If you love Sedona, Arizona, you might not want to read today’s blog.
Many years ago, Ruth and I visited Sedona and found it a special destination. We loved the brilliantly red sandstone walls all around that seemed to change color depending on the time of day. We sat alone in the Chapel of the Holy Cross and felt in harmony with the universe. We followed State Route 89A up Oak Creek Canyon to Flagstaff and judged both sensational. I decided to one day follow 89A all the way to Prescott to see if it was worth adding to my list of 5 Compass scenic routes. I now know 2 sad truths: it’s not and Sedona has changed.
Driving north from Prescott in 2015, I decided that the first really outstanding 89A view occurred just above the old mining town of Jerome where I could see, it seemed, all the way across the desert highlands to Sedona. I wanted to revisit Jerome but had to give up because there was not a single place to park in this mountain-hugging community.
When Ruth & I descended to the valley below, we found it full of housing developments and shopping centers. In Sedona we stopped at the first visitor center we spotted where an outdoor type greeted me like a returning buddy and tried to sell me a jeep tour. I asked him about Sedona, and he told me that most of the action was uptown. He called it a tourist trap. It quickly became obvious that I wasn’t taking a jeep tour, so outdoor type was done with me. As he turned his back, he said acidly, “You can keep the map.”
Back on 89A we got into the queue of cars trying to get through traffic lights. There seemed to be a visitor center or alternative medicine shop or jeep tour rental office or expensive looking motel every few feet. I remembered that Sedona promoted itself as a 500-or-more artist center and spiritual healing Mecca and decided that at least half of the people sitting in the midday traffic with me were either amethyst wearing holistic healing professionals or potters.
We finally made it to Highway 179 and headed south, but the congestion was even worse. Traffic circles were ever few miles. We stopped at Bell Rock to soak up some scenery and, luckily, found a parking place. However, signs told us that we had to pay to stay. We left.
Our accommodation booked through Expedia turned out to be a huge time-share resort. The staff complained about the traffic but then tried its best to give us free stuff in exchange for listening to a sales pitch.
We headed back up 179. The Chapel of the Holy Cross was overrun with tourists. The parking attendant told me to move to the upper lot, but I asked if I could instead turn around and leave. He too was done with me.
We inched through the Uptown Sedona tourist trap and found out that the jeep guy had been exactly right. Almost all the way to Flagstaff Oak Creek Canyon was filled with haphazardly parked cars and tourists taking selfies.
We didn’t even stop at the outlet mall our way out of Sedona the next morning.