I shot this photo while the rented mini-van I was driving was rolling up the road toward the Red Rock Country and Sedona, Arizona. This was my first (and so far, only) visit to the "small" artist community about 110 miles north and, about a two-hour drive from Phoenix. My mental impression of Sedona had always been of a small hamlet in a valley made up of red rock mountains. I pictured small, low to the ground, adobe cottages inhabited by a community of artists who painted, threw and decorated pots, sculpted, composed music, wrote books and other similar artistic endeavors with a small population of folks to operated retail establishments and support services for such a community.
Of course, from this approach (driving in from Cottonwood, a community about 19 miles south of Sedona, a 25 minute drive), I became immediately disillusioned. First, of course, I could see that the small city was spread out over a sizeable piece of geography. The actual city area of Sedona is about 18 square miles. The significant number of signs identifying various civic groups that were present in Sedona was also a quick giveaway that what I was soon to experience was nothing like my mental picture. I also learned that Sedona is about 4,500 feet above sea level in the high desert and I was expecting it to be at a much lower elevation in some kind of "bowl" surrounded by mountains. Actually, from the vantage point of the motel I decided to stay at in Cottonwood (I didn't have My McVansion at this time), Sedona appeared to be much lower than Cottonwood. In fact, I guess the desert can be deceiving, because Cottonwood was actually about 1,200 feet lower than Sedona.
When I finally arrived in Sedona, my mental picture was dashed. I found a small city of about 10,000 people (about 1,300 less than Cottonwood). While the houses were generally low, they really didn't resemble the small, adobe cottages I envisioned. But, I guess the thing that really took the wind out of my sails was that it appeared to be a pricey tourist trap. I didn't see any quaint evidence of the artist community I imagined. There were numerous strip malls, restaurants of all descriptions including a sizeable number of upscale restaurants, a variety of better known, mid range to high priced hotels and along with the general retail and support stores and services, there were lots of places to help reduce the amount of cash one had by replacing it with pricey "stuff." At the north end of Sedona there was a very upscale, Spanish architecture, walled mall. It was lovely, but certainly not what I was looking for. In general, I could easily ascertain that Sedona was a much more costly place to both visit and live than near by Cottonwood.
So, in doing a little research, I guess what I was really expecting was a 1970 type Sedona when the population was about 2,000 and not a 2010 Sedona with a little over 10,000. That was an average increase in population of about 2,000 more residents every decade since 1970. The mental picture I had been carrying around in my mind since around the mid 70's is what I would have likely found if I had visited Sedona back in the day. While I enjoyed my visit to Sedona (I was there attending a workshop) and I enjoyed exploring some of the region and seeing the geographic features of the region, it's not a place I'm anxious to return to just to visit and hang out. And frankly, I stayed at a nice, budget motel in Cottonwood for about $100.00 per night LESS than it would have cost me to stay in the Hampton Inn in Sedona. That was about a $300.00 savings and I can guarantee it didn't cost $300.00 to make the 38 mile round trip to Cottonwood each day for three days.