Sunday, May 11, 2008

Sedona, AZ

The drive into Sedona along Route 89A was a multi-color spectacle, the bright blue skies contrasting with the red-rock buttes, both colors even more intensified by the surrounding dark green forests. There was a sense of balance and peacefulness in the air, not surprising since Sedona is well known for its pockets of energy centers, called vortexes, that some believe enhance peace and creativity (though others believe the vortexes are burial grounds for alien spaceships).

Unfortunately, once we got to Sedona proper, we found that the tourism trade had taken over the town, ruining the peace that we felt on the drive up. The influx of restaurants, stores and galleries driven by the tourist industry coupled with the tiresome traffic jams left a bad taste in our mouths. It is easy to see why so many people have a love/hate relationship with Sedona because we were immediately drawn to the natural beauty but repulsed by the commercialism. We were excited to check out the work of the local artists and artisans but sadly all we found were shops that specialize in cheap Southwestern gifts that had little to do with art and a lot to do with overpriced and tacky knick knacks.

We couldn’t run away fast enough from Sedona proper and head back to nature! Thankfully, we made plans to camp at Sedona rather than stay at a hotel. We were lucky to have gotten the last spot at Manzanita campsite, a small but clean site with only 18 campsites. Each site has a fire pit, a grill, a picnic table, and room for a tent, all situated along a bubbly creek. We pitched in minutes (as if we’d been doing it for years!) and left our stuff to check out some of the famous Sedona vortexes.

Our first stop was Bell Rock butte, which is called so for its supposed bell shape. We walked around the butte on a path that heads directly to its base. Indeed, there was a powerful sensation of peace and balance in the air that surrounds the butte. Presumably, this is why people call it a balanced vortex (some say it is the synergy of the feminine, the masculine, and the balanced energy). Certainly, there was something remarkably serene about Bell Rock. We stopped at Cathedral Rock butte next, and we concurred that it looked like a church surrounded by towering spires made of red earth. This vortex is made up of the feminine energy. It was beautiful for sure, but the air here didn’t seem as magical as it was at Bell Rock.

As it was getting late, we decided to head back to our camp site for some dinner and s’mores. The kind campsite host taught us how to light a campfire using pine cones as kindling, and we were able to eat dinner under the stars in the warmth of a fire. It was so fun making s’mores over a campfire, just like in the movies. We spent the rest of the night huddled around the fire, looking up at the stars, loving the peacefulness of our immediate surroundings and the expansiveness of the heavens.

The campsite host warned us that unlike in Grand Canyon, the temperature might drop to below freezing by midnight and to prepare ourselves for a cold night. So we got bundled up, reluctantly left the warmth of the fire and climbed into our tent. The host was right: the overnight temperature dropped into the 20s. When we got up at six the next morning, we could still see our breath on the air. We hoped that the sun would come out soon for our hike up Bear Mountain.

We had read about Bear Mountain in our travel guide book, which called the hike “strenuous” and marked it with a big W for “wilderness.” Cocky from our “expert hiking” of Grand Canyon, we thought we were well equipped for it. With our compass, water and snacks in tow, we started the drive to the head of the trail. Finding the trailhead proved more difficult than we anticipated because it was not clearly marked; this should have clued us in on how “expert” this hike would turn out, but we naively started our hike into the wilderness despite the lack of markings. About two minutes into the hike, we soon realized that the W really meant wilderness…there was no trail for us to follow – no markings, no cairns, no nothing! We kept walking in the hope that we would come across a trail that would lead to the mountain but after ten more minutes of walking aimlessly around, we were forced to admit that we had no idea where we were going. We couldn’t see the mountain or anything to indicate in which direction the mountain lay. So we laughed and decided that perhaps this was too advanced for us so we slowly traced our way back to the car thinking that we’d do an easier hike somewhere else this time around. As we began to walk back to the car, we quickly realized that we had no idea where our car was parked – everything looked the same! We wandered around for about fifteen minutes getting more and more lost. As Pearl freaked out, Pia turned the compass around in circles trying to figure out how to use it and Chris bent down to look for signs of foot prints from previous hikers (he was using his ranger skills to get us home). He found some horseshoe prints and we followed these for a while before just deciding to just head “that way.” Luckily, we found the road and followed it a half mile until we reached the car again. Guess it was the universe humbling us from being so cocky about our expertise.

That pretty much ended our trip to Sedona – we thought about doing another hike, but when it came down to it, we decided that we’d rather spend the rest of the day lying in the sun. On the drive back to Lake Havasu, we all decided that with a little training and a lot of friends we could one day climb Mt Kilimanjaro. Who’s with us?

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