• Julie Stevens

Soaring With The Spirit Of Sedona

Updated: Aug 17, 2021

sedona arizona hot air balloon

Photo by A Model Traveler

High above the traditional desert scene of Arizona, lies a greener, breezier Sedona. The temperature on average is 20 degrees cooler than the neighbors from the south, so expect them to frequent here, especially in the summer months. I explored Sedona this past June, and somehow the daily 100-degree temperatures still felt considerably cooler than the 110-degree temperatures I had experienced in Phoenix last July.

Sedona sits nestled into the discernible red sandstone formations that have beckoned out of town guests for centuries. Although history proves there were settlers as far back as 9000 B.C., she didn't receive her namesake until the late 1800's. The first postmaster was married to a well-respected and revered woman of the town, Sedona.

red rocks sedona arizona

Photo by A Model Traveler

I scheduled a fitness and lifestyle photo shoot during my stay, as this stunning backdrop is unlike anything you'll find in the Pacific Northwest. Outdoor activities take a little extra effort if you're not used to high elevations. Sedona rests about 4,500 feet above sea level. The good news, your body burns fuel more quickly at higher altitudes, so bring on the carbs!

Julie Stevens Model Fitness Lifestyle Sedona

Photo by Brandon Tigrett

For outdoor enthusiasts, hiking trails are plentiful, as are yoga retreats, and spiritual outings. Famous for their vortexes, Sedona houses several of these powerful sites. There are numerous accounts of vibrational forces, tingling sensations in the extremities, and a rush of energy or heat throughout the body. Now, this could simply be the high altitude and loss of oxygen to the brain for some, but I for one believe in the earth's energy and its transformations. These vortexes have been studied for years and measured through dowsing. Look for the twisted and spiraling tree trunks as a tell-tale sign that you're in the right place.

vortex twisted tree sedona

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Jeep tours are available and offer a nice history lesson of the city and its many wonders. I suggest taking the earliest tour, as the desert sun makes for a sweaty ride in the afternoon. Both Pink Jeep Tours and Red Rock Jeep Tours offer great options for off-roading or "easy on the pavement" options. A few in our party suffer from lower back issues, so we chose the latter and saved ourselves from Ibuprofen later.

Our spirited driver, El Diablo, was a history enthusiast and passionate about Sedona's spirituality and the mythical stories that accompany it. He spoke of Native beliefs and how each of the sandstone formations received their signature nicknames, e.g. Snoopy Rock, Coffee Pot Rock, Steamboat Rock and The Nuns. He also told stories of Sedona's label as Arizona's Little Hollywood. This stunning backdrop has been the playground to over 100 films, not surprising, most of them Westerns.

I also recommend spending an afternoon at Tlaquepaque. It's been a city staple since the 1970's, but feels as if you've been transported back to an authentic Mexican village centuries old. Cobblestone streets, sycamore trees, vine covered stucco and a fountain centerpiece make for impressive surroundings while you shop for illustrious blown glass, artwork, clothing and jewelry. While some pieces were a little over my artist's budget, the South African Copper jewelry pieces at Renee Taylor Gallery, were unique and affordable. I chose a gorgeous cuff bracelet and earrings to match.

Check Tlaquepaque's events calendar before you go. If you see Gaetano and friends on the docket, pull up a chair in the courtyard, order a Sangria from El Rincon restaurant and stay awhile. If the sounds of Spanish Guitar and passionate ballads inspired by Spain and Latin America make the hairs on your arms stand up as they do mine, you're in for a real treat.

tlaquepaque sedona arizona

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A word of caution before flying an additional 4,500 feet above sea level in a Northern Lights hot air balloon. Do not, under any circumstances, sing Up, Up and Away by The 5th Dimension. The pilots deplore this song. Even if you think you're the first person to ever come up with this clever little ditty before such an adventure, don't do it! Okay, now that we have that remedied, let's go up, up and away.

hot air balloon sedona arizona

Photo by A Model Traveler

My mom and her boyfriend had taken a ride with Northern Lights Adventures years ago and have been raving about it ever since. My mom, who is not fond of heights in any way, faced her fears and climbed into that little woven gondola. There's just something about this landscape that makes people do crazy things.

Our chief pilot, Blair Preston, has been transporting thrill-seekers for over 30 years. I knew I was going to mesh with his wit and good-natured sarcasm instantly. It's clear he has a deep fondness for his line of work and for those who put their safety into his capable hands.

The sunrise was the ideal backdrop for these floating vessels. I watched intently as each balloon was filled to capacity and patrons swung their legs over the basket, ready for the ride of their lives. The final balloon was ours, and we were 10 feet off the ground before I even realized we had taken off. That is to say, it was one smooth operation.

The beauty of a 7-person basket, is that it's a rather intimate ride. I enjoyed getting to know not only our pilot, but my fellow voyagers. We had a lovely family from Georgia, retired Army, and a sweet elderly couple from Mississippi. She was a retired high-school principal of 30-years, and quickly became my comrade. Mary had traveled all over the world with her late husband, and just recently took a solo trip to China. Now, she's continuing those adventures with her new male friend. At one point she told me that her girlfriend had recently taken this balloon ride and had cautioned her to dress in layers, as it gets extremely cold at that high altitude. As the pilot was engaging the torch directly above our heads, Mary then went on to say in her thick southern accent, "I am just going to kill her, it is so hot up here. What was she thinking? I should have worn my bathing suit!"

hot air balloon sedona arizona

Photo by A Model Traveler

The hour and a half adventure was just as serene and peaceful as I had imagined it would be. Like soaring with the spirits. As there are no steering capabilities, pilots can only raise and lower their balloons. So, in his lengthy career, Blair has landed only one time in the same place as he originated. Things did wrap up nicely with a routine "crash landing" of sorts, and the rest of the crew was there to catch us and set us gently back down to terra firma. The pilots hosted a delightful breakfast and a champagne toast accompanied by The Balloonist's Prayer:

The winds have welcomed you with softness.

The sun has blessed you with its warm hands. We have flown so high and so well that God has joined you in laughter and set you gently back into the loving arms of Mother Earth."

And that He did.

hot air balloon sedona arizona

Photo by A Model Traveler

Sedona's mild climate, vibrant arts community and nucleus for outdoor activities makes it a desirable vacation destination and an enticing resting place for newcomers. One of the things I treasure most about traveling are the people I meet, like the charming Parisian working the gelato counter, or the cheerful retailer from Stuttgart, Germany.

red rocks sedona arizona

Photo by A Model Traveler

You never know who you're going to meet and the stories you

might share. Keep your mind open and your heart accessible to the possibilities.

red rocks sedona arizona

Photo by Brandon Tigrett

Red Rock Jeep Tours

Pink Jeep Tours

Tlaquepaque - Renee Taylor Gallery

Tlaquepaque - Events Page

Northern Light Balloon Expeditions

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