Thursday, January 30, 2020

Grand Canyon Backpacking Trip and a Visit to Sedona, January 2020

A Day in Sedona, Arizona

Sedona is on the way to Phoenix from the Grand Canyon. In fact, Sedona is about halfway between the two points. When you have the bulk of a day to use up it would be a terrible shame to skip visiting this unusual quirky home of red rocks, canyons, forests, artists and their galleries, and the purported source of odd energies and vortices that influence the world in unusual ways. Toss in the fact that Joni, Doug, and Lil have never been there and Andy and I have not been in quite some time (12 years for me) and how can the chance to visit be reasonably passed up. Andy pushed us to be on the road not long after sunrise. I know I felt a bit of resistance to that but he was right to squeeze out the most of our time. It just felt like a push given the so-so sleep I think we all got mostly because when someone was awake someone else was asleep sawing logs with great enthusiasm. When we arrived at the Creekside Cafe for a hearty breakfast we were all ready for a good morning wake-up meal.

It was overcast but the day did promise to clear and temperatures were expected to push up to around 63F. That struck me as rather warm given Sedona’s elevation at about 4,500 feet above sea level. I wasn’t complaining. Just surprisingly warm. The plan was to have breakfast and then visit the Hike House gear shop and go from there with some gentle hiking, visits to galleries, visits elsewhere, and dinner before driving the remaining 2 hours to Phoenix.

Visit Hike House if you are interested in hiking the area. The staff we talked to clearly know the area and if you need gear I suspect you won’t go wrong buying from them. So a stop there can bear some good fruit both economically for them and for hikes for the visitor to tackle. It did for us.

I am pretty sure we did not visit the Church of the Red Rocks in 2008. In some ways it is not actually that interesting a building. It is a bit chunky featuring a spare design sense in the building and in the iconography. The setting is the important thing here. The red rocks of the cliffs the building nestles in sitting above the town of Sedona which sprawls out below showing off some spectacularly large homes that don’t necessarily fit well into the high desert scenery. It is worth a quick visit to absorb the scene. Under the right conditions I can see that helping inspire religious fervor but I think you’ll do better finding that somewhere in the canyons and rock formations where, with luck, fewer gawking tourists will be present.

Finding such spots can be a bit tricky. Our first try at Cathedral Rock was met with a trailhead parking lot that was full. After a quick return to the heart of town we tried a different location: Fay Canyon. Sucess. I won’t say it was not crowded but it wasn’t overwhelming either. By now, early afternoon, the skies had cleared and the temperature had pushed past 60F. Families were out with children of all ages and some dogs for good measure. It is an easy flat hike to the main rock formation people come to see in Fay Canyon. You could, and people do, explore washes that intersect the main dusty reddish-brown dirt trail that winds through juniper, manzanita, occasional cactus, and much more including slender trees with a deep rich red-brown smooth bark and small leaves that really catches even my eye (perhaps, according to Mom, madrone. Manzanita makes more sense as I look more into it. ). It is an easy walk into the box canyon that effectively ends a bit over a mile in at a rock formation that you can scramble up to gain some wonderful views of the surrounding area. I was able to do it with some effort even though I did not have a trekking pole which certainly would have helped ease my way back down though likely been a hinderance on the way up. Even with numerous other people and dogs milling about you can easily get a sense of the beauty of the place as you look out on the verdant (for the area) scene of flora, seasonal (not flowing now) stream, red rocks, and big sky.

There is a natural arch perhaps 0.2 miles off the main trail. Lil really wanted to see it. I was curious. We thought the others would be too. That was a mistaken belief and in hindsight I certainly should have known better right away that Andy would have waited at the unmaintained trail junction had he and the others any plan to go to the arch. By the time I was convinced they were not going there I had no way to get in touch with Andy and by the time I did have a signal (and he got the message) we were likely on our way back. We cost the others an hour. You have to worm your way through the unmaintained trail through a short wash, encroaching brush including cactus, and eventually scramble up through rocks ascending close to 200 feet to get underneath the arch where the best view of it can be had (well so some think). People also worked there way farther around and climbed atop the arch but that was not something we would attempt. Was it worth it? The arch is pretty and views into the box canyon are great. But it is a tough bit of walking especially if you lack depth perception. I am glad we did it; annoyed with myself for not realizing the others did not and then not just turning us about when we did. But, perhaps it really did work out for the best as our visit later to Boynton Canyon had a particularly Sedona-esque treat which we surely would not have had if we had gone there an hour earlier htan we did.

In 2008 we tried to go to the Boynton Canyon Overlook (my name) and got mixed up and explored deeper into Long Canyon. I suppose we misread the map-sign. We certainly misread it this time but only went an extra 0.2 miles out of our way. When we found the overlook we also found a Sedona resident there handing out what he calls Hearts of Sedona. Heart-shaped rocks embued with “special energies” from all over that you can use for healing. Part and parcel of the mixture of new age, mysticism, native American, and Eastern-inspired meditation beliefs that infuse many people’s beliefs here. Take it for what it is worth: belief is, after all, in the mind of the beholder. This fellow has been coming to this overlook with its two prominent rock formations, Kachina Woman and Warrior Man, for almost a decade.

I will diverge a bit here to share my opinions on Sedona vortexes (which exist elsewhere too if you believe). I do not think you need anything special to describe why a place affects people in certain ways. We , as a species, consider certain things beautiful. It is part of our nature. That nature is influenced by personal experience which is affected by those around us from closest family to the culture surrounding us. An external “divine” presence is not required. In fact I would argue that could detract from the place as how can something divine by definition really have anything in common with bits of consciousness that are as ephemeral as we are when compared to the size of the universe physically and temporally. It is enoiugh that forces of nature have sculpted places that we can then in our thoughts and feelings imbue with a sense of grandeur and wonder. In this respect Descartes is certainly on the right track (“I think therefore I am”) in discussing how we define our world by our existence. Others clearly disagree with this view calling upon something external to create the universe in a knowing fashion that we will find pleasing. To my mind that adds unecessary complexity and even a touch of hubris to the world that just is not needed. But some believe that way and that informs how they view the world for good and ill just as my beliefs do for me.

The walk to the overlook, a level spot between Kachina Woman and Warrior Man (are these names new age modern names co-opted from native American people who lived here or are they original to those that came before the white man? A quick dip into Wikipedia notes Kachina are spirits in the religions of various Native American peoples: supernatural beings that represent aspects of the natural world. ) is an easy one. I am pretty sure the flora changes here featuring more pines. More forest-like. But the red rocks, infused with their iron ore, still dominate. Look out to the east and you see Kachina Woman, west Warrior Man, south Boynton Canyon, and north modern urban sprawl. It is a juxtaposition of natural and human-made worlds that is jarring and a little sad in that the latter so clearly is just plopped down without regard to how well it fits in. Add insult to injury: it is loud with sounds of working engines and perhaps construction.

I suppose it is this combination of worlds that draws people in and inspires some to believe in things like vortexes of power. I am not denying places have special qualities just that we as thinking beings aware of our world and our place in it are the ones that create the special qualities. In so doing people like the flute player with his Hearts of Sedona add a special bit of character, an elan, to the place. He seemed sincere. He cares about the place and people. His concert played from atop Warrior Man was enjoyable and could be enjoyed superficially or deeply depending on how you feel about the man’s beliefs and your own. After all, for most of us music definitely brings forth deep feelings when it is the right type of music in the right setting. I do not agree with the player that it is our hearts that will save us and our brains that doom us. I think hearts, in the context of the emotional center as he likley means it, can be very shortsighted and destructive and it is our minds and consciousness that are what make us what we are both good and bad. Emotion alone is too close to mere instinct which is unthinking and merely reactive.

Can you tell the time spent in Boynton Canyon was time well spent? You can argue that Lil and my argue-ably greedy decision to visit the arch lead to the group getting to experience something only a place like Sedona with its combination of natural charm, artistic communities, and mishmash of people and beliefs from conventional to more esoteric could provide. We all got something from the experience and I do not think a vortex was required to make it happen except in the sense that people create a vortex with their beliefs that are influenced by the physical place that existed before we got there and should exist after humans have changed in ways we cannot determine.

The rest of the afternoon was spent exploring the more commercial, influenced by the artistic, side of Sedona. I had a chnace to drop into the Melting Point studio and gallery which is where Jordan Ford works. He is the artist who created the glass bowl with its intricate tangerine sandblasted patterns. I bought the piece in Tucson and it was nice to have a chance to meet the man behind the work. We also visited other galleries just to see what was there. In at least one case I saw a black and white photo of a cactus alone in the desert that while nice doesn’t hold a candle (Andy agrees) to the photo I snapped in Cataline State Park. Is that our taste, bias, or is my photo really that much better? I guess I will never know. This was a good way to wrap up our time in Sedona before dinner at a Mexican restaurant (Javaina something) and the final 2 hour drive to Phoenix and the airport for our red-eye flight home.


Photo  taken January 20, 2020 at 12:13:18 PM

Possibly manzenita. Wonderful color and an intriguingly smooth feel when touched.

--January 20, 2020 at 12:13:18 PM. Sedona, AZ, United States

Photo  taken January 20, 2020 at 12:31:33 PM

I had to work to reach this point at the base of the pointing tall rock. Having a trekking pole would certainly have helped me get back down. Photo by Andy (I think).

--January 20, 2020 at 12:31:33 PM. Sedona, AZ, United States

Photo  taken January 20, 2020 at 12:37:12 PM

Andy and I are sure happy at this spot with some fine views. Photo by Lil.

--January 20, 2020 at 12:37:12 PM. Sedona, AZ, United States

Photo  taken January 20, 2020 at 12:35:17 PM

Another view of this fine spot with Ken and Lil. Photo by Andy.

--January 20, 2020 at 12:35:17 PM. Sedona, AZ, United States

Photo  taken January 20, 2020 at 1:12:29 PM

It’s so different here: lush with trees. A cactus, prickly pear for sure like the one that zinged Lil shortly after I took this picture, appear now and then but trees rule here. Over it all are the iron ore infused rocks.

--January 20, 2020 at 1:12:29 PM. Sedona, AZ, United States

Photo  taken January 20, 2020 at 1:27:05 PM

Almost there. I did get a bit closer. Pretty much right under the arch. But, I think the view is better from here. But not as many echoes.

--January 20, 2020 at 1:27:05 PM. Sedona, AZ, United States

Photo  taken January 20, 2020 at 1:33:24 PM

We are happy at the arch. Take a break. After all, the trip is only half done. Gotta go back down.

--January 20, 2020 at 1:33:24 PM. Sedona, AZ, United States

Photo  taken January 20, 2020 at 1:36:21 PM

I think the arch is more obvious from below but here you also hear odd echoes from voices near and far. Photo by Lil.

--January 20, 2020 at 1:36:21 PM. Sedona, AZ, United States

Photo  taken January 20, 2020 at 3:01:00 PM

Kachina Woman is one of two major promontories rising above the land. Warrior Man is behind me. Boynton Canyon Overlook has some fine views. It is a very Sedona-esqe spot.

--January 20, 2020 at 3:01:00 PM. Sedona, AZ, United States

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