Nine Mile: A hidden gem in the heart of the Jamaican Mountains 

Contributing Writer: Danielle Press

 

When someone brings up Jamaica our minds immediately conjure up images of long sandy coastlines and an array of greens and blues, which create an indescribable ocean hue.  We imagine coconut drinks, sun kissed cheeks, and reggae beats.  Negril, Kingston, Ocho Rios, and Montego Bay are some of the most well known and visited areas of the country.  While they do deserve time and exploration, there is one small town in Jamaica that has stolen my heart and deserves a spot on anyones Jamaican itinerary.  

  For nearly 6 months my husband and I have lived in Nine Mile, a small town in the heart of the mountains, and Bob Marley’s birthplace. This beautiful area offers a glimpse into an authentic and simple way of life, insight into the present day beauty and hardships of rural Jamaica, and a look into the future, where dreams are constantly being chased.  Spending time in Nine Mile isn’t for the faint of heart though, if only for the reason that this is a true small town, in rural Jamaica.  Music can blare until 6 a.m., dogs can be heard at all hours, and a squealing pig will regularly rouse you from a deep slumber.  It isn’t for close minded or judgmental travellers.  It isn’t for someone searching for luxury and the finer things in life. It is for those who seek an authentic experience.  It is a place for the traveler who doesn't want to be a tourist.  It is a place where if you invest in it, it will invest in you.

 As you pull into the small town of Nine Mile you will be hit with a collection of sights, sounds, and first impressions.  I am going to be honest with you.  This is one of those situations where you shouldn't judge a book by its cover.  Houses aren’t crumbling down, they are being built up.  Most people build their houses until they run out of money.  It may take years for the houses to be finished, but they eventually do.  It is a slow process, but one that is necessary when fluid cash is hard to come by.  You will also notice people hanging out all along the street, at all hours of the day and night.  This isn’t an indication of laziness or a lack of purpose.  Their lives are centred around community and relationships, which they sustain by hanging out on the street.  More so, many of them have lost their livelihood, their ability to farm. The history of Nine Mile lies in farming, and deeper than that, it lies in their connection and reliance on the natural world.  Generation after generation has depended on the beautiful red, Jamaican dirt that builds the foundation of this country.  Strip mining for the materials used in aluminum have devastated this land, leaving the once fertile soil stripped of its nutrients.  Yet, out of this hardship comes ingenuity, creativity, and new dreams.  This is the community you will find if you spend time in Nine Mile. 

 

 

THINGS TO DO AND SEE IN NINE MILE, JAMAICA

 

 

Whether you arrive on the East coast of Jamaica or the West, from Montego Bay or Kingston, people will know of Nine Mile.  It is located in the heart of St. Ann Parish, nestled in the mountains and far off the beaten path.  Still, most guest-houses and hotels will be able to provide information or transportation to Nine Mile.  However, this will most likely come in the form of a day trip to the famous Bob Marley Museum. While this is a great draw and well worth the visit for any Marley or music fan, I implore the ‘seekers’ to spend more than a few hours.  Stay for a day or two, immerse yourself, get to know the people, and I promise, you will leave with a full heart.  This community is growing, just like the farms they are trying to bring back into the area.

 

NINE MILE CULTURAL HANGOUT

 

 

Nine Mile Cultural Hangout is one of the few established tours in the area.  Acting as a guest-house, a restaurant, and a tour provider, the Hangout has it all.  Located next to Bob Marley’s Museum, you are immediately drawn to the bright green and pink paint against the vibrant blue bird skies.  The Hangout is run by Lovest and her daughter Priscilla.  You will find the premise occupied by Lovest’s kind and observant parents, her adorable granddaughter, and scores of other children and passer-bys.  The building has been around for 50 years, first starting as their family home, and slowly growing into what it is today. The Yum - Yum restaurant provides delicious and authentic Jamaican cuisine.  Keeping it in the family, Lovest’s nephew Bobby will take you on an Eco tour of some farms in Nine Mile.  He will introduce local fauna and flora and explain the history of the area.  The tour reaches its climax as you ascend the mountains to reach a beautiful crystal cave.  While it is small, it is magical, and you are greeted by nothing but clear blue skies and a vast mountain scape, as you crawl out the other side.  

 

Tips:  

#1You can hire a taxi to take you to the starting point of the tour or you can walk.  I highly suggest walking so that you can channel the vibe and energy of the area.  

#2The tour will last about an hour if you take a taxi and around two hours if you walk. 

#3While the Cultural Hangout is currently the only established tour group, others are always willing to take people around.  You can usually find a tour guide hanging around the Bob Marley Museum, open to showing you the different types of farms in Nine Mile.  Additionally, these locals can also guide any nature lover on a hike through parts of the bush.  Here you will pass the other residents of Nine Mile and the hundreds of goats, donkeys, pigs, and cattle that call these hills and pastures home.  It is not unlikely to even pass a baby goat, roaming free and frolicking amongst the high grass.  

 

THE BOB MARLEY MUSEUM

 

While there are other Bob Marley Museums located in Jamaica, the one located in Nine Mile is special.  This is the birth place of Bob Marley.  Nearly everyone working at the museum, and countless others still living in town, are related to Bob Marley in one way or another.  Their pride runs deep and it can be felt.  His music blares and there is a constant barrage of One Love sentiments.  The first thing you will notice as you approach the Museum is the hustle.  The salesmen can offer you anything, food, necklaces, wooden sculptures, refreshments, and other goodies to get you into the Jamaican mindset. You can choose to indulge in the game or simply continue on to the inside of the compound.  Once past the large purple gates you enter the museum.  You will immediately find your ears greeted with music from the local band. Grab a Red Stripe at the bar and the reggae vibe will be sure to set the mood. Further inside you will also find a showroom, another bar and restaurant, and one of Bob’s homes! The end of the tour brings you to a rock where Bob often laid his head to dream of Zion and create his magic, and finally, to the resting place of Bob and his mother.  The tour will leave you feeling connected and reminded of Bob’s vision, his brilliance, and his soul. 

 

THERE IS ALWAYS A REASON TO CELEBRATE

More nights than not, music can be heard reverberating through the hills until the early morning hours of the next day.  There seems to always be a reason to celebrate.  Whether it is a birthday, a wedding anniversary, a holiday, or even a death, the Jamaican people regularly keep the party going.  Starting early in the day, you can see people making preparations.  Speaker systems are being set up, fires are being started to cook food for all who attend, beverages are being delivered and organized, and the energy is in the air.  Parties can be held in homes, at the Bob Marley Museum, outside on the street, or at the local club.  The party doesn't start till late but when it does, the beats will pound, the drinks will flow, and the dancing won't stop.

Tip #1: Prepare yourself by taking a long, early nap in the evening.  While a party may claim to start at 10 pm, most people won’t bother to show up until well after midnight! 

 

FOOD

Jay’s Restaurant and Dan Dan’s Restaurant

There are a few restaurants in Nine Mile, but these two stand out the most.  Jay’s Restaurant, open Monday-Saturday, is a delicious Jerk and Fried Chicken Restaurant.  The owner and Chef, Jay, will greet you with a big smile before asking your order.  The dish will include a generous serving of chicken, rice and peas, pasta salad, and mixed vegetables.  I ROCK Health Food Restaurant is owned by Dan Dan, a local Rastafarian man who provides a vegetarian option for those who seek a meal without meat.  While the meal of the day is chef’s choice, you can find delicious dishes with Ackee, tofu, or veggie chunks.  Per usual, the meal is accompanied by a heap of rice and peas andvegetables.  From the upstairs patio you can enjoy your meal as you watch the hustle and bustle outside of the Bob Marley Museum.  

 

THE FUTURE OF NINE MILE

 

The future of Nine Mile comes in its potential and the dreams harboured by so many here.  It is not uncommon to see homes turning into guest houses.  Store fronts remain stocked, painted, and ready for service and anxious faces wait for an adventurous traveler.  Tourism still has a long way to come in Nine Mile but the vision and the drive are there.

Natural Mystic is part of Nine Mile’s Future and a vision created by Roxanne Little, a native to Nine Mile who is currently practicing Naturopathic healing in the United States.  She splits her time between her practice and her true home in Nine Mile.  Natural Mystic is her dream for a healing sanctuary and lodge.  Her plans include sweat lodges, a bird sanctuary, accommodations, and tree houses.  She will also offer her services, which include acupuncture, cupping, and iridology.  Her family and countless others in the community, including my husband and I, are currently helping to build this amazing dream.  She hopes Natural Mystic will be ready to accommodate within the year. So for the seekers who want something deeper, keep Natural Mystic on your radar! 

 

FINAL TIPS: 

Tip #1: The first and most important tip- A trip to Nine Mile isn’t necessarily about what you will do and see, so much as what you will experience and feel.  You will experience a beautiful community, a calming and green natural beauty, and a genuine interaction with Jamaica.

Tip #2:  Also important- There is no hospital, doctors office, or supermarket in the community.  This is something to take into consideration when visiting.  My husband and I came with a general first aid kit and, thankfully, that has worked out to be more than enough.  Additionally, if you would like snacks or specific food or drinks, plan ahead.  The closest supermarket is about an hour away, and it can be limiting.  The larger supermarkets can be found in the major cities.  

Tip #3:  There is no ATM.  The closest ATM is also about an hours drive away.  Prepare ahead of time.  Most people will be happy to take American or Jamaican currency. 

Tip #4:  If you require wifi access during your visit to Nine Mile, I suggest purchasing some credit or data from the local phone company, Digicel.  

Tip #5:  Enjoy every moment.  

 

the perfect 12 day itinerary for philippines

Doing research on putting together an awesome itinerary for the Philippines? LOOK NO FURTHER, because I spent hours on hours on researching what to do/where to go and successfully going on one off the most amazing trips of my life THAT I NOW GET TO SHARE WITH YOU!

*Please note- this is a trip that my husband and I took our moms on so it is not your typical money-saving, hostel-staying trip that I usually do. We spent a little extra more on accommodations, but because we were a group of 5 traveling, the per-person rate was not that high. Beside paying more for accommodation, the rest of our trip was SUPER cheap. The transport and food has an unbelievably low cost!!

Because of our group size, we had private transport wherever we went and had a private van (only if going long distances, otherwsie we took two of the little cab tricycles). For example, to get to Oslob back to the airport in Cebu City we paid about 18 dollars per person for the 4-5 hour ride.

The trip was a total of 12 days long- (1 day flying there was totally killed so I Lost a day, that’s why it really only shows 11 days in the itinerary) 

MOALBOAL

Day 1 - Arrived and went straight to White Beach, Moalboal

Stayed one night in airbnb. (I would have liked to go straight to Oslob but the flight was so long and I figured it would be nice to go somewhere closer vs farther away straight off the plane.)

Moalboal was about 2.5 hours from the airport vs Oslob would have been about 4-5.

I loved the airbnb that we stayed at, the house was in a perfect location on white beach, which is a super clean powdery white beach. I don’t have much else of a review of white beach because we arrived in the afternoon and left at 6 am the next day. --PS don't be afraid to negotiate a bit with airbnb prices, it's worked for me in the past!

 

KAWASAN FALLS and OSLOB

Day 2-

Left Moalboal at 6:30 to Kawasan Falls (This is en route to Oslob.)

I read numerous blogs on getting to Kawasan Falls EARLY to avoid crowds. I’m so glad I took the advice because we arrived around 7:15 and we were 1 of 2 groups there. It was so lovely to have the whole waterfall to ourselves. We spent about an hour at Kawasan waterfall and then headed to Oslob and  to get to our next Airbnb and we got there around noon.

We spent the rest of the day lounging in the amazing pool, drooling over the edge at the views (which is directly in front of Sumilon island!)

THIS AIRBNB IS MAGICAL- The location is perfect especially if you are going to swim with the whale sharks. *It's only 8 minutes away from whaleshark watching site* It is one of the most beautiful villa rentals I’ve seen in my life- literally sits on a cliff and you see a beautiful sunrise every morning. There are a couple of different airbnb pages for the villa based on what you want to rent- You can rent the whole villa, or just parts of it if you are looking for a cheaper price. We ended up renting the whole villa because we had a larger group and also wanted privacy because it was more of a family trip. The staff is super accommodating, and I spent time with each of them and left with friends :) *IF you want to rent here send Fay a message through airbnb, and PLEASE mention my name (Danielle Peterson Thurber)  I became friends with the owner and would love to send more guests her way. It’s always nice to hear your word-of-mouth referrals are working !! 

 

WHALE SHARK WATCHING AND SUMILION ISLAND

Day 3- Woke up early in Oslob and was at the whale sharks by 7 am. Again, I read tons of blogs saying GO EARLY NO LATER THAN 7!And they were all right. There were already heaps of people there by 7 am. If I did it again I may even try to arrive by 6 am :) Swimming with the whale sharks was such a cool experience, but you only get a short amount of time in the water with them, about 15-20 minutes if I recall.

The rest of the day we spent lounging in the pool staring at the views again (lol) and then the staff organized a boat to come pick us up right from the waters below the villa (AWESOME!) and take us to Sumilion island which is right across from the villa you can see in my picture. 

YOu can pay to go on the island which is a resort with a pool, but because we have the amazing airbnb pool (photo below) we didn’t feel the need to do that, so instead we just hung out for a few hours at the sandbar around the island and snorkeled in the crystal clear waters. I repeat, crystal clear. Reminded me of water in the Bahamas.

 

EL NIDO PALAWAN

Day 4- Woke up early to drive back to Cebu City for our AirSwift flight to EL Nido, Palawan. Arrived in El Nido around 4 pm and stayed at Aetas Glamping, which I found on AIrbnb.

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This is SERIOUSLY an amazing gem I found, and we stayed 3 nights here. The experience was something unique and different, and I wouldn’t have traded this stay for anything else. The staff was unbelievably accommodating, and they left little surprises on our bed every day (homemade organic lip balm, homemade hair masks, bed decorations, afternoon snacks, welcome drinks, etc) Seriously read the reviews on this place, and I Hope they convince you to stay there like it did me!!

We had breakfast at Aetas daily, but got recommendations for lunch and dinner in El Nido town for all other meals and they directed us to the best of the best local food joints in town which was SO AWESOME!

 

ISLAND HOPPING- BIG AND SMALL LAGOON

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Day 5- Woke up early to do combo island hopping tour, again EARLY we went at 8 am

 

DULI BEACH

Day 6- woke up early to do the last combo island hopping tour, again early 8 am- Then we rented scooters (Right at aetas) to go on a 45 minute ride to Go to DULI BEACH! DON’T MISS THIS BEACH- totally beautiful, white sands cove beach, HAS SURFING !!! There are 2 little beach restaurants at the end of the beach where you can rent surf boards. I went surfing and it was SO MUCH FUN. The restaurant's have a laid back surf vibe. This day was awesome!!!!!!!!!!!!!

 

APULIT ISLAND, EL NIDO RESORT

day 7-  Left early to go to APulit Island El Nido Resort- It was an 1.5 hour shuttle across the island and then an hour ferry ride to apulit island. Decided to splurge on our last few days (but even splitting the large water cottage between 5 people wasn’t even that bad!)

All meals and activities are included here. Free island hopping tours and snorkeling, free kayak and sup rentals, free rappelling, rock climbing, etc!

This place was everything and more!! Such a beautiful island to explore and relax.

 

Day 8- Apulit Island

 

Day 9- Apulit Island

 

Day 10- Fly airswift back to Cebu City (stayed one last night in Cebu CIty as transit point)

 

Day 11- FLY BACK TO CHICAGO EARLY!

 

Recommendations/What I would do differently:

I feel like my time in both Cebu and Palawan was sufficient and wouldn’t change my itinerary that I completed.

What I would do differently- I would spend more time in the Philippines but go to a couple more islands! One Island that I REALLY wanted to go to was Siargao, which is known as their surfing island and has a super tranquil, laid back vibe. Another island that I would have liked to go to is Siquijor, which is known for its mountain healers and being a “mystical island” - The terrain is supposed to be untouched and beautiful!

Because the Philippines is SUPER CHEAP, I would definitely recommend spending a little extra on the accommodations (if you are able to and it's in your budget, or finding a group of people to be able to do the larger airbnb rentals) I wouldn’t change for the world the places that I stayed, it really made it quite unique and adventurous.

 

TAKEAWAYS

All I have to say is VISIT THE PHILIPPINES!!! I got so much heat from people, "why would you want to go there? It's such a poor country, " they would say. 

Why wouldn't I? Just because a country is poor does not make it any less appealing to visit. The beaches and ocean was a blue unlike any other I've seen, the jungle landscape lush, and the people were absolutely beautiful, kind and accommodating. 

Traveling around the country was the cheapest of any place I've ever been to, and I got roundtrip tickets from Chicago for $500 through EVA air!!!!!!!! 

 

Your Best 6 Days In Washington

By: Danielle Peterson

If your looking for the perfect itinerary to escape to the Pacific Northwest, you've come to the right place. I've done all the research and experienced first hand the ultimate trip that YOU DEFINITELY DON'T WANT TO MISS. 

Washington state is considered the heart of the Pacific Northwest, and also takes the title of my new favorite state. I instantly fell in love with the diverse landscape, including the bustling seaport city of Seattle and expansive Olympic National Park, in which you can explore three distinct ecosystems;  temperate rain forest, rugged Pacific shore and mountains/meadows. 

I’ve put together an itinerary for those who only have 3 days to explore Olympic National Park. And for those lucky enough to have a bit more time, I’ve added on some extra bonus days for you, and I promise, you’ll want to see this trip out to the very end.

 

Olympic National Park in 3 Days

Day 1: Hurricane Ridge , Marymere Falls and Lake Crescent

Hurricane ridge is located 17 miles from Port Angelus.  The trails offer views of glacier-clad mountains showcasing viewpoints of Olympic Mountain and the Olympic Peninsula coastline. Chipmunks, ground squirrels, marmonts and black tailed deer wander the ridge, and we saw all of them.

After hiking Hurricane Ridge, we drove to Lake Crescent, a 624-foot deep shimmering glacier-carved jewel. You can stroll the shore, or rent rowboats at Lake Crescent Lodge (where accommodation are also available).  Because the water was choppy, we didn't go boating, but  instead enjoyed a DELICIOUS lunch right at the lodge with views of the lake.  **The food was absolutely amazing, and it was a great time to rest after the hours of hiking we did at Hurricane Ridge.

Follow the signs to Marymere Falls from Lake Crescent Lodge and enjoy a short hike to the 90-foot waterfall. This was a must for me, as I'm a waterfall lover, and the walk to get there was easy and beautiful.

Accomodations: If you are up for adventure, I highly recommend couchsurfing at Lonnies which is located in Port Angelus. Port Angelus is a great base point for your first day visiting Olympic National Park. We stayed two nights at Lonnies : The night we landed in Washington and after Day 1 of hiking Hurricane Ridge. Lonnie is a wonderful man who has built cabins for travelers who come to experience Olympic National Park. He has hosted over 600 travelers over the past couple of years. Staying is free, just sign up on couchsurfing.com. (You will find his profile once you search hosts in Port Angelus.) However, come ready to share stories, laughter, wine and bonfires with Lonnie himself.  It is the ultimate adventure, and a great way to start the trip. Families or individual travelers are all welcome. The night I was there there were 9 people total, and yes there is room for everyone! A great way to meet other travelers and share your tales of adventure. 

****We flew into Seattle, rented a car (NECESSARY FOR THIS ITINERARY) and drove to Port Angelus, where we stayed the night.  Drive time from Seattle Airport to Port Angelus is about 2.5-3 hours. We took the route south through Tacoma as we didn’t want to deal with crossing the ferry/lines at ferry, etc. So Day 1 starts our first day in the park, but technically second day in Washington.****

 

 

Day 2- Hoh Rainforest and Sunset at Rialto Beach

The morning of Day 2 we woke up and after Lonnie shared some of his fresh farm eggs with us, and then we were on our way to drive to the Hoh Rainforest. The drive time from Port Angelus to the Hoh Rainforest Visitor Center is about 1 hour 50 minutes.

We spent the day exploring the moss-draped maples, Douglas-firs and Sitka spruce trees. This temperate rain forest receives over 12 feet of rain a year, and hiking the trails is nothing short of spectacular. The emerald and mossy greens create a canopy above you as the sun peaks through highlighting the trails in front of you.

 

Accomodation: Manitou Lodge Bed and Breakfast.

*It is best to call or reserve reservations ahead of time*

After hiking we went to check in at Manitou. All of the lodge rooms were full, so we ended up renting one of their campsites. Glamping at it’s finest. We arrived and our campsite was already pitched. Blown up mattresses, carpets in the tent with a table and lamp, warm blankets and a campfire with complimentary smores kit. This was my kind of camping. I actually preferred staying in the campsite than inside the lodge. The campsite is pitched right in the forest, surrounded by the massively tall trees, with the sound of nature around you.

 

After getting settled in, we headed to Rialto Beach, which is only three miles from Manitou Lodge. Here you can catch a pretty spectacular sunset.

 

Day 3- La Push Beaches while heading back to Seattle

Instead of heading back toward Port Angelus to get to Seattle, we decided to continue south and take the slightly longer (barely) route back to Seattle. This way we were able to see more of the La Push Beaches and take in some different scenery.

Just south of the village of La push are three olympic coast charms: First, second and Third Beaches. Each one is sandy, broad and hemmed in by dramatic bluffs and headlands. With roadside access, First Beach is the easiest to get to and so can be crowded. Third beach requires a 1.2 mile hike down a forested trail. But Second Beach is just right: a hike just long enough to discourage crowds, het short enough to encourage those who want to see the beautiful beach.

Accommodation: Drove from beaches to stay in Seattle

 

Day 4- Seattle

I don’t have a specific accommodation referral as I stayed with a cousin who lives out here, but there are plenty of accomodations for all budgets here in this beautiful city.

We only had one day to explore Seattle, and for me this was enough since I’m more of a nature gal. We hit the highlights such as the Pike Place Market, walking along the waterfront to see the boat houses, and visiting the troll under the bridge. I’m not a museum gal and we also skipped out on the space needle.

Accomodation: Left Seattle mid afternoon to check in at River View Cabin, Gold Bar

Day 5 and 6 – Gold Bar, River View Cabin and Bridal Veil Falls

This was by far the highlight of my trip, and if you are able to make it to this gem, only an hour and 15 minutes east from the Seattle Airport, I highy recommend it.

Located in Gold Bar, this tranquil house rental sits right on the Skykomish River at the base of majestic Mt. Index. The view from the cabin windows and Jacuzzi is a unique and unsurpassed experience. The cabin is private, charming, comfortable and I promise, two nights is probably not enough. You’ll want to stay forever. Bonus points: DOG FRIENDLY!

From the cabin you can walk and then hike up to Bridal Veil Falls, a spectacular waterfall with unbelievable views. There is also a 7 mile roundtrip hike to Lake Serene, if you have the energy by the end of this trip!

Accomodation: River View Cabin

 

Leave me a comment below. I'd love to hear your favorite places to visit in Washington, or the Pacific Northwest!!!!

 

Last Stop: Tucson

 

 

Saguaro National Park:

Tucson was our last (and quick) stop on our road trip through Arizona. Before flying out we took some time to check out Saguaro National Park, home of the largest cacti. From Native American artwork to Arizona souvenir travel mugs you are probably familiar with seeing the famous saguaro cactus, which has become the universal symbol for the American West.

 

The Saguaro National Park is unlike any other view I have seen before. There are approximately 1.6 million individual saguaro plants growing within the national park. The beautiful red mountains in the background make it one hell of a site to see.

 

Saguaro National Park has two districts, encompassing a total  91,327 acres. The Rincon Mountain District is located to the East of Tucson and the Tucson Mountain District is located to the West of Tucson.  There is a visitor center in each of the two districts.  For directions to each district please visit here.  

 

DID YOU KNOW: The average lifespan of a saguaro cactus is 150 years, but some plants may live more than 200 years. A 20 foot tall saguaro weighs approximately 1 ton (2000 pounds).

 

The park is open every day of the year except Christmas, and the busiest time of year is Nov- March due to the cooler weather.

 

Late April and March is when you will see the iconic saguaros begin to bloom, along with many other wildflowers.

 

 

Did you know? Saguaros are a very slow growing cactus. In Saguaro National Park, studies indicate that a saguaro grows between 1 and 1.5 inches in the first eight years of its life.

 

 

ADMISSION FEES:


Entrance fee paid for admission to Saguaro National Park is good for seven days and includes both the Tucson Mountain District (West) and the Rincon Mountain District (East).

Saguaro National Park Weekly Pass - $10.00 (U.S. Dollars)
Admits one single, private, non-commercial vehicle or motorcycle and all its passengers. Organized groups are not eligible for the vehicle permit.

Saguaro National Park Individual Weekly Pass - $5.00/person (U.S. Dollars)
Admits one individual when entering by foot or bicycle. Individuals 15 years or younger are admitted free of charge.

 

 

Sedona Dreamin'

A LOVE AFFAIR WITH RED ROCKS: SEDONA

 

Bell Rock

Bell Rock is a magnificent place and a must see in Sedona for undeniably gorgeous views. It’s one of those places that leaves you silent while looking out at the vast red rock mountains accompanied with colors of dark green and turquoise.

“Yah, I could live here,” I think to myself. As I also wonder in my head how many times I’ve told myself that throughout my travels. I really could be happy anywhere.

We hike up from the parking lot and talk to a park ranger about how far we can climb Bell Rock.

“Well, you could make it all the way to the top with some climbing gear. But the last people that did that we had to come up to rescue.”

This trail is approximately 0.75 miles long and ascends the northern face of Bell Rock.  The trail is well marked as it leaves the Bell Rock Pathway (which is a longer 3.6 mile trail with views of bell rock, courthouse butte and other landmarks.)

We ended up hiking to a path on the left (we were told there was really no wrong way to hike it) and went around the whole circumference of bell rock, arrived at the front and center and then made our way up, to about half way. It's A fairly easy hike (Moderate in some areas the route we took).

Normally there is a “red rock pass” daily fee of $5 to leave your car parked in the lot, but because it was MLK Day, the park was open for free to visitors.

Directions: From the junction of Routes 89A and 179 in Sedona, take 179 south 3.6 miles to a paved turnout and trailhead parking on the left (east) at milepost 309.8, .2 miles south of the entrance to the United Methodist Church for the northern trailhead. For the southern trailhead, from the South Gateway Visitor Center, go 1 mile north to Bell Rock parking area on your right.

 

Cathedral Rock

 

Located in Coconino National Forest, Cathedral Rock is one of the most photographed areas in Arizona.  The natural beauty of Cathedral Rock has been drawing spiritual visors for decades and is considered one of the strongest Vortexes in Sedona.

It is more of a rock climb than a hike. It is short, .7 miles, but strenuous and quickly rises 608 feed in elevation.  The climb has great views all along with spires rising majestically from the sandstone base, but the most spectacular are from the top.

Directions to Cathedral Rock: Located just south of Sedona, take Highway 179 south from the 89A/179 split. Travel 3.4 miles and on the first roundabout, make a right on Back O'Beyond Road. Travel 0.6 miles to the parking lot on your left. The trail head is at the south end of the parking lot.

 

Airport Mesa Sunset

What a magnificent area to watch the sunset.

*Note: do not leave once you see the sun set behind the mountains. Most of the magic happens about 30 minutes - 1 hour after you can no longer see the sun, casting an array of hot pinks, oranges and yellows throughout the sky and surrounding mountains.

Be sure to check out the mountains as you watch the sunset, because some pretty magical light is casted for great photo opportunities.

Airport Mesa is named for its location next to the small Sedona airport.

Getting There: Drive West out of Sedona on the Arizona Highway 89A and turn left onto airport road.

Go straight up the road to the top (before you reach the airport), where you will see a flat area to your right (there will be people there already) and a parking area to your left. Just park and walk over!

Adobe Village Inn- 

I was greeted at the door with a smile and beaming eyes of a tall man, Steve,  that said, “You must be Danielle.” 

There’s something that I love about the charm and hospitality of a bed and breakfast.

Adobe Village Inn, a 7 bedroom house, is situated about 1 mile from the famous Bell Rock, and has a view that makes you want to stay forever.

Each room is uniquely decorated and has either a seasonal gas or wood burning fireplace. Also downstairs is a large community area with dining area, fireplaces and comfortable couches to relax in.

We were led to “The Tumbleweed”, a southwest rustic charm room, with a fireplace, homemade cookies from Cheryl,  the owner, and a bed that made me feel like I fell into the clouds of heaven.

In the morning a 3 course breakfast was served. My morning menu had:

Waldorf salad, cinnamon streusel muffins, southwest veggie frittata with salsa verde and turkey sausage.

YUM.

We had more than a positive experience staying here, and would definitely recommend it to those traveling to Sedona.


Oak Creek Canyon Roadtrippin'

OAK CREEK CANYON FROM FLAGSTAFF TO SEDONA:

If you are driving from Flagstaff to Sedona, or Vice Versa, make sure you take the Oak Creek Canyon route. Recognized as one of the Top 5 Most Scenic Drives in America, by Rand McNally, it is a winding road of breathtaking beauty. Initially you’ll snake quickly down switchbacks into the canyon that hug the edges of cliffs and then eventually opens into oaks with evergreen pines with a backgrop of red-faced cliffss. The drive is about 14 miles, and is a picture perfect landscape the whole route.

 

Chapel of the Holy Dove

One of the benefits of renting a car and not being on a time limit is the ability to stop and enjoy random sites along the way. The Chapel of the Holy Dove was definitely one of these moments.

We passed the TINY chapel, and thinking it may have been a figment of my imagination, I had to turn around to make sure my eyes were seeing correctly.

The entrance to the chapel (whcih looked like an outhouse) was no taller than I was, and is open year round for visitors or worshipers to enter. The entire back wall of the chapel is glass, providing a stunning view of the San Francisco Peaks.

The chapel leaves free CDs of sermons in different languages that visiors can take. The visitors journal is not the only thing that interntional travels leave their mark on. The walls and benches of the chapel are filled with felt-tip pen signitures, prayers and town representations.

History of the Chapel of the Holy Dove


The Chapel of the Holy Dove sits on a parcel of land originally part of a small ranch purchased by Watson M. Lacy, MD in 1960. He was the only physician at the Grand Canyon Hospital which he operated with his wife, Ruth. They came to this area for respite from the demands of the medical practice at the Canyon. The beauty of the Peaks affirmed the goodness and majesty of God. They wanted to give travelers the opportunity to share it. In the summer of 1961, with the help of his sons and some hired hands, the 41 year-0ld Lacy, with no experience as a builder, used explosives to create holes in the rock beneath the Chapel to secure and position the large Ponderosa Pine logs which comprised the original A-shaped structure framing the San Francisco Peaks. Local volcanic rock and petrified wood was used to build the supporting stone walls. This was a project for intermittent days off from his practice at the canyon. The Chapel was completed in 1962. Dr. Lacy died October 1991. The ranch property was sold but the parcel on which the chapel stands remains in the trust of his widow.

On March 8, 1999, the Chapel was destroyed by a transient's campfire but the stone walls remained. Shortly thereafter, 18 year-old NAU student, Christen McCracken obtained permission from Mrs. Lacy to raise funds to rebuild the structure. Since the Chapel had become a popular landmark, the local public supported the project. Many materials were donated by Flagstaff merchants. Volunteers supervised by Flagstaff resident Ricky Roberts, completed the current Chapel, similar to the original, in April 2000.

The Chapel is open to All. Four of Dr. Lacy's six children, the daughter of an Arizona governor and Christen McCracken were married here, besides many others. The chapel of the Holy Dove was named to acknowledge the Third Person of the Holy Trinity, described in Matthew 3:16 as descending "like a dove" above Jesus in commissioning His earthly ministry as God, Incarnate.

The building was dedicated in memory of Dr. Lacy's brother, George, and nephew, Randy Lacy, who drowned in a boating accident in California in 1957. The original memorial plaque read: "In Memory of George and Randy Lacy whose great love in life and great courage in death made known the Glory of God." Lacy's profound grief resulting from the loss propelled great soul searching which led to a personal faith in Jesus Christ. Once an agnostic, he discovered "...the Way, the Truth and the Life" was to be found only in Jesus, who said of sacrificial love in John 15:13, "Greater love has no one than this, that one lay down his life for his friends."

It is our prayer that all who visit the Chapel of the Holy Dove would experience God's love and power.

 

Directions: 18 miles north of Flagstaff on Highway 180, near milepost 236

 

Trading Post by Dairy Queen:

Just a few miles before you enter Sedona, there's a Dairy Queen, at  4551 hwy 89 A, that has a setup of about 10 Native American vendors that sell fair priced and good quality souvenirs. You can find sterling silver jewelry,  hopi and navajo pottery and turquoise pendants among other souvenirs. It won’t be fine jewelery like items sold at Garlands but the the jewellery is authentic and the prices reasonable.



Getting lost in slot caves and horseshoe bends :)

Day trip from Grand Canyon to Page:

From the Grand Canyon we took a day trip to Page, leaving early in the morning to make it to an 11 a.m. tour of Antelope Canyon, and returning back to the Grand Canyon after sunset. I HIGHLY recommend doing the activities of Page in a day, which CAN be done, as there is not much in Page besides the three main highlights: Antelope Canyon, Antelope Canyon River Tour, and Horseshoe Bend.

 

 

Antelope Canyon

Upper Antelope Canyon, known as a slot canyon (think of a cave without a roof), is one of the most photographed canyons in North America.  This canyon, among with others, were formed over millions of years ago when tributaries of the Colorado River would flood during hard summer rains. Now a sculptured masterpiece remains.

Antelope Canyon makes you feel like you enter into another world. The shapes and colors are constantly changing with the ever changing position of the sun casting light into the cave.

Your Navajo Guide will take you on an easy journey through the canyon stopping in areas that are popular for photos and also sharing the Navajo Cultural stories about the canyon. This tour is very informative, sharing the history and geology of the canyon and lasts about an hour.

Your Navajo guide with bring you on safari-style vehicles to the entrance of the canyon, sharing Navajo cultural stories and explaining about the history and geology of the canyon.  

*Note* The ONLY way to see Antelope Canyon is by signing up for a tour, as it is on a Navajo Indian Reservation.

We did a tour with Navajo Tours, which operates tours all day long. Any time of the day is good to see the canyon because as the sun crosses the sky it offers different lighting within the canyon.

Rumor has it that the BEST time, however, is around noon, when the sun is high in the sky.

The tour cost $40 dollars per person.  Navajo Parks and Recreation requires permit to enter the canyon and there is an additional $8 charge, that must be paid in cash. Tour payments can be made by credit card.

For the avid photographer, there is a professional photography tour for $80 that lasts about 2 hours long.

Adults: $40 per person. Children ages 0-12 are $20

There are a few other tour companies that operate that offer the same packages. You can also opt to tour the Lower Antelope Canyon, which offers some different photo opportunities.
 

We went in January, and although we were unable to see the famous beam of light that shoots through the canyon (due to the position of the sun in the wintertime sky) we were able to enjoy the slot canyon with less crowds and more photo opportunities.

 

 

Antelope Point Marina Boat Tours- Lake Powell

After we ended our tour of Upper Antelope Canyon we headed into Page to grab some lunch, and then made it to the Antelope Point Marina for a boat tour of Lake Powell by 2 pm.

The tour departs every hour and a half, so it’s easy to catch. The tour on Lake Powell lasts about an hour,  letting you relax and enjoy the beautiful contrast between the blue waters and the Navajo Sandstone.

The tour costs $28 for adults and $18 per child.

Visit Antelope Canyon Boat Tours for more information, directions and to reserve your spot.

 

 

Horseshoe Bend

The view down into the LIttle Colorado RIver from the canyon overlook is one you will never forget, and is a must see location for either sunrise or sunset.

After our boat tour we headed straight to Horseshoe Bend for sunset which was around 5:30 p.m.

Arriving at Horseshoe Bend is an easy 1.5 mile roundtrip walk from the parking lot off off  U.S. Route 89. The overlook is 4,200 feet (1,300 m) above sea level, and the Colorado River is at 3,200 feet (980 m) above sea level, making it a 1,000-foot (300 m) drop.

If you are brave enough to stand at the edge (that has no handrails)  and look down, good luck! This site will leave you speechless, especially if you stay for the setting sun, casting colorful hues across the sky. Best of all: IT’S FREE!

Directions to Horseshoe Bend:

From Page, AZ drive south on Highway 89 to between mile posts 544 & 545. Look for the exit lane and prominent dirt road on the west side of the road which you can drive a short distance on to the parking area.

 

 

Grand Canyon Getaway

 

There’s a distinct charm of visiting the grand canyon during the winter time.

People walk around bundled up as if you are in a ski town, but instead of lugging around skis and snowboards, tourists have walking sticks and a camera slung around the neck.

We chose lodging at the Bright Angel Lodge, mainly because it is one of six lodges that offer accommodations right at the rim of the Grand Canyon. The lodge is located on the South Rim, which is open year round, and is also the most visited location at the Grand Canyon National Park. You can pick up the hiking trail right outside the lodge that goes for 22 miles.

Bright Angel Lodge has natural rustic character, and our private cabin was steps away from the South Rim,  with breathtaking panoramic views of the Grand Canyon. The main lodge is a cozy log building, with Navajo designed doors painted in yellow, red, turquoise and powder blue. There is a beautiful stone fireplace in the “lobby” with an 8 foot thunderbird hung above with feathers that hang down from it’s mighty wings.

The lodge also features a gift shop, two restaurants, a lounge and an ice cream fountain.

Good to know: Entrance fee’s to Grand Canyon National Park is $25 per vehicle, and the park entrance pass is good for 7 days.

Recommendations: Go to the Grand Canyon in the winter. It’s a lot colder, yes, but there are a lot less people to deal with compared to summer crowds. Just be sure to bundle up!

 

Day trip from Grand Canyon:

From the Grand Canyon we took a day trip to Page, leaving early in the morning to make it to an 11 a.m. tour of Antelope Canyon, and returning back to the Grand Canyon after sunset. I HIGHLY recommend doing the activities of Page in a day, which CAN be done, as there is not much in Page besides the three main highlights: Antelope Canyon, Antelope Canyon River Tour, and Horseshoe Bend.