Monday, December 13, 2010

Sedona, Slide Rock, Flagstaff and Snow!

Sunday was a busy day. We decided to take a day trip up to Sedona and Flagstaff with Betty and Randy. The weather was going to be in the high 70’s to 80’s. We could not let such a perfect day go to waste. Max and I got up and we packed us up some lunches and headed over to Betty and Randy’s. We wanted to get on the road by 10 am . Sedona is about a hour and a half drive from us and we wanted to take our time.

Our first stop was the visitor center we we stopped to get a park pass. Bell Rock was in the distance.

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Max with her sister Betty

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Sedona is a beautiful area surrounded by mountains of red rocks. So why are the rocks in Sedona red? 

Answering that question will take 320 million years.  How much time do you have?  Okay, just a little geology joke to keep things light.  We'll try to speed up the timeline for you.

First, you should know that Sedona sits at the foot of the Mogollon Rim which is the southern most part of the Colorado Plateau and extends for 200 miles across central Arizona to the White Mountains and averages 7,000 feet high.

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The Mogollan Rim is just south of Flagstaff.  The height and location of the Colorado Plateau in Northern Arizona makes it a perfect spot for ponderosa pines. In fact, this region has the largest ponderosa pine forest on the continent.  The Colorado Plateau, of course, is where the Grand Canyon sits.

About 320 million years ago, the area of Sedona lay under water in a sea, and the first layer of Sedona's rock formation came from the shells of sea creatures.  Later, rivers deposited sediment that is now red sandstone that easily erodes.  About 275 million years ago, sand that was eroded from ancient mountains and carried by ancient rivers was deposited in a delta, now Sedona.  In the Sedona area, sometimes a sea covered the land, and at other times the area of Sedona was a flood plain adjacent to the seacoast. Either way, sediment settled onto it. Rocks from this time constitute the most colorful rocks in the Sedona area and is commonly referred to as the Schnebly Hill Formation.  Eventually, about 1900 feet of rock covered the entire Sedona area.

The uplift of the Colorado Plateau several million years ago that created the Grand Canyon, also caused a cracking of the earth in the Sedona area. Earlier pressures caused by the movement of huge blocks of the earth’s crust also created cracks. Water followed the cracks and wore away the surrounding rock, resulting in creeks and streams. Because of this wearing away of rock during the last few million years in the Sedona area, we now have Bell Rock, Courthouse Rock, Cathedral Rock, and Coffee Pot Rock, as well as other cliff faces in the Sedona area. In general, they are capped by an erosion-resistant limestone that now protects the underlying softer layers from erosion.

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So Why are the red rocks red?

The answer is:  iron!  Sandstone is porous, and when water carrying dissolved iron drains through the sandstone, some of the iron is left behind, and it is this iron in the form of iron oxide, which is red, that coats the grains of quartz and gives it color.

The red rocks of Sedona, then, originated, some of them, from sediment in a sea or floodplain, while others originated from blown sand on dry land or in coastal areas. They can be distinguished by their colors, some more bright orange than others, some red, some tan. The bright orange rocks are more than 250 million years old. The white or grey rocks are either limestone that formed at the bottom of a sea, or else they are sandstone that has lost its red color because the color has been flushed out by water. There is also much basalt, extruded by volcanoes, in the area.

While we were in Sedona we went to the Chapel of the Holy Cross.  This Chapel is beautifully built between two red spires on the hillside with fantastic views.

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The unique architecture and location of the Chapel of the Holy Cross are the inspirations of Marguerite Bruswig Staude, who went on a trip to New York City in 1932. She observed that a cross could be seen in the newly constructed Empire State Building when viewed from a certain angle, and was inspired to built a church based on that design.

Staude kept an eye out all over Europe and the USA for the ideal location, and she was especially struck by the beauty of Sedona. She decided to build her chapel here, which would be "a monument to faith, but a spiritual fortress so charged with God, that it spurs man's spirit godward." The Chapel of the Holy Cross was completed in April 1956.

Maxine and Betty on the ramp up to the chapel

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The entrance

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A hand carved and gilded statue of Archangel Michael welcomes you at the entrance.

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The Alter

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Betty and Randy just outside the entrance

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There is a small gift shop in the basement and we decided to go take a look around. We did find a little sign that we bought that says: “Our HOME is just a little house but God knows where we live”. We thought that was just perfect for our little home on wheels.

After our trip through Sedona we headed towards Slide Rock State Park to have lunch and to look at the “slide”.

Slide Rock State Park is a state park located in Oak Creek Canyon in north central Arizona, seven miles north of Sedona. It takes its name from a natural water slide, formed by the slippery bed of Oak Creek. Tall red rock formations that are typical of the region also surround the park, which contains a 43-acre working apple farm.

In the summer this creek will attract 250,000 people to slip and slide down its slippery slope.

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Here is a big boulder that is popular for pictures. Here Max thinks she can roll it!

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A rare picture of both of us.

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We left the Sedona area and headed to Snow Bowl ski area that is in Flagstaff. We could not get all the way to the top because it is closed due to not enough snow yet to open. We got as far as we could and took in the beauty of the higher altitude and the surrounding pine’s and aspens.

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This is as much snow as we want to see. It was a beautiful drive up the mountain to an elevation of about 9700 feet. By the time we got back down and into Flagstaff it was getting dark and we still had about a two hour drive back home. We made it back to Phoenix at about 7 pm where we stopped to have pizza at a pizza place called “The Streets of New York” . This is also where I learned that the Chiefs were blown out by the San Diego Chargers 31 to 0. After my brief pity party I went back to enjoying the dinner and company.

We may take a bike trip to Prescott and to Jerome later in the week. We have to take advantage of the fine weather while we can. I also changed the way that comments can be made on the blog. You no longer have to have an account to leave a comment. All you have to do is select the down arrow and put your name in the name/url box and leave your comment. You will still have to type in the word that shows up. This keeps the automatic spam from hitting the comments section of the blog.

See Ya!

2 comments:

Jim and Dee said...

Great coverage on why the rocks are red. Thanks for taking us with you on your journey.

Anonymous said...

Dave:
You and Max look great! Merry Christmas. You could replace Rick Steves as a travel commentator. Got a new Wing last week. 2010 Yellow with a Roadsmith Trike kit. Email me and we'll talk. Steve