Sedona is a weird place-- it's incredibly beautiful, a town set within red rock buttes, mesas, and spires, with a clear shady stream running down the Oak Creek Canyon and then right under Route 179 . . . it's essentially like placing a bunch of houses and restaurants and shops inside Arches National Park, but there's more vegetation and the weather isn't as severe . . . check out the pics at Captions of Cat if you need some visuals . . . so you've got a super-touristy and rather cheesy "uptown" and then high-end galleries and the Tlaquepaque Arts and Crafts Village, which is essentially a giant outdoor sculpture in the form of a ritzy shopping mall-- I've never seen anything like it-- and there are houses in the hills owned by celebrities-- our guide mentioned Nicholas Cage (who was in a film called Red Rock West) and Walt Disney and Al Pacino and Lucille Ball . . . but then there are umpteen miles of hiking and biking trails, so you've got all the outdoors people wandering around, and then there are the vortex people and the hippies and the psychics and the folks living in a van in the hotel parking lot and the dude sleeping in the botanical garden . . . it is a wacky mix of high end resort, low-end tourist trap, retirement community, and outdoor wonderland . . . we did a few hikes, into Fay Canyon, which was shady and had some excellent rock climbing at the end, and around the Airport Mesa, which offers the best views, but we also rested our legs one morning and took a Jeep Tour to Soldiers Pass . . . our guides name was Dan and here are a few things we learned on the trip:
1) Dan wears a cowboy hat, carries a .41 caliber pistol, a rare size which he claims shoots flat and straight, hails from Connecticut, and-- like Andy Bernard-- went to Cornell . . . this totally amused me, but he's been out West since 1991 and has lost all traces of East Coast accent and mannerisms;
2) Dan is very proud of the fact that his Jeep Tour Company-- Red Rock Western Jeep Tours-- has the exclusive rights to the Soldiers Pass route, which features the Devil's Kitchen Sinkhole . . . and he pointed out that this sinkhole is seven times bigger than the Pink Jeep Tours sinkhole on the Broken Arrow tour . . . my sinkhole is bigger than your sinkhole kind of stuff;
3) my wife believes Dan is legally blind-- which is a bit scary, considering some of the steep slickrock trails he navigated-- but she might be right, his sunglasses we extraordinarily thick and he couldn't see the large Cooper's hawk perched on a tree in the middle of the trail until we pointed it out to him . . . despite this possible disability, he did a fantastic job not driving off any cliffs;
4) we saw the Seven Sacred Pools, high in the red rocks, and learned that in the desert, dirty water is clean and clean water is probably contaminated with arsenic and/or mercury . . . and these dirty little pools were full of tadpoles and frogs;
5) Dan knows a great deal about botany and zoology, and we all listened intently when he told us about the thirteen species of rattlesnakes and the deal with Mormon tea (it's stronger than coffee, a Mormon loophole!) and about the shaggy barked juniper that Walt Disney used as a model, and he also knows a great deal about geology, but we usually zoned out when he talked about sediment and erosion and tectonic plates . . . although I did like the fact that the Devil's Kitchen Sinkhole increased in size in 1989, a consequence of the Bay Area earthquake that cancelled the World Series and I now know the correct definition of a butte (it's not a rock formation shaped like a butt).