A Spectacular Sunset and 300 Million Years of Geological History… The Sedona Series: Part 2

The sun sets on Capitol Buttes in Sedona, Arizona. Photo by Curtis Mekemson.

Wispy clouds added to the spectacular sunset Peggy and I watched from the airport overlook in Sedona, Arizona.

“They told us at the Chamber of Commerce that we could see the sunset from here,” a woman complained loudly. “And it is hidden by the trees.”

“Maybe we are supposed to be looking at the rocks,” her husband suggested timidly, like he was afraid he might be yelled at.

Peggy and I shared an amused look. The ‘rocks’ were spectacular, reflecting a sun still one hour away from sinking beyond the eastern horizon. The show would only get better; nature was having one of its grand moments. The overlook beneath Sedona’s airport was the place to be at sunset.

Sedona sits beneath the edge of the Colorado Plateau, and the rocks we were looking at reflected over 300 million years of the earth’s geological history. They told a story of ancient oceans, and lakes, and rivers, and sand dunes. Laid down in layers over the eons, most of the rocks were the same ones we had admired so often in the Grand Canyon.

The erosive forces of nature— wind, water and gravity, were chipping away at the Colorado Plateau, leaving us with the spectacular views we were admiring. Capped by volcanic rocks, the different layers of sedimentary rocks eroded at different speeds, adding formations that people couldn’t resist naming. The Coffee Pot, Chimney, Capitol Butte, and Sugar Loaf loomed directly in front of us.

While knowing a bit about the geology of the area enhanced the experience, the only requirement for admiring the beauty was to sit back and enjoy.

These rocks, known as the Coffee Pot, provide an excellent example of layering. The top, lighter layer is Coconino Sandstone and was once part of a huge desert filled with sand dunes like the Sahara Desert today.

These rocks, known as the Coffee Pot, provide an excellent example of layering and various rates of erosion. The top, lighter layer is Coconino Sandstone and was once part of a huge desert filled with sand dunes like the Sahara Desert today. The red rocks are known as Schnebly Hill Sandstone and were once laid down in an ocean. The red is caused by iron oxides captured by the sea. The rocks are ‘rusting,’ so to speak. (Photo by Peggy Mekemson.)

The Coffee Pot Rocks in Sedona, Arizona. Photo by Curtis Mekemson.

A close up. Note the different impacts of erosion. The Coconino Sandstone erodes much more quickly than the Schnebly Sandstone. (Photo by Peggy Mekemson.)

Coffee Pot and Sugar Loaf rock formations in Sedona, Arizona reflect the setting sun. Photo by Curtis Mekemson.

As the sun sank, the reds took on a deeper color. The Sugar Loaf formation is in the front.

Capitol Butte and Chimney Rock in Sedona, Arizona. Photo by Curtis Mekemson.

Capitol Butte is just to the left of Coffee Pot. Chimney rock is further to the left. Sedona stretches out from the Butte.

Chimney Rock in Sedona, Arizona.

A close up of Chimney Rock. (Photo by Peggy Mekemson.)

As the sun set, the shadow in the center of the photo grew. Here it almost looks like a hand.  The Mogollon Rim that runs east to west across Arizona, dividers the Colorado Plateau from the Basin and Ranges to the south.

As the sun set, the shadow in the center of the photo grew. Here it almost looks like a hand. The Mogollon Rim (in the background) runs east to west through central  Arizona and divides  the Colorado Plateau to the north from the Basin and Ranges to the south.

Steamboat rock formation in Sedona, Arizona. Photo by Peggy Mekemson.

Off to the right we could see the rock formation known as Steamboat. (Photo by Peggy Mekemson.)

Sunset view from airport overlook in Sedona, Arizona. Photo by Curtis Mekemson.

While off to the east, we could see the sunset hiding behind the trees that the woman I quoted in the beginning was apparently looking for. Still, not shabby.

NEXT BLOG: A hike up Boynton canyon and a visit to one of the world’s most unique churches.

 

 

18 comments on “A Spectacular Sunset and 300 Million Years of Geological History… The Sedona Series: Part 2

  1. The formations are glorious, and so are the photos. One thought did cross my mind. If you were watching the sun sink below the eatern horizon, perhaps you found one of those vortices, after all! 🙂

    That tale of the woman was amusing. I think her husband had it right. Looking at the rocks was the order of the day, even though the trees were very nice, too. Why do I get the feeling he was the one who initiated the sunset watch?

    • In between sunset photos we did manage to hike down to the vortex near the airport. No strange vibes, however, sigh.

      Yes, the husband had it right. 🙂 I think they left after their obligatory three minutes.

      Curt

  2. Beautiful photos Curt. A stunningly beautiful place. It’s a part of the world I’ve never visited, but I’d like to someday. Thanks for sharing.

  3. Very nice, Curt. To know is to appreciate. Thank you. AND — I would love to hear such a neat historical and geological capsuleization (new word — what do you think, Random House?) of the Appalachian Mts. Sharon McCrumb has some good info in her work, but still — I want More!

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