In Arizona’s Red Rock Country

Look for the Teal-Green Arches

Bell Rock
Sue De Lapa

Banned in Sedona: In Sedona, high in Arizona’s breathtaking red rock country, McDonald’s arches aren’t golden. They’re teal-green, which should tell you a lot about this town of 10,000.

When the burger chain knocked at Sedona City Hall, zealous guardians of the region’s open vistas and copper-colored mountains told McDonald’s to take its golden arches and take a flying leap.

Leaders wanted no vulgar, ticky-tacky, pseudo-gold conflicting with the warm glow from Mother Nature’s buttes, mesas, and towering cathedral-like mountains. McDonald’s finally gave in. Now the eatery has achieved a sort of Internet fame as the only McDonald’s in the world with turquoise arches.

Many towns with sign-height restrictions have told Big Mac to lower its iconic arches if it wants to invade with its gross fast “food.” But never, never before did it agree to change the colors.

Enchantment Resort nestled in a canyon
Sue De Lapa

Sedona stuck to its guns. So when Sue and I rolled through town a few weeks ago, there were the famed teal-green-turquoise arches, as Southwestern as you can get. Sedona also has strict height rules, and it’s a rare structure that exceeds two stories. You apparently can paint your building any color as long as it’s a shade of tan. (Even the five-star luxury resort Enchantment, far outside town, has a muted color scheme, all the better for guests to appreciate the red-orange walls of Boynton Canyon.) No honky-tonk neon signs flashing, either, at least that I noticed. There are strict rules governing outdoor lights in town, lest they drown out the stars and wonders of the night sky.

All this helps preserve the quality of life in this high country town. (Santa Barbara might do well to consider some of these same measures). It also preserves what over 3 million visitors a year come to see.

When I first laid eyes on Sedona in the early 1960s, with a station wagon full of kids, it was only about one or two blocks long, its shops a mecca for rock hounds. Now the main drag twists and turns, lined with fancy restaurants and hotels for the tourists, for many stop off between Phoenix and the Grand Canyon. There’s money in this town. Celebrities have second homes and gourmet restaurants abound. Rene at Tlaquepaque, located in a high-end shopping center, serves as good a selection of French cuisine as you can find this side of the Rockies and maybe this side of the Atlantic. Walk into Dahl & DiLuca, sip a glass of brunello, order pasta and you’d swear you’re in Tuscany. A big locals’ hangout.

Frosty Leaves
Sue De Lapa

Out in the red dirt country outside town, trails honeycomb the hills, attracting families who hike. (Sue and I are planning to do that very thing next time.) Other visitors prowl the vaunted vortex power-spots Sedona is famous for, along with its New Age aura. Vortexes are supposedly special places in the earth that beam up psychic energy power. There are several well-known vortex spots around Sedona, one just outside Enchantment in Boynton Canyon. You can get there from downtown via the excellent Sedona Trolley. There are vortex books, maps and even vortex tours. (You can also explore the back country and Indian ruins via the Pink Jeep tours.)

I‘ve only had one experience with a Sedona vortex. Visiting one with friends a few years ago, I was shocked when one of the women ran up to the circle of rocks in the desert, leaped, and stomped down in the middle of the circle. It immediately began to pour down rain, forcing us to flee. Any connection? I have no idea.

Antlers at a Sedona shop
Sue De Lapa

One morning, while getting something from our car at Enchantment, I spotted a group of deer roaming the hotel’s pueblo-style casitas, one with a huge rack of antlers. “We have about two dozen deer,” one worker told me. Families of javelina, member of the New World wild pig family, nest among the trees across the canyon from the casitas. “You can hear them grunting,” one employee said. Sue and I searched but did not spot the creatures.

Enchantment’s Yavapai, an elegant restaurant with spectacular views of the countryside, has unbeatable food and friendly service. For breakfast, we wandered over to Enchantment’s ii amo spa, a self-contained resort-within-a-resort where you can stay while being rubbed the right way. The modernistic design is worth the visit.

One of the West’s great drives is Oak Creek Canyon, a twisting road that drops below the Mogollon Rim and follows Oak Creek north on Highway 89A to Flagstaff. In summer, crowds of people plunge into the creek and slide down the slick rock in Slide Rock State Park.

Sunrise over the red rocks at Enchantment
Sue De Lapa


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