To Sedona and Back 11-20-05

To Sedona and Back

Richard J. Garfunkel

November 20, 2005



Arizona is a dry and arid place that was, and is, the home of Native Americans for centuries before European adventurers wandered in to their environs. There were many different small and large tribes of these desert folk. Some wandered looking for water and others built semi- and permanent dwellings into the surrounding rock formations, hills, mesas, and mountains. Until the horse came to North America via Mexico and the Spaniards seeking the fabled Seven Golden Cities of Cibola, the indigenous people, we know, as the American Indian was quite limited in his/her ability to be mobile. Many used dogs to drag their sleds. The dogs were large and powerful, but they could only pull a 50 lb load at 3-4 miles per hours. When the horse came to the Southwest the world of the Indian expanded exponentially. A horse could pull a sled holding 150 lbs at more than twice the speed, possibly reaching10 mph or so. Therefore this new ability increased the ratio between the horse and the dog to seven to one with regards to speed and power. This added great mobility to these tribes, which in pre-Columbian days rarely came in contact with each other. The Indians understood this ratio quite well.


Many like the Hopi and the Navajo settled in the area of Monument Valley, where countless western movies were made. Others in the north, up where the fabulous Grand Canyon is located, were the Southern Paiute, Walapai and Havasupai.. In the Flagstaff high plateau region were the Yavapai. Along today’s most populated section of modern Arizona, in and around Phoenix and Scottsdale, within Maricopa County, the Maricopas made their homes. To the northeast below the Petrified Forest and above the White Mountains were the nomadic Western Apaches. When one traveled south to Tucson and the frontier town of Tombstone one would come in contact with the Pima and Papago.


Phoenix is a modern city in comparison to the municipalities in the east. Though Native Americans had lived there as early as 700 CE, it was settled by Europeans in 1870, became the seat of the newly established Maricopa County in 1871, became the territorial capital in 1889, and remained the capital up until statehood in 1912. Today Phoenix and its suburbs have half the population of the growing state. In 2001 it was estimated that there were over 5.4 million Arizonans. When Frank Lloyd Wright started his famous architectural school and winter home in the late 1930’s at Taliesen West, the population of Scottsdale was around 200 souls and they were up a small mountain sixteen miles into the desert. Today Scottsdale’s city limits go far beyond Wright’s most interesting home and the population is over 202,000 people (2000 census.) Meanwhile 200 people immigrate a day to the Scottsdale Phoenix area, so one could easily guess that there many more people than 200,000. (In 1990 the population was 130,000!)


Beyond the obvious contrasts of the mountain ranges, the deep blue, cloudless sky and the valleys one can always marvel at the vegetation that survives in an environment that can be incredibly hostile. Besides the classic symbol of Arizona, the giant Saguaros that can grow to 15-18 feet and have gigantic arms that can spread out in all directions, there others called; prickly pear, pin cushion, fish hook, rainbow, devil’s finger, beaver tail, buckhorn, hedgehog, yucca, ironwood, cholla, and the Joshua Tree. The Saguaros dwarf all of the cacti and deciduous plants and when one drives all over southern Arizona one can see Saguaros for as far as the eye can see.


But when starts on a trek north, two things become quite apparent. First of all one experiences a steady climb in elevation, and secondarily, during the winter, or late fall, the temperatures start to drop. So as one begins to race along the Route 17 road that leads to 179N and into Sedona, one starts to feel the pressure of thinner air, the disappearance of the Saguaros and change in scenery. Sedona is not terribly far from Scottsdale and the 105 or so miles can be consumed quickly at minimum speeds of 75 mph. As one approaches the outskirts of Sedona, the gigantic red rocks, which the region is famous for, leap out at you. They even have nicknames like Coffee Pot, Cathedral Rock, Doe Mesa, Bear Mountain, Madonna, the Nuns, Gibraltor, Court Chimney Rock, Capitol Butte, Giant’s Thumb, and the Bell Rock. People identify with these massive landmarks, and they can be seen from many different directions and angles. As the sun and the clouds cast their glare and shadow on the rocks, the hues become either brighter or subtler. The variations are unlimited and almost every hour of the day from dawn to dusk opens up another unequalled visual delight. The rich red color seems to come from Redwell limestone, laid down by a shallow tropical sea 330 million years ago. Redwell limestone is actually gray in color, is stained red by the overlaying layers. They are red because of a thin, oxidized iron deposit that coats the individual grains of sand. Of course there are more geological details, but the important fact is that these reddish orange majesties shriek out at the viewer against the deep blue background of the skies.


Only recently there is a story of a graduate student participating in an archeological study at the Honanki ruins west of Sedona, who slipped away from his group reflective of a “call of nature.” His serendipitous bathroom break brought to light the first Clovis point (Clovis hunters were considered the first to migrate from Asia over the Bering Straight some 12,000 years ago as the ice-age glaciers were receding.) found in the red rock area. This point, along with others found since, seems to indicate that hunter-gatherers roamed the canyons of Sedona as many as ten thousand years ago.


Of course this was a quick stay as opposed to the one we made five years ago. Sedona is growing and there are currently 10,000+ persons living in and around 89A, which is the main road that goes through the center of town. After touring, shopping and eating in Sedona, we headed southwest for the old mining town of Jerome, that is located half way up a mountain (5000+ feet in elevation) and across the valley city of Cottonwood. Jerome, which used to be a center for copper mining, at one time in the 1880’s boasted 15,000 residents. Today the copper and the people are gone. Little is left from that bygone era except the buildings downtown and the Little Daisy Hotel that is still nestled into the mountainside. Jerome now is the home of 400 residents and a thriving jewelry and collectible center. There’s not much Indian pottery, Kachina dolls or woven goods in Jerome, but there are plenty stores that feature western artifacts and jewelry that attract hundreds of weekend trekkers from as faraway as Scottsdale and Phoenix.


Well, after a great day trip, it was back again to our time-sharing rooms at the Kierland Westin Resort and the 80 degree weather of Phoenix. Scottsdale is a remarkably rich community that borders on Phoenix and when one travels up and down the many miles of Scottsdale Road to its southern border at Mesa, one is amazed by the sheer amount of stores. Scottsdale is very large and the population is spread all over. Places like Camelback and Paradise Valley have incredible homes and one could drive miles without ever seeing an apartment house or a commercial building greater then seven stories high, except for the downtown area of Phoenix surrounding the Bank One Ball Park where the Arizona Diamondbacks play. I can’t emphasize enough about the growth in that area of Arizona, it is remarkable. The potential seems unlimited as long as they can provide water.

The huge artificial Roosevelt Reservoir serves Scottsdale and Phoenix. In 1906, while Arizona was still a territory, a huge 248-foot-high damn was started at the confluence of the Salt River and Tonto Creek, some thirty miles east of Phoenix. It was completed in 1911 and was named after President Theodore Roosevelt. Because of a severe drought the new Roosevelt Lake did not reach capacity until 1915. The first drops of water that finally went over the damn were bottled and saved for the christening, a few months later, of the newly constructed battleship USS Arizona. (Assistant Secretary of the Navy, Franklin Delano Roosevelt led the Navy delegation at its keel laying in March of 1914.)


Meanwhile, chosen for the honor of naming the ship, was given to Miss Esther Ross, the daughter of one of Arizona’s pioneer families. Along with Miss Ross, and many other Arizonan dignitaries who traveled to the New York Naval Yard, was the father of the late Senator Barry Goldwater, who was one of Phoenix’s earliest merchants. The USS Arizona was the latest and greatest battleship in the world at the time of its christening in June of 1915. The crowd was estimated at 75,000 people, and that was the largest crowd, at that time, to ever see an American ship launched. As the crowd roared its approval, Miss Ross shouted, “I name thee Arizona”, and hurled bottles of Arizona water and Ohio champagne at the bow of the ship. Years later after the USS Arizona had met her unhappy fate at Pearl Harbor Esther Ross talked about the rumor that had spread amongst the sailors at the launching. Many sailors considered that the launching of a ship with water was a bad omen. In any event the Arizona was reported at the time to be the first US warship christened with water. If that was a bad omen, it was reinforced by the fact that rocks for the Roosevelt Damn came from the Superstition Mountain.


So the essence to any area’s survival is water, and the early wanderings of most of the Native Americans tribes were in search of water.


Speaking of Native Americans, when one travels to Arizona one is take by the immeasurable varieties of Native American pottery, which ranges from Anasazi to Zuni. Probably of all the various types of modern pottery, (circa 1910-40) the designs made by the famous Acoma potter Lucy Lewis, Maria Martinez and her black on black pottery of San Ildefonso, and Marie Chino of Acoma are the best known. Others like Mata Ortiz, from Casas Grandes also became quite well known. Usually the whole class of mid 20th century potters is called the “Seven Families,” which includes other names as Tafoya, Gutierrez, and Gonzales. Of course it all started in 1539 with an annoyed Zuni warrior, who spread the rumor of the golden cities of Cibola. Coronado came and conquered the Zunis in less then an hour. From that time on Europeans always controlled the pottery country. The modern age of this pottery came after 1880 with the coming of the railroad and the migration from the East. This modern era extends to 1950, and the contemporary era is from 1950 to the present. So when one goes back to earliest days, between the late 1600’s and 1880, the names of the different types are Mogollon, brown pottery, Anasazi, the gray pottery, Cibola, Mogollon black and white, Hohokam, the buff pottery, Salado, the red pottery, Hopi and Sinagua, the yellow pottery, and the Casas Grandes. Any of those pieces are extremely rare to find and command museum level prices.


The Kachina dolls, another facet of Native art, are a story that must wait for another trip. Kachinas are religious dolls that are reminiscent of our eastern Native American totem poles. But the Kachinas, carved in wood, are in human form, dressed in mystical masks that resemble animals and are usually posed in the action of a religious dance. These Kachinas can range in price from the ridiculous to the sublime. The Navaho types, which seemed to be cruder and adorned with white feathers, are on the low end of the cost spectrum. These dolls could cost anywhere from $40 to $150 depending on size. But the more intricately painted ones, from a varied number of tribes can range into the thousands. So far I haven’t found one that I like and can also afford.


We finished most of our touring by our visits to north of Scottsdale where the small towns of Carefree and Cave Creek are located. Carefree is incredibly wealthy and the rich and famous have built incredible homes into the mountainsides that tower along the main road.  Many range far above the $10 million cost! Carefree has wonderful stores and galleries that service its population. But up the road a bit is Cave Creek, which is a western style town, that has a down home atmosphere of the real west and all sorts of shops along its one main street. One can buy all sorts of barbeque sauces, western horsy gear, planters, pottery and a myriad of other items. Carefree is very upscale and worthwhile to visit, and Cave Creek is a more downscale experience that quickly removes one from the modern day material world of Scottsdale/Phoenix.


So all-in-all Arizona is great, a stay in Scottsdale must be accompanied by a trip to Sedona. Once one sees Sedona that visual experience will last a lifetime. So if you’re youngish, have no roots in the East, willing to make a big change, the Southwest is the place. For us we are already looking forward to our next trip in March 2007.








1 thought on “To Sedona and Back 11-20-05

    Thanks for one’s marvelous posting! I genuinely enjoyed reading it, you could be a great author.I will make sure to bookmark your blog
    and definitely will come back in the foreseeable future.
    I want to encourage yourself to continue your great
    posts, have a nice afternoon!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *