Top Photo: Red rocks near The Chapel of the Holy Cross, Sedona
I spent my final day in the Sedona area visiting two structures built into the desert landscape, taking in one final view of the city, and having dinner at an historic Sedona landmark.
My first stop was “Montezuma ‘s Castle,” a National Park in the Camp Verde area.
I was saddened but not shocked to read reviews on Trip Advisor and Yelp before my visit. Many complained there was nothing else to see, and nothing to do. Come on, people! It’s an ancient dwelling in the side of a mountain! Sorry, no paintball.
I was surprised that the visitor center is so close to the dwelling. It’s a very leisurely walk through a beautiful park, and the fall foliage fascinated me.
Those unfortunate indigenous people of North America; first, Columbus landed and named them all “Indians,” because he had set sail for the Indies and thought he made it. Then, specifically in Arizona, in 1939 an archaeologist named the indigenous people who lived there for 1,000 years the Sinagua, meaning “no water.” We don’t really know what they called themselves.
Then, referring specifically to this Sinaguan cliff dwelling built into an already existing shallow cave, the name “Montezuma’s Castle” was coined by early white settlers in the mistaken belief that the ruins were associated with Montezuma. (Montezuma was the ruler of the Aztec empire from 1502 to 1520, the beginning of the Spanish conquest of Mexico.)
Clear as mud? Okay.
“Motezuma’s Castle” is a five-story cliff dwelling consisting of about twenty rooms, built into an alcove 100 feet above the floor of Beaver Creek Canyon.
Around 1100 AD the region began to see an influx of Sinagua from the north. All of the large, multi-roomed complexes in the Verde Valley, including Motezuma Castle and Tuzigoot, were constructed and occupied during the period 1200 to 1450.
I visited Tuzigoot with Olive a few days before:
Due to deterioration and safety issues, people are not allowed to climb into the dwelling. Therefore, in 1951 a diorama was completed to explain the structure. It is now part of the history of Montezuma’s Castle.
I returned to the Sedona area via State Highway 179. When you are in Sedona, driving SR 179 is absolutely a must-see and I must-do! The route is known as The Red Rock Scenic Byway, and you don’t get more scenic than this stretch of roadway.
My next stop was the Chapel of the Holy Cross – a Catholic church built into the buttes of Sedona in 1956.
The chapel was commissioned by Marguerite Brunswig Staude, who was inspired in 1932 by the newly constructed Empire State Building. An attempt to build the chapel in Budapest, Hungary with Lloyd Wright, son of Frank Lloyd Wright, was aborted due to the outbreak of World War II, so Staude built the church in her native region.
From the chapel I traveled to the Sedona Airport mesa to take in the view.
Many watch the sunset from the airport noll. The sun does not set behind the rocks, but reflects upon the ones to the east. I decided to skip it for happy hour!
For days on my drive out of Sedona and back to the campground I passed Relics Restaurant and Rainbow’s End Steakhouse on SR 89A. It is not in the trendy Uptown section of Sedona, and each time I passed there were few cars in the parking lot.
Some say that Relics is the oldest restaurant in continuous operation in the area. The bartender told me the original structure was a stagecoach stop, and I also read that it was the last homesteaded property in the area. Whatever its history, it is clear that it has history, and the place is not as appreciated as it should be. Just look at this outdoor bar and seating area, complete with the fireplace, which was empty and covered with leaves on my visit:
I had an excellent meal of grilled tilapia, spinach, and asparagus atop a mound of mashed potatoes and covered in béarnaise sauce. How can you go wrong with that?
I came to Sedona for two days and ended up staying for a week. I find it very livable, and I could see making Sedona or one of its charming nearby towns my permanent home.