So Long, Sedona and SoCal
I’m rushing to write this blog post while packing for tomorrow’s departure to Argentina. We traveled through Arizona less than a week ago, yet it feels more like a month has passed. We arrived in LA for a few days to take care of some business, reorganize all our belongings and — most difficult of all — say goodbye to our dog Teddy, who will spend the next ten months in the care of my in-laws. Teddy will be in very good and generous hands, but oh, it’s hard to leave him!
Our journey is shifting to a more challenging and exciting phase as we go abroad, and I’d like to say we’re ready but I don’t think I’d ever feel completely prepared. We realized today, at the eleventh hour, that some travel logistics have not been arranged or confirmed, so Morgan and I found ourselves scrambling and then consciously taking deep breaths, concluding, “Oh well, it’ll work out, or we’ll figure it out when we get there.” I have spent the weekend trying to adopt a true traveler’s mind — i.e., embracing rather than fearing the unknown – and doing my best to maintain an outwardly positive attitude for the kids’ sake. Their tears started to flow last night as the prospect of missing Teddy magnified a bout of homesickness (or rather, “friendsickness”). Thankfully, a trip to the beach with their grandparents today made everything feel better.
Before the memories of the past week grow more distant, I want to document our last special destination: Sedona. Funny thing is, when I paused to reflect on it this morning, an image of Kyle on a Colorado trail a couple of weeks earlier crossed my mind. He had randomly picked up a small rock and discovered a quartz crystal under the dusty surface. His eyes grew large and a smile broke out on his face, and as he clutched his little treasure, he headed down the trail with new energy.
Like Kyle bending down to pick up that rock, we made an unexpected and enchanting discovery on our way to Sedona that renewed our energy. I should be careful when talking about “energy” in the context of Sedona, however, because I don’t want to be mistaken for one of the New Age crystal-gazers who are drawn to Sedona’s red rocks and attest to the power of “energy vortexes,” which supposedly spiral around certain points on the landscape and resonate good vibes. Then again, I did feel particularly good while there, so who knows whether I felt the vibes of a vortex or a placebo effect or just a buzz from a beer?
Certainly our slightly addled states of mind upon entering Sedona primed us for fun and come-what-may adventure. We had no expectations, no plans, save for a last-minute booking at a hotel. We had decided only about a week prior to go there for a couple of nights in lieu of a detour to Vegas, our forethought limited to, “It’s only 30 miles south of Flagstaff? Might as well check it out, I heard it’s nice.” We had spent the night outside the Grand Canyon in the fleabag Red Feather Lodge, which is notable for its very un-P.C. retro Indian Brave motto and its inedible breakfast buffet offerings. (But, they take dogs — the only motel in the area to do so.) I was disoriented from insomnia and the belated discovery that we had crossed a time zone and gained an hour. Plus, we all felt punchy from a brief stop at the Flintstone Bedrock RV Park, where a two-story-high Fred Flintstone appears like a bad-trip hallucination in an armpit corner of the desert. At that point, we didn’t know what to expect next.
Meandering from Flagstaff on Route 89A, which is a windy road through a forested canyon, Sedona revealed its magic like the dusty treasure in Kyle’s palm. We had a hard time driving because we kept looking up and around to take in the grand sculpture garden that is Sedona’s landscape. Sandstone, carved and polished smooth by water and wind, rose up randomly in lumpy and jagged formations that perched precariously on the canyon’s hillsides, shaped like giant sand-drip castles. Horizontal stripes of color formed by ancient sedimentary layers — from nearly white limestone to black basalt — highlighted the canyon’s red and blond hues.
We passed a sign saying Slide Rock State Park was ahead. Another sign for it mentioned a swimming area. We decided to check it out and change into bathing suits — and I’ll let the photos tell the rest of the story. Suffice to say the kids couldn’t get enough of sliding on those rocks and swimming in the frigid water. At one point one said, “This is better than the Grand Canyon!”
Then it was time to get settled in Sedona proper — an odd town that’s a bit like Sausalito in the desert (ticky-tacky tourist shops juxtaposed with upscale resorts and artists’ retreats). As luck would have it, we got a room at the dog-friendly and always-booked El Portal, thanks to someone else’s recent cancellation. It bills itself as a boutique “luxury hacienda” with only 12 rooms, each designed differently but all reflecting Sedona’s earthy and artsy aesthetic. The splurge was worth every cent — the lodge was exquisite in terms of comfort and service, and we all kept repeating, “This is so nice.”
We spent the majority of our two days on local trails, running in the morning while the kids slept in and then taking them on hikes before the sun rose too high, then going out again at sunset. Thankfully, Morgan’s broken toe is on the mend and he started running again. We had a spectacular two hours on the Munds Wagon Trail at sunrise. As if the visual feast weren’t fulfilling enough, the wind carried strains of “Amazing Grace” from a wooden flute played somewhere on the rocks by someone also was welcoming the day. With the kids, we explored the West Fork Trail of Oak Creek Canyon, which I learned was made famous by Zane Grey’s 1924 novel The Call of the Canyon (which I hope to read someday now). The kids soaked themselves at the creek crossings and splashed around with other kids who happened to be there on a field trip.
The book Sedona’s Top 10 Hikes by Dennis Andres was an indispensable guide during our time on the trails.
And now it’s time to end this post abruptly and go to bed to get up early for our flight to Buenos Aires, with a stopover in Miami. We’re in an airport hotel next to LAX. Estoy muy cansada (I’m very tired). Adios!