Western Trips

Western Trips

Sunday, October 26, 2014

Sedona's Cathedral Rock Hike / Red Rock Crossing

While thousands of people visit Sedona Arizona's Red Rock Crossing annually, it's amazing how many people have not. This by far is one of the top attractions in Sedona. Set among rich red rocks and brush-speckled ridges, Red Rock Crossing is a colorful must-see during your stay in Sedona. It's really a part of Sedona Arizona you don't want to miss experiencing. At Red Rock Crossing you'll find one of the most recognizable images of Sedona known all around the world, Cathedral Rock.

sedona hiking
View of Oak creek along the hiking trail
To reach Red Rock Crossing take Highway 89A west to the Upper Red Rock Loop Road and head south. From this point look for the signs. Red Rock Crossing is open daily sunrise to sunset.

For starters, this is probably one of the most photographed places in the Southwest. Red Rock Crossing  is located about seven miles southwest of downtown Sedona.

Because of it's popularity, Red Rock Crossing can become crowded at times but if you come early in the morning or on a weekday, it's possible to enjoy the world class beauty of Red Rock Crossing minus the crowds.

The elevation in this area is about 4,000 feet. Red Rock Crossing is as popular as it is beautiful with it's red rock backdrop. People come here to fish, swim, and wade in the creek, as well as to picnic and photograph the scenery.

Crescent Moon Ranch Hike at Red Rock Crossing

The Crescent Moon Ranch hike at Red Rock Crossing is a relatively easy hike. The one way distance is three-quarters of a mile and a round trip usually takes about one hour. The trail is flat and runs along the meandering Oak Creek. This trail is perfect for beginners and anyone looking for an easy yet very scenic hike. The trail is excellent for a family outing.and there is a good amount of parking available at Red Rock Crossing at Crescent Moon Ranch.

sedona hiking trails
Wooded section of Crescent Moon Ranch Trail
Along the hiking trail you'll come across dozens of rock cairns that look like a miniature Stonehenge. These are stacked rocks erected by believers to take advantage of the vortex found there for meditating and chanting.

You can hike on either side of Oak Creek on wooded trails. The trail on the south side of the creek will lead you all the way to the top of Cathedral Rock, offering breathtaking views. The trail to the top of Cathedral Rock is not one for people with a fear of heights.



Climbing Cathedral Rock

 The climb up Cathedral Rock is entirely different than the flat trail along the creek. The climb is steep and may not be appropriate for children. You can easily hike to it, just not up it. If you do decide to climb up it look for the white lines to help guide you to the easiest route. The path is clearly marked by both white paint stripes on the ground and piles of rock in chicken wire cages. There are plenty of places to just stop and rest for a few minutes if you choose and simply enjoy the view while you catch your breath. The views from the top are worth the climb.

Crescent Moon Ranch 

Crescent Moon Ranch was a working ranch that was donated to the National Forest Service in the mid 1900's. 

Crescent Moon Ranch is an exceptional year-round place to stay in beautiful Sedona. The central Arizona facility is a rustic, historic ranch house adjacent to Oak Creek and near the base of the towering Cathedral Rock.

crescent moon ranch trail sedona
Rock cairns
For those who wish to take in the scenery at Red Rock Crossing for more than just a day trip, check out the ranch house at Crescent Moon Ranch. There is an old ranch house at Crescent Moon Ranch that is available for both day and overnight use

The National Forest Service describes the facilities as follows...

Please remember that this is a rustic historic ranch house and not a modern hotel. It is a cabin in the forest and very old. It was built by ranchers of the original homestead and made available for public use by the US Forest Service. Your careful stay and light hand so as to not cause any further wear on the premises is most appreciated.

With three bedrooms, three bathrooms, a large great room, two kitchens and an enclosed sun porch, there is plenty of room. Maximum capacity for the house is 10 people for overnight use (one queen bed/2 double beds/ 1 bunk bed with a full size bed and a twin bed and one futon in the living room). The house may be rented for day use as well. Day use capacity is 25 people (ideal for weddings and other day gatherings). Electricity and running water are provided. The old ranch house reservations are handled by the National Park Service.

See the Western Trips articles on the links below...

Visit Sedona's Architectural Wonder / The Chapel of the Holy Cross

Visit the Ancient Arizona Montezuma Castle

Visit the Desert Botanical Garden / Phoenix

sedona red rocks
Red rock views from the hiking trail
For more details of the accommodations, what to bring with you and rates see website...http://www.fs.usda.gov/recarea/coconino/recreation/camping-cabins/recarea/?recid=72113&actid=101

Another website with detailed information is...http://www.recreation.gov/camping/crescent-moon-ranch

For more information about Crescent Moon Picnic Area or Crescent Moon Ranch Cabin you can also contact the Red Rock Ranger District, 928-282-4119.

Sedona is one of the top destinations in Arizona. Sedona attractions offer some of the most scenic hiking in North America, tremendous photo opportunities, unique shopping and dining, back road jeep tours, historic sites, architectural wonders and mysterious vortexes. If you've already visited Sedona chances are you've already been back. If you haven't visited this area of Arizona make certain you do. You won't be disappointed.

(Article and photos copyright 2014 Western Trips)

Sunday, October 19, 2014

One of the Seven Man-Made Wonders of Arizona / Sedona's Chapel of the Holy Cross

Among the beautiful and stunning red rock scenery of Sedona Arizona is perhaps one of the most unique chapels found anywhere on the North American continent. The Chapel of the Holy Cross was constructed in 1956 but it's story goes back many years before that.

chapel of the holy cross sedona
The Chapel of the Holy Cross, Sedona, AZ
Envisioning a Chapel

The idea of this chapel in this place actually goes all the way back to 1932 when New Yorker,  Marguerite Bruswig Staude was inspired by the newly built Empire State Building. Staude was a sculptress, philanthropist, and devout Catholic. She was also an informal student of architect Frank Lloyd Wright.

Staude began envisioning a chapel with a cross as the central supporting structure. At first the idea was to build in Europe along the Danube but political unrest at that time dampened a European project.

After visiting Sedona Arizona, Staude, like many, was captivated by it's red rock beauty and decided that the chapel should be built there. As you can clearly see, Staude's design for the chapel actually made it a part of the natural landscape as could possibly be done. Marguerite Bruswig Staude considered the chapel her greatest artistic life achievement.


The Construction of an Architectural Masterpiece

The Chapel of the Holy Cross was constructed on a twin pinnacled spur of red rocks 250 feet high, jutting out of a thousand foot red rock wall. The chapel forms a framed cross and is enclosed by four large windows looking out over Sedona´s stunning red rocks. It took about one and one half years to build at a cost of $300,000. Building this type of structure at this location was certainly not an easy task.

sedona chapel
Chapel entrance
The Chapel received an award from the American Institute of Architects in 1957. Citizens of Arizona also named the Chapel of the Holy Cross one of the Seven Man-Made Wonders of Arizona in 2007. The chapel in Sedona had been featured in several publications including the New York Times and Life Magazine.

As you can see from it's photos, the chapel is surprisingly modern and contemporary even though it was built almost sixty years ago.The Chapel of the Holy Cross in Sedona is one of the finest examples of building into the natural landscape. The balance and confidence the chapel holds with the landscape is remarkable.

The Chapel of the Holy Cross is built on Coconino National Forest land and a special use permit was acquired with the help of then Senator Barry Goldwwater. The project architect was Richard Hein and the design was executed by August K. Strotz, both employed by the well known firm of Anshen & Allen

Visit the Chapel of the Holy Cross in Sedona

arizona chapel of the holy cross
Chapel interior
Talk a stroll inside Marguerite Bruswig Staude and Richard Hein’s inspiring structure, wedged between a twin-pinnacle spur in Oak Creek Valley. Today, the Chapel of the Holy Cross is one of the most visited attractions in Sedona and well worth a place on your Arizona trip planner. Thousands of people visit it annually and the photo opportunities from this location are some of the best in the Sedona area.

Just viewing the architecture of this one of a kind chapel and how it was built in the red rocks of Sedona is well worth a visit.

The Chapel of the Holy Cross does not have regular services held however there is an informal prayer session every Monday at 5P with the exception of when Christmas falls on a Monday.

You may also enjoy the Western Trips Arizona articles on the links below...

Attractions in Arizona / Prescott

Hiking Sedona's Crescent Moon Ranch Trail

A Visit to Flagstaff's Lowell Observatory

La Posada in Winslow Arizona

An excellent guide book for the Sedona Arizona area includes...Sedona Arizona Red Rock Country Tour Guide Book: Your personal tour guide for Sedona travel adventure! by Waypoint Tours.


sedona arizona attractions
The stunning red rocks on the way to the chapel
Marguerite Bruswig Staude bequeathed the chapel to the Catholic Church. The Diocese of Phoenix and St John Vianney parish are the caretakers of the Chapel. Regardless of  your faith, all people are welcomed to visit, meditate or pray there. There is a small gift shop on the floor underneath the chapel. As of this writing Chapel of the Holy Cross hours are 9A-5P daily except for Thanksgiving, Christmas, Good Friday and Easter.

When visiting the Chapel of the Holy Cross it is important to wear comfortable walking shoes. It's a steep climb from the parking area to the Chapel. If you require it, there is also a parking area at the top for the physically challenged.

Directions to the Chapel of the Holy Cross are as follows. From Highway 89A, take Highway 179 south from Sedona toward the Village of Oak Creek. Turn left on Chapel Road. The Chapel of the Holy Cross is at the end of the road. The formal address is 780 Chapel Rd., Sedona, Arizona.

(Article and photos copyright 2014 Western Trips)

Sunday, October 12, 2014

A Walking Tour of Historic Gonzales Texas

Gonzales Texas was established in 1825 on Kerr Creek, 2 1/2 miles east of the confluence of the San Marcos and Guadalupe Rivers. It was the capital of Empresario Green DeWitt’s Colony which started in 1825 and was the westernmost Anglo settlement until the close of the Texas Revolution of which it played a large role.

come and take it gonzales texasGonzales is perhaps the most historic town in all of Texas. It was here in Gonzales that the opening shots of the Texas Revolution were fired. The story goes back to 1831 when the Mexican government sent Gonzales a six-pound cannon as protection against the Comanches. This cannon was later used in the ‘Come and Take It’ Battle on October 2, 1835, firing the first shot in the Texas Revolution against Mexican rule.

 The battle was set off when a group of Mexican soldiers demanded that the cannon be returned to them and of course the Anglo settlers resisted. The cannon was never returned and the Mexican soldiers returned to San Antonio.

Some forty-one members of the Gonzales settlement died at the Alamo including the "Immortal 32" who answered the call for help from William Travis during that famous battle.


Every year Gonzales celebrates the "Come and Take It" event which includes parades, arts and crafts, a classic car show and of course a reenactment of the battle named "Come and Take It".

historic buildings gonzales texas
Randle-Rather Building
Gonzales Becomes a Large Financial Center

Fast forward about 40 years and Gonzales Texas finds itself as a financial center where people earned large fortunes in cotton and cattle. Cotton growing in particular was a major industry in Gonzales and the surrounding areas. These large fortunes resulted in large mansions being built. Today over 80 properties have been documented and many of these large homes have been wonderfully preserved for over 100 years.

Something very unique about Gonzales Texas is that the town was originally built on seven public squares laid out in the shape of a cross. The names of the squares have had several names through the years, but the layout today is the same as in 1832.

Confederate Square

Located at the intersection of N. St. Joseph and St. George Street, Confederate Square honors the soldiers killed while serving in the Confederate Army during the Civil War. The monument (by sculptor Frank Teich) was dedicated in 1909 through the efforts of Chapter 546 of United Daughters of the Confederacy, Gonzales, Texas.

See the Historic Homes 

historic homes texas
J.D. Houston House
Take the self-guided walking/driving tour that points out the historic homes and buildings built at the turn of the century.  The 1.3 mile tour includes several historic homes, landmarks and other buildings in Gonzales. Complete information about the tour, both the walking and longer driving tour, is available at the visitor center located in the Old Jail Museum.

The frame homes are built of cypress shipped from the Florida/Louisiana coastal area to the Texas port of Indianola. The material was then hauled by ox-cart to Gonzales. Cypress was preferred because cypress seldom rotted and was rarely damaged by termites. Many of the brick homes and buildings are built from brick made by the Sunset Brick Company, which operated in Gonzales for a very long time, from the early 1880s through the mid 1970s..

Below are just a few of the historic homes and building in Gonzales, Texas

The J.D. Houston House

James Dunn Houston was the brother of  W.B. Houston, and built this Queen Anne-style house in 1898.  The mansion construction started three years earlier in 1895. The house has fifteen main rooms, five bathrooms and several halls and walkways. Each of the main rooms has it's own uniquely designed fireplace. The house foyer  still has two canvas wall murals that were bought in New Orleans when the house was constructed.

historic homes gonzales texas
J.B. Kennard House
Dunn was another of Gonzales’ early cattle barons. In 1900 he sold his house, moved to San Antonio and went into the banking business. The house is located at 619 St. Lawrence St.

The J.B. Kennard House

James Blake Kennard was born June 24, 1861 in Plantersville, Texas. J.B. Kennard was a lumberman and built this Queen Anne style home in 1895. The two story house with a large attic features fishtail shingles, clapboard siding and glass and pottery-chip mosaics in the gables. The entrance windows in the cupola and dining room are French beveled glass topped by Tiffany leaded glass.

The St. James Inn

The St. James Inn is a bed & breakfast in one of Gonzales Texas' historic homes. The three story home with 10,000 square feet was built circa 1914.  The home was built by the children of a cattle baron named L.M. Kokernot. The cattleman died in 1914 and his children wanted to build a house in the town so their mother wouldn't have  to continue living on the ranch.

L. M. Kokernot was one of Gonzales' first and largest cattle barons. The rooms are large and elegant. The property opened as a B & B in 1989 after renovations were completed returning the house to it's original splendor. The home and B and B is located at 723 St. James Street.

See the Western Trips articles on the links below... 

Visit Lockhart Texas / History and the Barbecue Capital

The King Ranch / One of the World's Largest


b & b gonzales texas
St. James Inn
The Randle-Rather Building

The Randle-Rather Building, shown above, was constructed in 1895 by two Gonzales business leaders, James Polk Randle and Charles Taylor Rather. The architecture is of Italianate Renaissance Revival style and  housed the Gonzales National Bank as well as several other businesses. The building is still a major structure in downtown Gonzales, Texas. The building is at the corner of St. Paul and St. George Streets

If your Texas travels take you anywhere near Gonzales, Texas, you will be glad that you added a stop there to your Texas vacation planner. Gonzales offers so many historic sites that highlight it's very early days during the Texas Revolution as well as it's growth into a large financial center based primarily on cotton and cattle. Gonzales offers some of the finest architectural examples of the late 1800's. 

Gonzales, Texas is located approximately 65 miles south of Austin and 70 miles east of San Antonio. 

(Article and photos copyright 2014 Western Trips)


Sunday, October 5, 2014

Visit Lockhart Texas / History and the Barbeque Capital

If you happen to be looking for the official "Barbeque Capital of Texas" , you need to travel no further than the community of Lockhart. In addition to the terrific barbeque offered at Lockhart, the city also has a rich history and was the site of a battle in 1840 involving the famed Texas Rangers. Lockhart also has many historic old buildings still lining it's square and we've included several photos of these in this article.

Caldwell County Courthouse
Located in and being the county seat of Caldwell County Texas, the city is named after Byrd Lockhart who it is said was a surveyor and also the first Anglo to enter Caldwell County.

Lockhart, Texas is located about 38 miles south of Austin and about 70 miles northeast of San Antonio.

The Great Raid and The Battle of Plum Creek

The history part of Lockhart includes the distinction of being the site of what was called the Battle of Plum Creek. This was a battle between a large Comanche war party and the Texas Rangers.

Prior to this battle, the Comanches engaged in an epic raid against Texas settlers. The raid was so immense that many bands of Comanches drove all the way southeast through Victoria and onward to the then port town of Indianola on the Gulf of Mexico. This raid is considered to be the largest by Indian tribes against white towns and settlements in the history of the United States. The raid was revenge for what the Comanches had believed was a betrayal at what was called the Council House Fight that killed several of their leaders.

Chisholm Trail Ballroom
All of this occurred in early August of 1840. The Indians looted towns and homes all along the way and had collected a good deal of bullion, livestock and plunder. Texas Rangers companies along with volunteers from settlements such as Gonzales and Bastrop made plans to intercept the Indians during their return westward. All of this did come to a head when the Comanches were confronted by the Texans at Plum Creek near today's Lockhart, Texas on August 12, 1840.

The Chisholm Trail Ballroom shown in this photo is officially the oldest building around the Lockhart Texas square.

The Indians were slowed by all of the plunder they were hauling back to west Texas and this allowed the Texans to catch up with them. The battle at Plum Creek was reported to be a running gun fight where the Texans were trying to kill Comanches and recover loot at the same time. It is said that perhaps eighty Comanches were killed in the fighting however the vast majority of the raiders did escape. The Texans it seems after finding the stolen bullion cut off their pursuit to collect and divide up the loot. As a consequence the majority of the Indian raiders escaped by riding away at top speed to the west.

Lockhart's A.L.B. Bldg built in 1901
The battle site is located a few miles north of the Lockhart State Park. The park was created by the Civilian Conservation Corps between 1935 and 1938 from donated land. The park address is 4179 State Park Road. To reach Lockhart State Park, drive one mile south of Lockhart on U.S. Highway 183 to FM 20; then travel southwest on FM 20 for two miles to Park Road 10 and continue one mile south on Park Road 10

Some of the Absolute Best Barbeque in Texas

What you need to know is that if your travels take you anywhere near Lockhart, Texas you want to make an effort to visit this town. Here you cannot go wrong with Texas barbeque. In fact, we'll say this could very well be the best barbeque you ever enjoyed.

You may also enjoy the Western Trips articles on the links below... 

Visit Austin Texas' Famous Driskill Hotel

Visit the Old Frontier Settlement of Dripping Springs Texas

Tour the Historic Menger Hotel in San Antonio

A Walking Tour of Historic Gonzales Texas

Lockhart's Ray Bldg from 1898
The facts regarding barbecue in Lockhart is that there are four BBQ restaurants in Lockhart. The restaurants estimate that about 5,000 people visit their establishments each week. This would come to about 250,000 people a year who eat BBQ in Lockhart.

Lockharts four BBQ restaurants include Black's Barbeque at 215  N. Main Street. Black's opened in 1932 and is one of the oldest barbeque restaurants in the state and has been owned by the same family since it's founding. Go through the line for your sides, then your barbeque meat choice and you'll have a choice of eating inside or at picnic tables on the grass on the north side of the building.

Another is Chisholm Trail Barbeque located at 1323 S. Colorado. This popular restaurant opened it's doors in 1978. This is a famous Texas barbecue including fajitas and special sides in a cafeteria-style setting.


Black's Barbecue, Lockhart, TX
Kreuz Barbeque is unique whereas the beef, sausage or pork is served on brown butcher paper. No sides are offered. Sauce is another thing that is not an option at Kreuz. The owners feel that good barbeque doesn't require sauce. The restaurant is located at 619 N. Colorado

The fourth barbeque restaurant in Lockhart Texas is Smitty's Market. Smitty's is located at 208 S. Commerce and is noted for great barbeque. Walk to the back and order your meat from the people who will weigh it for you. Take your meat inside then order sides and drinks.

(Article and photos copyright 2014 Western Trips)