My father was a rock hound, so I developed my love of geology early. He’d bring home a new find and hand it to me proudly.
“This is schist,” he’d announce. Or, “Take a look at this snowflake obsidian!” His excitement was infectious, and I got excited, too.
So when I moved to Sedona, I felt right at home. There are a lot of rocks in Sedona. Most of them are red. Most of them have names. And over the years, they have become old friends, familiar and beloved.
At the Grand Canyon, or Bryce, or Zion, the formations have majestic names like Bridge of Sighs or Bright Angel Trail, or El Tovar, but in this red rock country, the names are more humble: Coffeepot Rock, Submarine Rock, Rabbit Ears, Lizard Head, Teapot, and the best of all, Snoopy Rock.
Sedona has a population of only fifteen thousand people, but over three million people visit every year. Sometimes foreign tourists come in tours, not speaking a word of English, but with guidebooks in hand. They’ll collar bystanders on Main Street and point to the page.
“Snoopy Rock? Where Snoopy Rock?” they demand.
At dusk, sometimes the sun will break out under brooding purple clouds illuminating one red rock formation after another. Amazing, memorable, never the same. It’s a great traveling light show, roaring across the horizon.
From the viewpoint at Airport Mesa, there’s a grand panorama of red rocks. People will start gathering about sunset, just to participate, together, in the magnificent vista.
Some the rocks around Sedona are Hollywood famous: Cathedral Rock was in any number of Westerns. On Highway 179, Bell Rock greets visitors coming into red rock country, looking just like, you guessed it, a liberty bell.
My favorite rock, though, is Slide Rock. I met this great place long ago, when I attended high school in Flagstaff. Back then, our favorite ditch day spot was the apple-orchard picnic ground and slippery red sandstone at Slide Rock.
There, a 30-foot slide of snowmelt water tumbles through a narrow, moss-covered chute dumping sliders into a pool of frigid water. The wise locals wear old jeans, because the chute rips apart ordinary swimsuits with one slide.
Right now, in winter, the red rocks peek out under a dusting of snow. But in my dreams, red rock country is forever summer under a full moon. Then, the red rocks glow white in the warm summer nights. Eerie and unforgettable.
Red rock fever.