Red Rock Country

The bells and architecture of Cosanti

George the Cat’s meows found their way into my dreams this morning and stirred me from a very deep sleep. As Jason and I packed the car, the three of us cooked a breakfast of champions: Max-style omlettes (any vegetable in the fridge, plus egg and soup), bacon, and strong coffee. On our way up to Sedona, Jill led us to Cosanti, where Paolo Soleri makes and sells his famous windbells. Cosanti itself is designed by Soleri, and it is somewhat Frank Lloyd Wright-esque in its commitment to nature and experimental earth-formed concrete structures. Like many of the sights we either heard about from Jill or saw with our own eyes, Cosanti is funky and a bit odd. I’m told that its hippie commune counterpart, Arcosanti–described online as an “urban laboratory”–is an experience, too. However, eager to make it to Sedona, we had to choose just one to visit.

On the way up to Sedona, we made a brief stop at Montezuma’s Castle.  A neat little slice of history carved out of the side of a mountain, these cliff dwellings were at one time home to the Sinagua. I’m moderately amused by the translation “without water” because of all of the rivers we’ve seen in the Southwest, Beaver Creek, at the base of the mountain, had by far, the most actual water in it. Compared to the river in historic Santa Fe, the Sinagua community had an ocean at its disposal.

You might think that after a week of national parks filled with interesting rocks that we might be kind of immune to the “wow” nature factor. Not so much. Off of Route 17 and onto 179, Sedona makes an incredible first impression. Driving up over a hill, Sedona’s red rocks seem to come out of nowhere, and yet, they are so brilliant, you have to wonder how you haven’t been seeing them in the distance for miles. We were floored.

On a recommendation from my boss, we checked into the Sedona Rouge and then set off in search of food. On 89A, we found the Cowboy Club, a very touristy spot wedged between souvenir shops. We sampled the cactus fries, a prickly pear margarita, and bison burgers. While the cactus fries and margarita were definitely unique, we agreed that both Rocklands and Ray’s in Virginia have a better quality burger for the price. While digesting lunch, we ducked in and out of a few touristy stores, but ultimately decided we’d rather enjoy Sedona’s natural assets rather than its man-made (and sold) ones.

We headed up to the head of Observation Point Trail at the Airport Mesa Vortex. About halfway up, my acrophobia set in again, and I wound up resorting to my third grade techniques used to climb the Statue of Liberty: I scooted up the mountain on my behind. (Let “scooted” refer to the manner in which I climbed, rather than the speed.) Ultimately, I am really glad I had a chance to see those views, even if I was petrified the entire time.

Atop a red rock in Sedona: Was the hike worth it?

We made it back to the hotel in time for happy hour and enjoyed a little complimentary appetizer of scallop tacos and wine before returning to our room for a pre-dinner nap. Seeking a local joint for dinner, we followed our concierge’s recommendation and headed up to Judi’s, which boasts the “finest baby back ribs in the known universe.” They were not just kidding. I polished off an entire rack before the food coma set in. Judi’s itself feels a bit like your neighborhood Italian joint–not at all a place where you would find melt-off-the-bone ribs. Jason and I donned our foodie hats over the meal and thought of some ways we might tailor the menu, but ultimately, we received fantastic service and dined on some damn good ribs.

Tomorrow, we’re off to raft down the Grand Canyon. And no, it was not by accident that I elected to view the Canyon by water rather than from a ledge.

Montezuma's Castle

Aunt Jill tests the bells at Cosanti.
Cosanti 2
Aaaand, more Soleri bells