedona’s vortex power spots, where it’s believed people can tap into magnetic energies that arise from the earth and gain personal insights.
Torres, 51, grew up in Los Angeles and has worked in the entertainment and health care fields, but he loves being a jeep guide the most. “The land is just so remarkable here, and I love showing it to other people,” he says.
At Mystic Vista, where his guests find places to sit and ponder the 360-degree view of red rocks, Torres gives them time to seek serenity because, he says, “everywhere else, it’s in short supply.”
Hike Doe Mesa (also known as Doe Mountain Trail) in Boynton Canyon. It’s only about a 40-minute hike, a moderate trek with some easy switchbacks, leading upward to great views. It’s out toward the Enchantment Resort area, just off of Dry Creek Road. Later, grab an outdoor table at the Wildflower Bread Company (101 N. Highway 89A, The Shops at Hyatt Piñon Pointe) and enjoy a great view of the red rocks.
The Earth Mother
Jennifer Warr is showing off her garden sanctuary at the ChocolaTree Organic Eatery, where apples, pears, almonds, figs and kiwis flourish beneath a vibrant blue Sedona sky. There are hammocks for lolling, tables from which guests soak up the sun-kissed food and a handmade water feature that burbles beneath the conversations.
“When you eat here, you’re getting more than just a meal,” she says, pushing a wisp of brown hair from her cheekbone. “It’s an experience.”
Every dish at the eatery is 100 per cent organic, gluten-free, processed-sugar-free and comprised of vibrant foods made from scratch. As a child in Chicago, Warr, 30, was taunted for her eczema, which she now attributes to a diet that included junk food. She moved to Sedona eight years ago, and the ChocolaTree, which also serves raw artisan-crafted organic chocolate, was born.
“I believe that live foods inspire and support personal life force energy,” she says. “Living here, I love the expansiveness and the intimate feel of the land. I want to create a healthy, balanced lifestyle for myself and others.”
Pick up Warr’s all-time favourite book, Anastasia (by Vladimir Megre), about spiritual phenomena. Fill a thermos with natural spring water that pours from a stone box at Harding Spring, on Highway 89A toward Flagstaff. Then hike the West Fork Trail, which follows a creek up to a canyon (11 km, round-trip). Find a spot to read. There’s a parking lot at the Call of the Canyon day use area trailhead, about 15 km north of Sedona.