Oak Creek Canyon, Sedona, Arcosanti…

This morning, I took Max to the Bark Park again in Flagstaff before we hit the road for points south; Oak Creek Canyon and Sedona.

Once again, there were no dogs to play with so we played with the tennis ball. I “tested” Max on some of the doggie gym equipment and he was flawless! “Up and Over!” got him to go up the small A-Frame and down the other side, and “Tunnel!” sent him shooting through the tunnel!

While we were playing, a man came and sat in the sun on a bench outside the fence. “What kind of dog is that?” he asked, and we struck up a conversation. Willy Harrison is a Navajo from New Mexico, who moved to Flagstaff a few years ago.

When I asked him if he liked it better there or Flagstaff, he said he liked both, but in Flagstaff it was warmer. He asked what we were doing today, and when I told him we were driving to Sedona, he said, “Oh! There’s a snake in that road!” while making a squiggling motion with his hand. “Be sure to stop where they’re selling the Indian jewelry and stuff. You can see the it from up there!”

When we got underway, there was, indeed, a snake in the road! Route 89S winds through Oak Creek Canyon, which my friend Hendrik told me about in an email the other day. If you’ve ever been in Big Sur, you’ll know what I mean when I say that road twisted and turned steeply down though the canyon, with 180 turns requiring 15 MPH!

To say it was beautiful is another understatement! It was spectacular! A 28-mile drive through the canyon to Sedona took me over an hour because I kept stopping to take pictures!

Some nice folks took our picture at the overlook at the north end of Oak Creek Canyon.

Look at that road snaking though the canyon!

Down lower in the canyon, looking up at the red cliffs. We kept rounding bends and catching glimpses of these stunning red cliffs above us.

This stunner was just before we got to Sedona.

We found a parking space on the main drag in Sedona and went on walkabout. Max got the usual praise and adulation, and I got to be his sidekick. I always thought Sedona was in the desert – but it’s not. It’s pretty high up in elevation (above 5,000 feet I think), and surrounded by Ponderosa pine, and those gorgeous red rock outcroppings.

We stopped at Pink Jeep Java for a delicious panini and latté for me. While I was waiting for the sandwich, someone said behind me, “Hey! Max! How are ya boy?” Fans follow us everywhere…

Just your typical Sedona street view! Imagine living in a town with this as the backdrop!

Max thought this sculpture was a real girl at first.
After lunch, a pit stop for me, and more walkabout, I spotted a shop selling The Original Dirt Bag – made with 100% pure red dirt from Arizona. (A tote bag that’s been washed with the red dirt to give it a beautiful color. Everything in the shop was “dirt-washed.”) Linda, the shopkeeper, came out to greet Max, and gave him a dog treat and a bowl of water while I picked out a bag and a baseball cap.

Max with Linda – his new best friend.

We left Sedona about 1:15 to head further south to visit Arcosanti, an experimental community under construction in the Arizona high desert intended to present an alternative to urban sprawl. Arcosanti is a project of the Cosanti Foundation initiated by Paolo Soleri, who, at age 92, still presents two weekly discussion forums, “School of Thought.” My son-in-law, Jonathan spent three months apprenticing at Arcosanti in 1989 and I really wanted to see it.

Just outside of Sedona, there’s the chapel of the Holy Cross, perched high on the red rock above the road. I made a quick decision to turn onto Chapel Road without knowing this was the case, so I was stunned when I saw the chapel up there on the rock:

The Chapel of the Holy Cross is the opposite of the Chapel of the Holy Dove, bigger, grandiose setting, open, light, and airy.

We spotted these cactus flowers on the way down from the chapel.

More red rock formations near the chapel.

Moving on, we arrived at Arcosanti just before 3PM – just in time for a scheduled tour. Before we went in, I snapped a photo of Max in front of the sign, and texted it to Jonathan:

To start our tour, we watched a 15 minute video introduction to the theories around Arcology – a concept of ecological human habitats introduced by Paolo Soleri in the late 1960s, exploring an alternative urban development in the age of environmental crisis.

After almost six weeks of driving through the sprawl surrounding our cities – both large and not-so-large, this video presentation brought me to tears. Here is a man of vision who recognized that sprawl would destroy the fabric of community in our country back in the 50s and decided to create an experimental community in the 60s.

Here, in his own words:
“The problem I am confronting is the present design of cities only a few stories high, stretching outward in unwieldy sprawl for miles. As a result of their sprawl, they literally transform the earth, turn farms into parking lots and waste enormous amounts of time and energy transporting people, goods and services over their expanses. My solution is urban implosion rather than explosion.”
–Paolo Soleri

We had a marvelous one-hour tour of Arcosanti, during which time Jonathan sent me two photographs from his time there. Ironically, when I received them we were discussing the amphitheater, which is what Jonathan was helping to build in 1989! I was able to share those photos with my guide, Arthur.

You can see only part of the Arcosanti complex as you approach from the parking lot.

The sale of Soleri-designed wind bells provide the major support for the project. This is where the clay bells are formed.

A view of the amphitheater at Arcosanti.

Arcosanti is a brave experiment that hasn’t met Paolo Soleri’s original goals of a community of 5,000. However, it continues to evolve and grow. They are in the process of building an apron of solar greenhouses that will not only provide food, but also help to heat the buildings in the winter months.

I came away with mixed feelings; on the one hand, inspired by the dream and its reality, and on the other discouraged by the fact of how much of our country has been compromised by urban sprawl. Having seen it up close for these past weeks, where we have been sheltering at night on the fringes of cities (in and part of the sprawl), I’m disheartened by the realization of just how daunting is the task of changing it.

And so, by 4:15 we were back on the road, heading towards the sprawl of Prescott…

…where, once again, we are resting on the fringes.


About Maureen Farr

I am a graphic and web designer – and the publisher of the print version of Arts Guide, a free guide highlighting the arts, dining, events, and more on the coast of Maine. In addition, I am a visual artist working in mixed media and encaustic, as well as creating found object jewelry. I am currently at work revising a short novel that I wrote as a participant in the 32nd Annual 3-Day Novel Contest.
This entry was posted in Arizona, Coffee, Eating out on a road trip, On the Road, Random thoughts, Traveling with a dog, Traveling wth a poodle and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

4 Responses to Oak Creek Canyon, Sedona, Arcosanti…

  1. Wow! Great post–I was convinced that you would be impressed with Paolo’s mission for Arcosanti after hearing your sadness throughout your years of travel with Rufino, at seeing all of the urban spraw in many of the places you visited. I’m just thrilled that you saw Arcosanti at last because it’s been one of my dreams since I met jon years ago and heard how important an experience it was to him.

    Sedona looks incredible too! What a view! And then the brilliant views only continued… I’m so glad you’re having these ultra-quality experiences in this area of the country!

    Long may you and Herr Max of the German cut ride! Xoxo

    • Maureen Farr says:

      Thanks Cin! It’s been an intersting few days what with Carsbad, Petrified Forest, Grand Canyon, etc. and then yesterday! today is overcast in Prescott, and I haven’t decided which direction to head love you!

  2. guy oliver says:

    Maureen This post brought tears to my eyes, I remember this area so well. I was stationed at Cottonwood when I was a Naval Aviation Cadet and spent Sundays at a roller rink half way up the canyon between Sedona and Flagstaff. At that time Sedona was just a gas station and a small grocery store at the bend just before heading up the canyon. You will pass through Cottonwood and you will see a stone building on the R. side of the road that was our barracks. The town still had hitching posts in front of the only saloon in town. After Cottonwood you will see Clarkdale which was the Phelps Dodge Copper Co. company town. Next is Jerome and when I was there it was a real ghost town that was sinking into the subsidance of the copper mines. Houses that were occupied were the twostory houses and the upper floor became the entrance through a window turned into a door. The winding streets literally provided a chance to p–s on you neighbor one block below. Prescott at that time was a lovely town and a most desirable place to live.

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