water at our waists
we exist in the shallow
pruning like raisins,
basking in the sun
but the further I drift,
unable to touch the bottom
staying safe in the harbor
you didn’t say you couldn’t swim
Yes, Sedona gets its own post. Honestly, I may have to do a second post of just pictures.
Sedona was a place that I wasn’t really conscious of while I was planning this trip, which is ironic because Prescott was on the list early. But as I started to be more vocal about my journey, the place that was recommended to me most, even more than Lake Tahoe, was Sedona.
Driving in seemed very similar to the landscape of the rest of Arizona. It wasn’t particularly unique. But, coming from the north, there’s a bend around a large collection of the notable red rocks, and Sedona opens up like Narnia. Verde Valley is like this secluded, hidden paradise of incredible. It’s, in my opinion, the most beautiful place I’ve ever been to.
The main thing I was here for was the vortexes. If you haven’t heard of them, there are four significant points in Sedona where the energy fields are elevated, and they are considered to be places of spiritual healing and connection. The energy swirls in these places, and it’s reflected in the trees around them.
I headed for the Airport Vortex Mesa, very close to Sedona’s airport. The free parking space was closed, so I parked about a half-mile away and hiked. And this ended up being very purposeful.
The hike there wasn’t too bad, but it was almost like we were all conscious of what was to come. Our pilgrimage to the site was quiet, no one speaking much. Very much a pilgrimage in that sense. And once we got to the large rock overlook, it could be felt how reverent the place was.
It was, by far, the most unique outdoor experience I’ve ever had. I’ve had moments where I really FELT a place that I was in. That part wasn’t surprising. But there were lots of people at the top, but there was almost no sound. People were meditating, lying down, or just absorbing it. But no one was talking. A church is the only place I can recall ever being that was held in that kind of regard. I think that’s the best way to describe it.
Once back in the car, I knew I wanted to go to at least one more. Two of the remaining vortexes, Cathedral Rock and Bell Rock, were very close to each other, so I went to Cathedral Rock, with the intention of seeing Bell Rock after. And for the best reason, I didn’t make it to Bell Rock.
I had to park about a quarter-mile up the road from the trailhead due to the parking lot being full. It’s such an interesting location because surrounding this huge, impressive natural area is a lot of expensive houses. It makes sense why people would want to live nearby, but interesting nonetheless.
I read ahead of time that the trail to the summit was relatively short, 3/4 of a mile. But it gains 650 feet in elevation, which is kind of crazy. And it really shows how much a difference in elevation makes. At the Grand Canyon, I could barely climb a few hundred feet without stopping multiple times. Sedona is about 2,500 feet lower, and I had a lot easier time climbing this trail, even with the crazy gain.
The entry was amazing and not terribly difficult. But around a third of the way up, there was a ridiculous rock formation. It was honestly more of a wall. There was a narrow strip that was for your feet, and you were kind of on your own. A couple I met on the way up and myself were assured that once you got past it, it was easy from then on. I never saw the couple again, so I’m left to assume they didn’t make it up.
After that, it did get easier, but it was by no means easy. There were still a few steep spots, but once I got to the top, the views made everything worth it.
This was a less intense, spiritual experience than the Airport Mesa, but it was no less stunning. I spent a long time up there soaking in as much as I could. Once I had my fill, I made my way back down, and by the time I got to my car, I was wiped. No Bell Rock Vortex for me this time.
Lastly, I was in search of some gifts and mementos. I found some shops and headed that way, and I finally found the blemish on this oasis. Sedona is very clearly a town that is mid-scaling to become a tourist trap. The localized shopping and restaurants are mostly contained to one section of the town, and it’s overrun.
Considering it was a Tuesday afternoon, traffic was terrible and the construction didn’t help. Parking was a nightmare everywhere and I was a bit flustered. But, I thought I’d try a restaurant and walk from there. No parking to be found. Ok, I’ll just hit the shops. Nada.
Finally, I found a small spiritual shop that looked interesting and sought refuge there. I love crystals and their energy, but I wasn’t really in the market for more. And that was the majority of the offerings here. I strolled through the tarot books and decks, the jewelry and statues, and was about to leave. But something finally caught my eye.
The front, a red ocean wave enso circle. An enso circle, which I have tattooed on my left arm, is, in Japanese culture, a symbol for absolute enlightenment, strength, elegance, the universe, and the void. It stood out to me a year ago and holds a lot of meaning to me.
Surrounding the circle, and wrapping around to the back, mountains, and waves. Enclosed in the cover, a blank journal. It was one of the most beautiful pieces of art I’ve ever come across, and I loved it. I’m not sure what I’m going to use it for, but it’s one of my favorite things I’ve ever bought for myself. Well worth navigating the tourist flooded streets.
I ended up not being able to get a shirt or stickers or something else that might tell other people that I had been there. I tried, even after the journal, but the place I settled on, labeled as having a gift shop, was empty. I took that as a sign that I had gotten everything I needed from Sedona.
And really, that’s kind of the point of this trip. The experiences and stories I gained can only really be shared amongst friends and family in a retelling. A t-shirt or sticker may open up that opportunity, but until you share the stories, there can’t begin to be a level of understanding.
One of my favorite things about being out here has been the proximity of so many National Parks. California has nine, Utah has five and Colorado has four (Alaska has eight, but that’s not within reach). Kentucky is surrounded on all sides by states that have National Parks, in addition to its own. But all of those states combined have six total parks. It’s not even close.
So, after visiting Zion, I made my way south to the Grand Canyon. It was actually much different than I anticipated. For some reason, I had in my head that the Grand Canyon was basically a big, long hole in the ground surrounded by desert. It couldn’t have been more different.
The first thing I noticed was the forest I drove through to get there. Many pines and other year-round trees paving my way to the canyon, due mostly to another surprising fact: the elevation. It’s about 7,000 feet above sea level, which explains the climate.
Once in the park, there was more forest all along the rim and different types of trees all through the canyon, changing depending on the various climates in the canyon itself. It’s such a complex ecosystem that I wouldn’t have guessed had I never been.
I stopped at a couple of the viewpoints and went down part of one of the trails. I didn’t go very far, which is probably good because it was a struggle getting back up. It’s something that I underestimated about this trip, but I do wish I was in better shape. I’d be more capable of exploring some of these areas and seeing new things. But as I said before, it just gives me more goals for the future.
In the gift shop, I learned that the Grand Canyon has been designated as an International Dark Sky Park, just this summer. This means that its one of the more than sixty places in the world that are the best for stargazing. The low light pollution lends itself to this and gives me further reason to go back to the park.
After leaving the park, I headed for nearby Prescott, Arizona. It’s a place I’ve always had eyes for, largely because it’s relatively inexpensive and near some forestry. Much like many of the places I’ve been, however, it didn’t resonate with me. Pictures can only tell so much of the story, and as I said before, the people will truly explain the place you’re in.
So, for the first time in the last three weeks, I got a hotel room. And it was much needed. A proper shower and bed were really great, and it was nice to not have to rearrange my car. And the complimentary breakfast in the morning would prove to be very necessary for my journey the next day: Sedona.
have you felt a tree?
not the bark
or the fleshy inside, exposed
have you FELT it?
the hum of the rings
echoing its strength with age
the roots, a tight grip on the earth
nourishing the base
and holding its place
the branches stretching upward
always in pursuit of more
most will physically feel
but will your soul also?
While I’m still in California, I’m trying to be careful about how and where I proceed. The wildfires are doing a number on Los Angeles and the surrounding area, and I’m trying to be respectful of the efforts being put in to stop them. I’m here on essentially a vacation and there are life-threatening situations happening around me. Not to put a damper on the proceedings, but I felt like it was worth noting.
So, that being said, Sacramento was a bit of a home base for me for a few days. After my experiences on the coast, I was eager to get back to it, but first, Lake Tahoe.
There were a handful of reasons I wanted to visit Lake Tahoe. It was one of the places I had multiple people telling me was a must-see before I left. Nearby Squaw Valley is also the start of the Western States 100 Ultramarathon, the pinnacle of ultra-endurance racing. At one point it was high on my list of things I’d like to participate in. I’d like to get back to that point.
The trip up to Tahoe felt much longer than the two hours it took to get up there. But once I was there, I didn’t know what to expect. I could see glimpses of the lake, but couldn’t get a good feel for it until I made it to the park entrance and walked out to the shore.
It was by far the most beautiful place I’ve been so far. I stayed a lot longer than I thought I would because I wanted to explore as much as I could. But I’ll let the pictures do most of the talking.
I stayed another day in Sacramento and then made my way toward the coast once again. The destination this time: Big Sur. I’ve heard so much about how beautiful Big Sur was and wanted to see it for myself. And, technically, I drove right through it.
My phone GPS lost signal and didn’t make it clear as to where I was supposed to turn off at. So I drove past a little inn and some shops, and then I was back in the woods. Big Sur gone. I have tried to avoid quick turnarounds and such, trying to take care of my car. So I drove on. I figured I would have other opportunities to see some amazing sights on the coastal drive.
I headed south and drove for miles along the ocean, trying to find a perfect spot. I wanted to watch the sunset from the coast and finally found it, about a half-hour before the sun finally set.
I sat on the edge of a cliff, watching the sunset with only the sound of the crashing waves below me. I almost feel guilty getting to have all these experiences over and over in such short succession. It’s not generally supposed to be this way. I’m very lucky. I’ll close with some additional photos.