Sunday Brunch at Sedona, Arizona

If you enjoyed Ron Kilber's story about "Sunday Brunch at Payson" you'll want to read about Ron's day-trip to the Arizona red-rock country. Located midway between Prescott and Flagstaff, the mesa-top Sedona Airport is gateway to one of the most visually stunning and geologically fascinating locales in the Southwest. The airport restaurant offers superb food and a spectacular view.

by Ron Kilber (

Sunday, April 20, 1997

Sedona AirportClick for high-resolution image (.9 MB -- worth the wait!)

A few weeks ago I received a phone call from Bob Boydston, a fellow pilot and Sedona resident who said he'd arrange for breakfast if I'd fly up to the red-rock country. I've never met Bob before, but he said he enjoyed reading my "Sunday Brunch At Payson" and the fun I had flying there with Genette, Dawn, and Mark. Not being one to turn down a nice invitation, or the opportunity for more fun, I didn't exactly have to sleep on the idea, so I committed to Bob right away on the phone. Besides, it's been a long time since I've flown an airplane to Sedona, and it's about time to fly there again anyway.

Arizona Map It's a Sunday-go-to-somewhere morning and the usual last minute delays and problems abound. Today, Sedona and the red-rock country is on our radar screen, and joining me is my daughter, Dawn, a long-time co-pilot on many an aviation adventure with me, Genette, my best friend and companion of many years, and her 15-year old son, Mark. In the middle of checking the weather with Prescott FSS, the door bell rings. It's Dawn, already here from North Phoenix. Mark is running behind schedule because he was up too late on the computer last night, and Genette is looking for the camera film.

Earlier I checked the satellite weather on my computer, and a huge weather system was apparent over Southern California (1300Z). Depending on it's speed, the system easily could overtake Sedona by mid-afternoon, and we'd be marooned in an IFR situation (a nasty predicament for any VFR pilot).

But luck is with us today. The flight service station reports that the weather is good, at least between here and Sedona. That weather system over California which I saw on my computer is moving north (usually everything moves this way) and we are generally in the middle of a high pressure area with it's characteristic clockwise air-mass rotation (thus the northerly movement of the California weather). We can only expect high, thin clouds today with a few scattered low build-ups later in the day, with possible rain showers farther north around the Grand Canyon and into Utah, and some windy conditions. It's not your typical sunny Arizona flying day (over 300 days per year), but plenty good enough by standards from most other parts of the country.

Off To The Airport

By 8:30 am we are in Genette's Blazer on our way to the Chandler Municipal Airport. While approaching the field, I can see that Venture Aviation has only one airplane left in its sizable fleet. It's a bright yellow-and-white Cessna 172 (N738BH), reserved for us, and ours for the day. Presumably, all other planes already have been checked out, their pilots no doubt having wanted to escape early from the high temperatures expected this weekend. Already it is 75 degrees (and only 9 am in April!).

When I enter Venture's office, Lisa and Jenny greet me, and I'm handed 8BH's clipboard, and it tells me that the last pilots who flew this bird are Pete Garrett, an occasional rock-climbing buddy and CFII, and Mike Kilzer (Kilber with a "z"), a friend, too, and insurance broker (mine). I assume Pete was instructing Mike who has been working on his PPSEL license for some time now. Actually, Mike would have had his private pilot license by now, were it not for a slight setback last year.

More than a year ago, Mike bought his own C-172 so he could use it to learn to fly, however, after loaning it to a friend one day, the airplane had to spend nine months mending due to a landing mishap. Fortunately, his buddy was not injured when the 172 suddenly veered off the runway (on its own, of course, and had nothing to do with the lateral phugoid oscillations after touchdown), and suffered near-total damage after crashing into a ditch. The airplane came to rest on its nose and left wing, and all the pilot had to do was figure out how to extricate himself while strapped to the seat facing straight down. The long repair time forced Mike to put his flying ambitions on hold, and eventually he became sufficiently discouraged and just sold out. (Who wants to make payments on an airplane you can't fly?) Now Mike is back at it again, only renting instead.

Let's Go Flying

At 9:20 am, Chandler grounds clears us to runway 4L. There's no activity right now, and no one is in the pattern. It's a big help when Genette reads the check list for me, otherwise I'd have to change from my sun glasses to my reading glasses. It seems I've reached the age where I no longer can read unaided (oh well, at least I can't die young anymore). Only one aircraft is ahead of me when I do my run-up, but I'm ready to roll before he is. When Chandler Tower clears me for take-off, three others are taxing to 4L (funny how things always want to happen at once).

Our take-off roll is longer than usual today because we are loaded right up to gross weight and the temperature on the black runway is more than likely much higher than the 75-degree air. No matter though, as we've plenty of near-mile-long runway, and 8BH climbs eagerly as we take a due-north heading and level off at 2,500 feet to avoid the 3,000 foot floor of the Phoenix Class B airspace.

When I'm over the Superstition Freeway, Falcon Tower grants permission to traverse their airspace. They only have one other airplane in the pattern, and for a weekend it's remarkably inactive up here. Surprisingly, I've not seen any other traffic yet. I guess everyone must have departed earlier for cooler terrain. Even Scottsdale Tower, usually busy enough to make any seasoned pilot fly in angst, is slow.

After leaving from under the Phoenix Class B Airspace, normally, one would generally fly V 327 up the Verde River to reach Sedona, however, it's unlikely I can climb fast enough (fully loaded) to escape the likelihood of downdrafts off 6,800' mountains left of the Victor airway, so I steer off-course to the west a little and fly the flat mesas, and well clear of the Bradshaw Mountains a little farther west (with more down-drafts I'm sure).

Sightseeing Enroute

At 7,500 feet, the outside temperature is a cool 53 degrees, and the high desert plateau is surprisingly green. Off our left wing is Black Canyon City, a place dear to the hearts of both Dawn and me.

It was in the mid-seventies when Dawn (then only five years old) and I met Jeno Jacoby in Black Canyon City, a nice little place that we always liked to escape to during weekends. When I first laid eyes on him, I knew I was in for something special. Jeno was a prospector already in his sixties, and for me he was straight from the fifties TV serials of Wild Bill Hickock and Andy Devine, only he didn't have the trademark donkey. Dawn especially liked visiting our new friend, if only because Jeno's only way to get to town (from his lode mine where he lived on federal land) was to traverse a cable stretched across the Black Canyon Creek just above its confluence with the Agua Fria River. Dawn, being a strong and nimble gymnast, especially enjoyed riding across the water on a sling-and-pulley arraignment. For her, that was the most fun (and for me, too).

Over the years I've probably driven Interstate 17 a hundred times, always preferring Black Canyon City over the freeway rest stops for the chance to say hello to Jeno if he was around. As he aged and came to town less frequently, I saw less of him, and one day in 1994 when I dropped into town again, I learned Jeno had passed away. Within days of his death, all of his personal belongings vanished to low-down varmints who just helped themselves. It was more than a sad moment for me then, and for Dawn, too, when she found out.

At 8,500 feet, the outside temperature is 48 degrees, and we can vaguely see Payson off our right wing in the haze. Soon, Mingus Mountain and Prescott are off our left wing (not as hazy), and monitoring FSS reveals much activity in the pattern, probably owing to practicing students from Emery Riddle University. Far ahead we can recognize the ever-unmistakable red-rock country and the city of Sedona nestled beneath the rocks. Still farther on the horizon, and directly above the red rocks, are the 12,633 foot snow-ladened San Francisco Peaks.

We experience mild turbulence and bumps as we leave the plateau and enter the large, affordable Verde Valley. Dawn always gets a little nauseated from bumpy air, but no worry, she hasn't eaten anything yet today. There are high, thin clouds everywhere and scattered ones lower (but still above us). It looks different each time I fly through here. The ever-present growth, with it's new roads and streets, sure does change the look of the land. There are now at least 4, maybe more, air-parks in this valley, and who knows what's on the horizon (literally).

Montezumas Castle Directly below us is Montezuma's Castle, a five-story, 20-room pueblo built by the Sinagua Indians in the 12th and 13th centuries. Situated on the side of Mingus Mountain off to our left is the old mining town of Jerome, now a cultural and tourist area.

Approaching Sedona

Fifteen miles out from Sedona I monitor the Unicom frequency, and we maintain altitude. We want to do a little sight-seeing around Sedona today, and since the entire area is noise sensitive (not only for wild life, but the tame life, too), better to do it first before landing, while at cruise power, rather than fire-walled when we climb out.

As we skirt past and over Sedona, one can imagine that the 500 foot mesa which the airport is situated upon looks much like an aircraft carrier in the middle of the community. The mesa was formed as if directed by the god of aviators. Even its length is lined up with the prevailing winds. Most departing traffic, already 500' ahead of the game, easily can climb to pattern altitude long before over-flight of any neighborhood, and then they are already 1,500 feet AGL. And in a day where not many airports and neighborhoods get along, what better place to situate an airport mesa?

I first began flying to Sedona way back in the seventies. In fact, thinking about it now brings back memories of Bill Welsh. In former lives we both worked together in Phoenix for a Fortune 500 company. He eventually moved on to Cessna where he sold Citations, then moved on to work in Sedona (he always swore he would one day live here), and finally as a commercial pilot for a Grand Canyon tour operator. Eventually, Bill became their chief pilot, and then one day his plane crashed within miles of the Grand Canyon airport, killing him as well as tourist passengers on board. I found out about Bill's unfortunate fate the same day while watching, in disbelief, the local news on television.

Sedona isn't exactly a sleepy little community off the beaten path. More than 4 million visitors drop in each year, so the locals in charge of room and board and entertainment have a huge, on-going job on their hands. And they must be doing a good job. Why else do so many come back for more? With all the motels and resorts you'd think finding a room would be easy, but at least once I was forced to sleep in my car (I chose that over driving back to the furnace-like temperatures of Phoenix one summer weekend). There are restaurants everywhere (you can trip over them), and if you're really hungry from hiking all day in Oak Creek Canyon, you might be better off getting something right away at the market, rather than waiting in line for a table with the well-dressed, well-heeled patrons.

Sedona Airport from the air I've heard that a good share of the 16,000 area residents make Sedona their second home, and sixty per cent are retired folks. From the looks of an awful lot of real estate down there, I'd say some of those retirees once had access to the corporate washrooms with the golden toilets.

At 4,300 feet above sea level, Sedona is situated right below the 7,000 foot Mogollon Rim (a huge geological feature which traverse much of Arizona). After we over-fly the community, beautiful Wilson Canyon comes into full view, the picturesque and historic Midgely Bridge on Arizona 89-A, the ever-popular Oak Creek Canyon with its Slide Rock State Park, and of course the always-inspiring Mogollon Rim with it's trade-mark forest and Colorado Plateau. So far today we haven't noticed any snow on the ground, but as we gain the Mogollon Rim, we notice remnants of the white stuff at rim altitude, wherever the sun is unable to shine. Considering we are almost into the month of May, I find it is most unusual to see snow; never mind the altitude.

We don't see any, but wildlife is down there. Deer are plenty, and there are raccoons, ringtailed cats, mountain lions and black bear. Of course, we are careful to maintain the requisite 2,000 feet of clearance from the charted wildlife areas.

Looking north, it's easy to tell we are only a short hop away from Flagstaff where the San Francisco Peaks loom and tower above. The popular area is the home of the Lowell Observatory, where the planet Pluto was discovered in 1930 by Clyde Tombaugh, who later moved to New Mexico State University where I earned my pilot's license.

The Overlook Vista lies only a few miles north of here. It has some of the best rock climbing in the US. Just last Thursday, while on business in Kingman, a friend and I stopped at the Overlook on the way back to Phoenix. In fact, we drove 80 miles out of the way just to get in a few lines of excellent basalt cracks before dark.

As we slowly veer to complete a 180 degree turn, we fly off the Colorado Plateau and descend northwest of Sedona. There are vast, unspoiled and uninhabited wooded areas on lower ground. At least one housing development, though, is squeezed into a canyon, and striking are the many tennis courts. Maybe it's not a housing development, but a tennis ranch. Anyway, they have lots of tennis courts.

Landing at Sedona's Mesa-Top Airport

Now at 6,500 feet and descending, we have to be careful of tall rock spires and occasionally high terrain as we head for the airport, and careful of traffic, too. There are aircraft and helicopters coming and going constantly, and for a moment I wonder if I may have to circle before entering the traffic pattern. God made time so everything wouldn't happen at once, but this never holds true when attempting to land at a busy airport. Anyway, moments like these are not for the attention-challenged pilot.

Sedona Airport diagram But things settle down quite a bit just when I want to enter 45 degrees for left traffic on runway three (uphill). While on my downwind (5,827 feet), a biplane is running-up to depart on runway two-one (downhill), but he will be long gone before we reach final (I'm hoping). Besides, the Sedona airport has designated side-by-side arrival and departure paths at the same end of the runway. When departing and after lift-off, just stay left and out of the way of landing traffic (British style); the other side is a designated helicopter corridor.

On final (the biplane's long gone) the VASI lights tell me I'm a little low, but I'm a little hot, too, so I assuage things a bit using the elevator. We touchdown right where I want to (OK, it's not the numbers), but I do make a perfectly good landing (according to my passengers). Even if you land mid-field, with the up-hill grade and a mile-long runway, you wouldn't have a problem with most ships.

Just don't try landing downhill without a stiff head wind. The south end is almost 100 feet lower. If you don't know how much extra kinetic energy is stored up in a loaded airplane 100 feet high, just imagine dropping it from that height as dead weight. I'd bet real money it would make a big bang. But it will make a bigger bang if you run off the end of the 500 foot high mesa.

Conversely, don't take-off uphill--a bleak option if you have a climb-challenged airplane on a hot day, unless you have lots of power or another stiff headwind.

Meeting The Locals

Boy, the folks here at Sedona are accommodating. While still on the brakes, a voice on the Unicom directs us to the terminal ramp, where another guy is waiting to help us park. He even pushes us back to the fence, chalks the wheels, ties us down, and wants to know if we need any fuel. Then he gives us an area visitor's guide as well as an Aviators Guide to the Sedona Airport (very informative and useful fold-out).

Parked in front of the terminal building Just as Bob (the guy arranging for brunch today) promised on the phone several weeks ago, we are greeted by him on the ramp and welcomed to Sedona. The weather here is absolutely gorgeous, and the setting is most idyllic. A HUEY chopper arrives with a crew of weekend warriors, a hang glider lands--probably came off the Mogollon Rim (you can't glide up), another biplane departs and a vintage WACO lands. What a Sunday.

I learn that Bob is an EAA member and visits Oshkosh every year. In fact, he is building a Dragonfly in his garage at home, and, after many years of work, hopes to fly it later this year.

I've never been to Oshkosh, although two years ago Genette and I were bound for there, but when we could no longer stand the god-awful Mid-western heat that summer, we changed plans and drove for the North Shore of Lake Superior where we enjoyed cool temperatures and a nice Bed and Breakfast right on the water.

Bob entertains everyone a little, then gives me a tour of the new terminal building. A near-pantheon structure for a remote community, it's beautiful, spacious, well illuminated with natural light, and quite cheerful inside. The more-than-usual-glass makes anyone feel part of nature outside, and always in full view are the aviators landing and departing against a red-rock backdrop. An AWOS terminal and transmitter helps keeps the Unicom frequency open for ship-to-ship advisories. Pictures and artwork abound, and interesting are the contrasting aerial photos of this place when it was a little dirt strip in a town with only five streets in the sixties to a sprawling little metropolis today.

Parked in front of the SEZ airport terminal There's plenty of fine furniture for waiting passengers to relax on, as well as reading material to pass the time. The Sedona Magazine, a beautiful, stunning quarterly, is published locally. In it are some of the most magnificent pictures that I've ever seen of the incredibly, awe-inspiring landscape of red rocks and never-ending green forests. Sedona Magazine is an asset to the community and ranks up there, for me, with Arizona Highways

We bump into a guy, and Bob introduces me to him. It is George Mackin, the airport manager, and he has in his possession a book titled "The Lost Squadron". Bob says he and George were WWII aviators. They didn't know each other then, but George flew B-17 Flying Fortresses on bombing runs over Germany, and Bob was at the stick of P-51 Mustangs flying escort for B-17s and B-24s. If that's not fascinating enough for me, I find out that two pilots from Bob's outfit were part of the famed "Lost Squadron", and one of them, Bob Wilson, is living in Pine, Arizona. What a piece of aviation history, and here before me are two of the heroes who saved all the free world from Nazi Germany.

Dawn's great uncle, Warren Calland, also served in WWII. He flew the B-26 over North Africa. At more than eighty-years old, he resides in Phoenix with his wife.

It is unfortunate that contemporary America does not have more tribute to all the great world saviors, and instead is bent on demonizing all men for the evils of a few. Never mind that millions have died so you and I remain free today. Dwight Eisenhower said, "A people that values its privileges above its principles soon loses both". I think that sums up a little of today, but it shouldn't.

On July 15, 1942, Tomcat Green, a squadron of six P-38 Lightnings and two B-17 Flying Fortress bombers, all brand new, crash-landed while en route from the US to Britain. After refueling in Greenland, they departed across the treacherous North Atlantic for Iceland, only to run smack dab into impossible weather. When they turned around for the safety of their last base, the same weather predicament prevailed there, too, and any hopes for a successful outcome vanished. Low on fuel, they all force-landed, en echelon, on the ice cap of Greenland. Miraculously, all were rescued and none was killed, even though the vanguard P-38 (piloted by Brad McManus) flipped with wheels down, and the rest bellied in (including Bob Wilson's P-38).

More surprising, in 1982, a couple of US aviators from Atlanta actually located the lost squadron buried beneath 250 feet of ice. Using hot water and steam, they eventually tunneled their way to a P-38, and then piece-by-piece recovery and relocation followed. Restoration is underway, and a museum, too (on my checklist). What a fascinating piece of history. I get tears in my eyes when I imagine the comradery of those survivors fifty-plus years ago, as I do when I think of the heroes and survivors and everyone who served during WWII.

Flying across the Atlantic in a private airplane has been a dream of mine for as long as I can remember. The restrictions for single-engine flight, it seems, are more challenging than the actual journey, but I suppose those were put in place after too many doomed attempts. After all, the North Atlantic has some of the most treacherous and formidable weather on earth.

Brunch Time!

When Bob mentions food, Genette makes no bones about her growling stomach (she missed breakfast), and wants to know where the restaurant is. After all, it's already 11 am, and I'm hungry, too (and I had a little breakfast). So we walk the four-minute grassy trail to the on-field Sedona Airport Restaurant.

The weather here is so nice that most folks are eating on the patio. There are many cars in the parking lot, and transient parking for airplanes is near-full, so patrons here have wheels and wings. Because it is a little windy today, we elect a window table with a view of the field.

Brunch at the SEZ airport restaurant The menu is as entertaining as is the view (well, almost), and Dawn chooses from the "South Of The Runway" section and orders the Breakfast Burrito served with refried beans and salsa. She also goes to "Excess Baggage" and orders a fruit cup.

Mark has aliens on his mind, and chooses blueberry pancakes from "Flying Saucers". He must not know how filling these can be, because he also orders eggs and one of Dawn's fruit cups. And of course, he doesn't miss ordering milk from "Liquid Fuel".

"Banana-Bread French Toast" featured on the black board caught Genette's eyes on the way in, so she orders the breakfast special with hash browns, and her liquid fuel is iced tea.

And of course, I order pilot food--bacon and eggs with hash browns from "Pilot's Choice", and to bring my blood sugar up, I want some banana bread right away.

When Pat, our waitress, brings my pre-brunch banana bread, she hangs around a bit and wants to know where we are from and if we drove or flew in. Her demeanor is very relaxed and inviting, and she comments about all the wonderful people who stop in here. She says that yesterday Dick Van Dyke just happened to be sitting at one of her tables, and her smile tells us it was an enjoyable experience.

Dawn's husband is working today at the pharmacy, and given that he had to work when we went on our last aviation outing, I ask her if Chris is getting suspicious that we might be planning these trips on days that he doesn't have off (because we only have room for four in the airplane). Of course, the question doesn't require an answer, just lots of laughter. Besides, Mark would gladly give up his seat and stay at home if Genette would only allow him to sit at the computer all day.

No one disagrees that the food here absolutely ranks among the best we've had in restaurants, and considering the quality and quantity, it is quite modestly priced. They also have a lunch and dinner menu, with entertaining sections including "Bi-Wing Croissant Sandwiches", "Chief Pilot Sandwiches", "Throttle Bendin' Burgers", and desserts from "After Burner Delights".

Pink Jeep Tour

We want to make a day out of our visit to Sedona, and for years Genette has always wanted to take a Pink Jeep Tour but never really had the opportunity. Dawn's always wanted to do the same as well, so what better way to please a couple of women than to tour with Sedona's own Pink Jeep Tours?

Sedona's Pink Jeep Tours Our driver's name is Dick Johnson and he's one part comedian, one part stunt driver, and two parts knowledge. As we depart the airport and before we drive down the mesa, I notice a deer-crossing sign. It seems deer always have a propensity for bright lights, and I wonder if anyone has ever had a problem with them while landing here at night. Maybe that's why they have a ten-foot fence around the airport.

To get to the back country today, we drive in our open-air Jeep (actually painted pink) through a neighborhood with streets named after the motion picture industry, which is what first made Sedona well known through John Wayne, Robert Mitchem and Jeff Chandler movies. There's Paramount Drive, Universal Drive and Columbia Drive.

It is entertaining to hear so many interesting facts about Arizona from a professional tour guide, and when delivered comically, it's a bonus. I've been living in Arizona a long time, and I never before heard about soft-enough tree bark which native Americans used for diapers (Dick bets the splinters got'em potty trained pretty quickly), or that there are two types of rattlesnake venom--one that digests your flesh and one that paralyzes your nervous system. And Mark learns early in life about a plant used to make "shots"--tequila.

After leaving civilization and entering the out-back, we begin driving up and down steep hills (in granny gear, of course)--all the while negotiating and avoiding some of the biggest rocks you can find on any road (the Jeep people actually test their vehicles out here). Our modified Wrangler violently moves side-to-side and up-and-down as we steal our way across this high wooded landscape, and we must all hang on to the restraints with both hands to prevent our heads from slamming against the side roll bars, which are padded, testifying that without a soft surface it is entirely possible to come away with a bump on the old noggin. Looking around, there are steep red-rock cliffs everywhere, and one high up, especially, looks like it will fall and tumble any minute. High up on the side of a steep cliff, Dick points to a raven's nest. After twenty minutes of roller-coaster forging, we finally make it to an area for a breather and some scenic views.

Red-Rock Country

Sedona's red-rock country People in Sedona have a penchant for naming their rocks, and we get to see all of them. There's Cathedral Rock, Bell Rock, Coffee Pot Rock, Submarine Rock, Flying Saucer Rock, Whale Rock, and 747 Rock. Not to mention Slide Rock (my moniker), only this one's not in Oak Creek Canyon, and it's strictly for Jeeps. Yes, the road is far too steep to drive up, so we drive around the back to the top of the hill and come down it, only we have to slide down with the brakes locked because it's too steep to just drive down. This maneuver is a lot of fun for all of us, and if not for the seat belts, we might all fall out the open front window. Genette and Dawn share much laughter and giggles. Even when the Jeep starts to go askance, we are alright because the terrain guides us (toboggan style). Dawn thinks the Jeep is most fun and resembles the Indiana Jones ride at Disneyland, only this one is more thrilling.

The geology of this whole area is interesting. According to our Pink Jeep tour guide, Sedona and the red rocks were once a sea bottom, and the entire region pushed up after plates in the earth moved sufficiently. Marine fossils can be found most everywhere, and the characteristic red in the terrain originates from an iron substance which surrounds each particle of rock, and then rusts after exposure to oxygen. So there you have it, although rusty rock doesn't sound pretty, it certainly looks pretty.

Time to Go

When it's late afternoon, we all agree that it's time to climb back into our flying machine and head back to the barn. There's not much traffic now, and the visibility has dropped some, so this is a good time in order to arrive home before dark.

It's too bad we are not staying for the night. It would be fun to enjoy an evening glass of wine on a veranda somewhere as the sun sets on the beautiful red-rock scenery. What better way to relax after a full day of adventure?

The thought reminds me of a vacation with two friends to the California wine country some years back. We noticed wineries directly below us while on final to Cloverdale where we camped on the bank of the Russian River. We wanted to relax and do some wine tasting, so we hiked through the countryside to the Pat Paulsen Vineyards (unbeknownst to us), and yes, of all people, guess who was sitting on the front porch? Pat himself. Needless to say, not only did we enjoy some excellent wine, but lots of his humor, too. He even gave us a ride back to the airport.

The Mace After rotation on runway 21 and gaining a little altitude, we get in the left lane to climb out, and then turn directly towards Cathedral Rock. I'm interested in viewing a double-rock spire on the northeast side known as the Mace, and when we approach, sure enough, there are indeed several rock climbers on top (an all-day job). The Mace is a 350-foot world-class trophy for many rock climbers from around the globe. I've my own sights set on this challenge for the not-too-distant future.

After climbing to cruise altitude we fly over the Verde Valley again, and when the Bradshaw Mountains come into clear view through the haze, Genette notices smoke coming from the north ridge--enough to convince us that it appears a small forest fire is in progress but under control. Before we come up on Carefree, we begin our descent and then traverse Scottsdale's Class D airspace at 3,000 feet. The outside air temperature is 78 degrees. Over the Superstition Freeway, Chandler Tower clears us to enter their airspace, and when we report a two-mile base, we land on 22-R.

In the car on the way home, we have a chance to recollect our spectacular day, and we are grateful of a safe and successful outcome, and for the wonderful chance to have made a few more friends. The red-rock area is a natural narcotic, and maybe that's why folks always keep going back for more. Only one thing would be better than going back for more, and that would be living in Sedona. We'll be back.

For more information on Sedona, e-mail Sedona Airport Administration at

Copyright 1997 Ron Kilber. All rights reserved.

Ron Kilber ( is a private pilot who lives in Tempe, Arizona.

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This page was last updated Tuesday, May 06 1997.