In Search Of…: Sedona

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.

Sedona Tree

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.

Sedona Summit

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.

Sedona Selfie

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.

Sedona Cathedral

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.

Book 1

Book 2

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.

 

ice tunnel

the trail ahead narrows

funneling into a hall

the snow crunches below me

echoing off the walls

the chamber is lined with ice

branches looming inward 

steps bounce toward the exit

the cold inhale to my innards

emerging from the other side

the beauty having ceased

I will remember the elegance of the ice

to rival any Gatsby feast

~

Photo by Davide Cantelli on Unsplash

Calling

Head full, needing relief,
the trail comes calling.
It’s song luring,
a dog whistle for the heart.
The path uneven,
the dirt compact,
the trees engulf me in their silence.
The winding road,
weaving its way between the roots,
takes me further into the unknown.
Where will it lead?
What will I find?
Who will I discover?
The answer,
as I’ve found many times before,
is myself.

Keep Your Headphones Coiled (Sometimes)

A few weeks ago, I went hiking on the Appalachian Trail. You can read about my experience here. Because it was unfamiliar territory, and because there are legit BEARS in the mountains, I went hiking without having my headphones in. I needed to be able to detect threats if needed or be more in tune with my surroundings in case a worst-case-scenario happened.

I’m usually the person that doesn’t go anywhere without headphones. The grocery, walking down the street, even at work if I’m working alone, I’ll have my headphones in. It’s my safe space and my bubble that will usually deter people from trying to disrupt me. So to hike for three hours in the middle of nowhere without headphones was definitely outside my comfort zone.

I won’t rehash my entire experience again, but it ended up being a beautiful experience where I was able to clear my head. Without the constant noise to distract me, I was able to dig deep into some issues that I’ve been having and find answers. And I also was able to think of new things I wanted to investigate or do. It was a great place to find some clarity.

I knew I wanted to try it in the city, where the images aren’t so picturesque and the sounds aren’t so serene.

When I came back to the real world, I knew I wanted to try it in the city, where the images aren’t so picturesque and the sounds aren’t so serene. I wanted to see if I could find that same happiness when the elements weren’t in my favor. And while it wasn’t the same experience, the few times I’ve run without headphones since have been beneficial, in most of the same ways.

Make no mistake, headphones are still necessary for me most days. I’m getting back into running shape, which means the majority of my miles are arduous and painful. And the podcasts or music that I like to listen to are a big help toward getting me to the end of my miles for the day. But every once in a while, it’s nice to unplug and listen to the silence (or cars) around you.

Hiking To Clarity

Over the course of the past month or so, I’ve been feeling the itch.
We as human beings have an indisputable connection to nature and the earth around us. It’s why our emotions and bodies are bound to the things that happen around us. Our knees may ache when rain is coming, or mercury retrograde (which is on deck until August 19th) may affect our mood. I used to think this all sounded like hippie bullshit until I started listening to my body and mind. But that’s a post for another day.
The itch I get now is to be in nature, amongst the trees and dirt, and as high in the air as I can get. And to solve that itch this time around, I decided to head south to the Appalachian Trail.
Now, I use the outdoors as a mental refresh and some time to think and work through some problems that I may be having. It is 100% my happy place, and I needed some happy.
So, I made my way down to Georgia and, the morning of my hike got up early and started to drive. Now, for some context. I started planning this trip roughly three weeks ago. And even with such a short lead time, I still managed to pick the weekend with thunderstorms predicted in the forecast every day I was there. I’ve hiked (and ran) in rain before, so it doesn’t bother me, but thunderstorms and wind would be different.
AT Drive Path
This was the picture I took of the dirt road up toward the summit of Springer Mountain. As you can see, no rain and the sun started to come out!
As I’m heading up the path toward the parking lot, a couple things started to happen. First, the sun came out and I stopped worrying about the weather. And as the sun started to poke its way through the clouds and trees, I heard a line from Conor Oberst’s song, Artifact #1.
“Life can’t compete with memories that never have to change.”
I knew I was where I was meant to be.
That isn’t to say that we should live in memories, in fact, it’s the opposite. We should be living every day to create those memories, that we can then reflect on when things aren’t going as great. At least, that’s how I interpreted it for myself.
As I made my way to the parking lot, I could feel my restless, monkey mind starting to settle. I meditate every day, and that didn’t hold a candle to how at ease I was during this drive, even with the bumps in the soft dirt below my car. I pulled into the parking lot and got out to breath the fresh air. A dense fog hung over the area and I started up the path. It’s now that I should mention that there were two paths, each heading in different directions. I couldn’t make heads or tails of which way was which, so I headed for the summit of the mountain.
AT Trail
The trail as I headed toward the summit.
As I headed up the path, this wave of emotion washed over me. Not in a way that manifests itself physically, but in my mind. I was walking the same path that Karl Meltzer and Scott Jurek walked, the two fastest known times for completing the trail supported by a crew. While I am more familiar with Jurek and Meltzer, Joe McConaughy and Heather Anderson have the fastest unsupported times, going northbound and southbound respectively. In my life, I had never experienced that level of feeling intimidated by my surroundings.
AT Springer Mountain Summit
Unfortunately, not my picture. It’s very much like what my view was though! Found it on mapio.net.
The summit was a welcome sight. It was beautiful and the sun (which made an off-again, on-again appearance through the day) has come back out and the view was stunning. After a quick picture that ended up being blurry (womp), I kept down the trail.
Now, I’m not a religious person. I grew up Catholic but never got absorbed into the church. And in my early twenties, I would argue that I was somewhere between agnostic and atheist. But in the past few years, I’ve opened my mind up much more and I’m definitely spiritual, though I would be hard-pressed to explain my feelings on it. And I can tell you that hiking on the AT was as close to a spiritual experience as I’ve ever had in my life. The sun shone through the trees, lighting them the way light frames a deity. And as far as I’m concerned, no one can tell me that trees aren’t god-like. It’s unexplainable because it was a new experience for me, but I was surer than ever, in those hours, that we are all one. We are all connected in emotional and physical ways that many of us aren’t tapped into. And this was my first taste of that ethereal space.
I ended up doing ten miles, five out, and five back. The sun paving my way, there were two very distinct things that I noticed. One was the pristine nature of the, well, nature. Once I was a couple miles in, I saw no tracks except my own. Rain had been in the area before I got there, so it wasn’t a surprise. But given the feelings already in my mind about the excursion, I felt like this was once more a sign.
A sign that this space was mine for the moment. That I was allowed that selfish moment of making those few hours all about me. Self-care is a nicer way of saying that you are going to be more selfish. And I was very selfish.
The other thing that stood out to me was a particular stretch of the trail. The path was flat, dark with loose dirt when I heard something. Or rather, didn’t hear anything. I realized that there was no sound outside of my footsteps. I stopped and took it in. The complete and utter silence of being away from everything. And it was the first time I had ever given credence to the idea that if a tree falls in the forest and no one is around to hear it, maybe it doesn’t make a sound.
I love nature, and the clarity it brings to my life. Everything makes sense there. We should all be striving for something that clarifies things for us, and doing it outdoors, close to nature, is a good place to start.