[Marxism] More tragedy and trouble in the Oak Creek country [Sedona, Arizona]

MICHAEL YATES mikedjyates at msn.com
Sat Oct 10 13:22:30 MDT 2009

Thanks to Hunter Bear for posting on this tragedy in Sedona.  We have been there many times and hike in Oak Creek canyon.

Here is something we wrote about a hike we took nearby, with reference to some of the thing metnioned in Hunter Bear's post.

                         A Hike in Sedona


                Karen Korenoski and Michael Yates

     Sedona is a small town about twenty-five miles south of Flagstaff in north central
Arizona. USA Weekend recently voted it the "most beautiful place in America."  Sedona's setting
is stunning.  To get there from Flagstaff, you drive down Oak Creek Canyon on a steep and
heavily switch-backed road.  As the canyon deepens, you are surrounded by rugged rock-cliffed
walls, and as you get closer to the town, the canyon opens to vistas of red-rock sandstone buttes,
mesas, monoliths, and pinnacles.  Fantastic shapes abound: Coffeepot Rock, Cathedral Rock,
Bell Rock.  The town used to be off the beaten path, known mainly as a setting for Western
movies.  But it has been discovered by wealthy tourists, sporting enthusiasts, and New Age types. 
The New Agers arrived in the 1980s, attracted by the "vortexes," magical and mystical places in
the red rocks where electrical currents supposedly converge and in which, if you are in the right
spot, you might have visions or even experience an out-of-body episode. Today Sedona is visited
by four million people each year, and the town is filled with outsized mansions, resorts, hotels,
gated condominium complexes, and smart shops.

     Sedona is a hiking mecca, with trails crisscrossing the landscape in every direction.  You
can hike up Wilson Mountain and look down on the town from a perch high above the
helicopters that take well-heeled tourists sightseeing.  You can stroll along the West Fork of Oak
Creek, crossing the water several times on stepping stones and ending up in a canyon where you
must wade and swim in the stream for miles to continue your hike.  You can scamper up the
slickrock (so named because it gets slippery when wet) in a hundred locations.  If you're
adventurous, you can take a hair-raising "Pink Jeep" ride over the seemingly impassable rock-
stepped buttes.  

     We have hiked several of Sedona's trails and always had an exhilarating time.  This past
summer, we spent a month in Flagstaff and drove to Sedona three times to hike.  Our last hike
there was into Boynton Canyon, a box canyon that ends in a cul-de- sac of multi-hued cliffs.

     In every beautiful town like Sedona there is a clash between public and private space. 
There are millions of rich people in the United States, and they want to own as much property as
possible.  The more desirable the place, the more they want to possess it.  Most of Sedona's
hiking trails are on publicly-owned land, under the administration of the National Forest Service
or a state public land agency.  However, public lands have always been available for private
development in the United States.  They have been used for animal grazing, mining, fishing,
lumbering, even ski resorts.  Dams on public lands provide the water for our desert cities, like
Las Vegas, Phoenix, and Los Angeles.  The Forest Service posts a sign that states, "Land of
Many Uses."  High above Albuquerque, New Mexico, at Sandia Peak, there is a mass of
communications towers on public land.  The Forest Service calls it a "steel forest."  Without
irony.  On some public lands there are parking, picnic, and concession areas, and these are now
routinely contracted out to private companies, which are responsible for maintaining trails,
restrooms, and the like and which often charge a not insignificant entrance fee.  This incensed us,
since we had already purchased a pass giving us permission to use public lands. 

     We were attracted to the Boynton Canyon hike by the description in our hiking
guidebook: "This scenic and most visited box canyon in Sedona is also a vortex site.  Ruins dot
the red sandstone canyon walls.  Towering buttes, crimson cliffs, and a quiet trail on the cool
canyon floor all add up to magic, vortex or no."  This book had never failed us.  Each hike had
been more spectacular than the last.  Our excitement grew as we parked our car at the trail head.

     We had decided to visit the vortex site first. We walked a short distance along the main
path and took a spur trail up to the Boynton Spires and the Kachina Woman monument.  It was a
clear cool morning; the heat of the day had yet to set in; and the sky was the pure blue color you
see only in the desert West. We were admiring the beauty of the rocks and wild flowers as we
climbed up the slick surface toward the spires. A sign pointed to the end of this part of the trail,
at the top of the boulders.  We anticipated a spectacular view of the canyon.  But at the crest, in
the shade of the spires and monument and amidst the juniper trees, cacti, and wild flowers, we
looked over the other side and saw a sprawling private resort, right at the mouth of the canyon
and privy to the best views.  We sat and surveyed the scene for awhile, growing increasingly
distressed.  The resort consisted of many buildings spread out over one mile in length and taking
nearly the entire width of the canyon.  Cars and delivery trucks drove in and out; lawnmowers
gave forth an annoying buzz-like drone; women in tennis whites slapped balls over the net; and
golf carts hauled players over manicured greens, which contrasted sharply with the desert terrain
all around.  Besides the condominium apartments, there were lavish private homes, some built
right into the hillsides.  Construction workers mixed cement, carried lumber, pounded nails, and
ran power tools, adding to the general din.  The Kachina Woman must weep every day to see the
desecration of her sacred canyon. How we wished we hadn't seen this overview.  The highest
point on a trail is always special.  Except here.

     We returned to the main trail and began to traverse the canyon.  Immediately, we were
shocked to see that we would have to walk alongside the resort, hard up against a tall and
imposing boundary fence.  We complained about the resort as we hiked past it.  We asked each
other how did this resort gain control of so much of the canyon.  Did the guests find it natural
that they were behind locked gates and needed keys to access the trail from the resort?  What was
the fence protecting?  Shocked as we were by the resort's intrusion into a dazzling natural
landscape, we were completely taken aback by the sign posted at the spot where the resort
buildings and the trail were closest to one another.  There on the fence was posted the following:

                         PRIVATE PROPERTY

                         HIKERS    NOTICE

                      YOU MUST EXIT BOYNTON
                       CANYON ON THIS TRAIL
                     HIKERS ARE NOT PERMITTED
                    TO EXIT THE CANYON THROUGH
                         RESORT PROPERTY


                  ARMED PATROL ON DUTY 24 HOURS

                     VIDEO TAPING IN PROGRESS


Here the ugliness of private property reveals itself.  We looked up at the surveillance camera and
made obscene gestures.

     The resort continued beyond the sign, finally ending nearly an hour after we had begun
the hike.  We walked up the canyon through the late summer wild flowers and stands of tall
ponderosa pines.  On a hike in Bandelier National Monument in New Mexico, we learned that
these trees are the source of the artificial flavoring agent vanillin. If you come upon a ponderosa,
stop and sniff the bark.  It smells strongly of vanilla.  When it is hot, the trees will perfume the
air. Eventually the path slopes sharply upward through trees, rocks, and bushes, until you come to
the end of the canyon.  We climbed the slickrock to a spot under a juniper tree, ate lunch, and
admired the subtly colored canyon walls, enclosing us all around. We enjoyed the solitude and
after awhile began the steep descent back to the trail.  We walked peacefully along it until we
came again to the resort.  We stopped to contemplate the sign and wished that some misfortune
would erase this monument to the selfish rich forever.

     We returned to Flagstaff and, curious about the resort, did some research. The name of
the place is Enchantment Resort, and here is how it advertises itself:  "surrounded by the majestic
red rock formations of Northern Arizona's Boynton Canyon, Enchantment Resort combines
luxury with rugged grandeur inspired by Native American culture.  The resort's adobe casita-
style accommodations offer world-class comforts amid its pristine 70-acre setting."
[www.enchantmentresort.com].  Nightly guest rates run from $295 to a whopping $2,005.  But
you get a lot for your money.  In addition to the three restaurants the Tii Gavo "casual"
restaurant features a "signature drink," a prickly pear margarita , guests can go on nature walks
with a U.S. Forest service ranger or take guided hikes, experience a "journey of teas," and attend
gourd pottery art classes, wine tastings, vortex lectures, narrated star gazings, or Native American
Guest performances.  There is golf, swimming, outdoor whirlpools, championship croquet, bocce
ball, and ping pong.  Best of all is the Mii amo spa, voted by readers of Travel & Leisure
magazine as the number two destination spa in the world.[www.enchantmetresort.com/m_amo/]
Here for a modest fee of between $368.55 and $415.35, guests can buy a variety of day packages, including the Native
Mii amo: 

     Native Mii amo $415.35

     The Native Americans used ground corn to cleanse and purify the skin. We blend our
     blue corn with mineral salt crystals and aloe vera to make a vigorous scrub, polishing
     your skin to perfection. Next indulge in a 'La Stone' massage, using hot, smooth river
     rocks to melt away tension. We recommend having lunch at the Mii amo Caf‚ before
     completing your spa day with a custom facial. One of our experienced aestheticians will
     evaluate your skin and design a facial specifically for you.
          60 Minute Blue Corn Vichy 
          75 Minute Soothing Stones Massage 
          60 Minute Custom Facial

      Just the kind of place Oprah Winfrey might go for a weekend to get in touch with her inner spirit
and be part of nature.  The repeated referrals to American Indian cultures are both inaccurate
(what does it mean to say that the "rugged grandeur" of the place is "inspired by Native
American culture?"  The Indians didn't build the canyon.) and typical.  The wealthy whites who
come here want to appropriate the Indians' culture just as they want to have the canyon.  This
affinity with the Indians contrasts markedly with the indifference or hostility to the Navajo
and Zuni Indians who live a short distance away. 

          The National Forest Service, which administers the Boynton Canyon trail, controls
millions of acres of public land.  But while the land is owned by all of us, the Service routinely
leases it to private businesses, often at rock-bottom prices and for purposes that destroy the very
land entrusted to this government agency.  So it is no wonder that private landowners often come
to feel that public land is theirs to exploit.  While Enchantment Resort is private property, the
canyon that makes it attractive is not.  In Sedona, as elsewhere in the country, the tension
between private and public domains is growing.  Unfortunately, the public will not likely be
much enchanted by the outcome.

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