On the third day they rose early, filled the car with fuel, filled the backpacks with water and headed north to Sedona.
Words fail me. Of course I’ll use several score attempting to describe the beauty anyway, but be aware that nothing I say will truly capture how I felt. My photos also fail. To be fair – no photo can capture for me the splendor of the mountains in Sedona. For starters – the mountains are so perfect and the sky is so blue that no matter who takes the picture, it’s going to look fake. Nothing can be that perfect, that awe-inspiring, that breath-taking. But the mountains of Sedona are all those things and more.
I had three reasons to go to Sedona. The first was a bit snarky and pretentious. I’d heard how it was so new-age, all about energy and crystals and vortexes. It’s not that I’m not a believer. It’s more that I think I’m not receptive in the least. In the last several years either I’ve become more sensitive or less-blocked. There’s no question that it seems to me that some folks radiate “bad energy”. But other than that, I’ve not ever noticed crystals having much impact on me. I wanted to see if I would be able to “feel” Sedona. The second reason was much like the first. EVERYONE says that you MUST go to Sedona. How could I take a vacation in Arizona and confess that I missed Sedona? (Yes, Mom, if all my friends were jumping off a cliff I WOULD jump with them.)
The third reason goes back to my wonderful Super Shuttle drivers. Not only did they wax enthusiastic about Sedona, the non-driver pulled out his phone and started showing me pictures he’d taken in Sedona. They were enough to convince me it was worth a trip, even though it would take a good 2 hours to get there. I was intrigued by his picture of the Chapel of the Holy Cross, built into the rocks. He recommended that we hike up to Devil’s Bridge. He told me that it was not a difficult hike until the last quarter of a mile, which was steep. We’d heard that description from our waitress the day before. (Oh I should add a postscript to that post – we had a great lunch at a local brewery after hiking South Mountain – Four Peaks Brewery on 8th Street.) She had also said it was an easy hike until the last quarter mile, which is steep. It certainly sounded do-able and after our success at hiking in South Mountain we were ready for more of a challenge. Hah.
We rose very early and I took over the driving that day as I wake up “better” than does my son. 🙂 The directions couldn’t have been simpler: go straight on this road until we reach Interstate Rt 17 and then go north til we reach Sedona. 🙂 Wikipedia calls Interstate Rt 17 one of the most scenic highways and I am in full agreement. It climbs a mile high on its way from Phoenix to Flagstaff, passing through desert and forest. Like my dear friend Honour, my son also refused to take photos out the window of the car so you will either need to drive it yourself or believe me and Wikipedia that it is scenic. 🙂
We took Dry Creek Road to Vultee Arch, which has a parking lot for the trail to Devil’s Bridge. It was just about 9:00 am, but the lot was full. A car pulled out but that spot was taken immediately by another. I found a place that I figured could be a spot as long as no one had to use the passenger side door. I tucked the car into the brush and dirt and we headed off. There were families and solo hikers and folks with dogs and folks wearing babies. There was all manner of attire. As we walked along Vultee Arch (which seems also to be called ‘the unpaved part of Dry Creek Road’) we were passed by the occasional jeep – tour groups going to Devil’s Bridge. There is obviously another way up there because the jeeps keep going along Dry Creek Road when we pedestrians all turn off to follow the path.
There were still flowers in bloom, and we saw an adorable lizard, who posed. Unfortunately I still have not done anything about getting either a new camera or a photo app for my phone, so no cute lizard pictures. We walked slowly, drank water, and conserved our energy. We met people returning from their hikes. Either they live a lot closer or they got up a LOT earlier than we did. We were impressed that we had actually made it to the trail by 9:00 am, our goal. 🙂 We figured it would be a good 90 minutes up and a good 90 minutes back, and that was just about what it took. The hike was easy until, as expected, the final ascent. That was steep. And narrow. With significantly increasing drops on the left.
I found that I don’t really trust my legs on uneven, steep, rocky, loose gravel paths. I’ve had 2 surgeries on my right foot and I damaged my left knee decades ago. They do just fine for most of my life but steep ascents and descents can be strenuous. I was doing fine until I happened to glance to my left at one very narrow, very steep part of the trail. There was a lot of ‘nothing’ to my left. Oh sure, a tree or two and then nothing. I would have said that kind of view wouldn’t bother me but I happen to have a very deep fear of falling. The strength of my reaction stems from an early childhood event and to this day I have dreams where I reach the top of a hill and there is nothing there. In my dreams I have learned how to take control and ‘fix’ the dream so I don’t fall. There on the side of the mountain there wasn’t too much I could ‘fix’. My face reflected my stress as did my comments to my son. We met people who were on their way down who would encourage me and tell me we were almost there – hang on. As the only other option was to turn around and go back down, I kept going up. We reached the top, the high point of the trail. Devil’s Bridge was below us. It was stunning. If I looked OUT, I was fine. If I looked down, my stomach turned over.
From the high point of the trail you need to move down again and out to get to the bridge. There was a steady line of people doing just that. On the bridge itself we could see people lined up for their turn at being alone on the bridge for their experience and photo op. I sat down on the rocks with some other folks to catch my breath before we headed to the bridge.
I could not get up. I was frozen.
I looked at where I had to walk, and despite all of the people navigating that path in front of me, in spite of all the people walking there and back safely, I could not make myself get up. I knew I was not moving until we headed back down. And I knew that heading back down was not going to be fun either. I had no idea that I would freeze like that. My son joined the procession of folks heading down to the bridge and I watched. Well, mostly I watched. When I saw 2 young children jumping up and down on the bridge I nearly threw up. So I stopped watching a lot of things. My son reported that walking out onto the bridge was easy – that it felt wider than it looks from above. He said that when he stopped walking he could feel the wind pushing on him, and there was an illusory effect of the trees below moving. Why does that not sound like something that I want to experience?
The woman on my right was in worse shape than I. She wouldn’t even look at the bridge at all. Her family was heading down there and she simply could not look. The woman on my left told me that her first time up there she did the same thing I was doing – stayed on that rock until it was time to leave. This was her fourth time and she had been down on the bridge and back. I thanked her for telling me that. I don’t know how to explain to you how bizarre it was for me to be sitting there saying to my body – just stand up, and to not have any part of my body move in response. My logic might have been ready to go to the bridge but my primeval soul knew better. I was able to take many pictures of my son out on the bridge, but I could not stand. I was on the verge of tears because my body was so tensed and coiled. Don’t misunderstand – I LOVED looking at the scenery, I loved a lot of it. But there was simply a part of me that was deeply deeply unhappy.
As I sat there and waited some young women asked me if I could take THEIR picture when they were on the bridge. I said sure, as I had no idea if I was ever going to leave my rock. I wondered how many people needed to be rescued from that spot, frozen and unable to leave. By the time the young women were at the bridge, my son had returned. He pointed out to me that the women were waving at me to take a picture of the 2 people on the bridge currently – they were all together. I looked to do so and saw that THOSE 2 people had moved to the edge of the bridge and were sitting down with their feet hanging off. I swear to you I was overcome with nausea and had to turn away. I couldn’t stand to look at them. My son did the honors. They came back, collected their camera and headed back down the mountain. It was time for us to do the same. I waited until there was a break in the steady stream of arrivals so we could leave. When it came to leaving I could stand, thank goodness.
The path down was steeper than the path up. 🙂 Really. As my son’s landlord said: “going up it’s all muscles, going down it’s all joints”. I do NOT trust my left knee, no I don’t. A very awkward time to realize this. On the way up I’d seen many people coming back down on their tush. I knew that would be me as well, and it was. Every now and then we’d reach a spot where the path was sufficiently wide so we could let someone pass us on the way up or pass us on the way down. At one point as I paused on my way down (very easy to pause when you are on your tush) a HUGE yellow butterfly came and sat on my shoulder. It was large enough that it actually cast a shadow across my eyes as it flew. I don’t know what it was telling me but I decided to take it as a vote of confidence and encouragement. *smile* Shortly after that I was able to stand and do the rest of the descent on my feet.
The trip back to the car was uneventful but we both agreed that it was MUCH longer than the trip from the car to the path. 🙂 We headed back to town looking for some place to eat, and for me to browse for crystals. We found a place called Tlaquepaque, which is probably a huge tourist ‘trap’ but it had parking and restaurants. That’s what we wanted. We even found a spot in the shade! We were so hungry and tired that we walked into the very first restaurant for lunch, The Secret Garden Cafe. It was delicious and just what we needed. We ate outside in a shaded courtyard and relaxed and re-hydrated. Afterwards we wandered about the shops. Most of what I liked was too expensive AND too big to carry on an airplane so I was saved from myself. We did finally find a store selling all types of crystals for all different needs. Unfortunately it was the kind of place that also believed that putting scents and odors into the air enhances the shopping experience. Perhaps that is the case for some, but it causes me to sneeze and my sinuses to clog up and hurt. We had to flee the store without seeing very much at all, and certainly without buying a crystal. I am still crystal-less. We found an ice cream store and treated ourselves. As neither of us thought the ice cream was all that special I won’t share it. But if you are at Tlaquapaque I’d suggest you go elsewhere for ice cream. *wink*
The ride home took much longer than the ride there as there was a multi-car accident on Rt 17. Now here is one of the disadvantages of Arizona. If I was traveling on a major interstate in the greater NJ area, there would be multiple options for other routes. Not in Arizona. It’s Rt 17 or it’s Rt 17. So we were in bumper to bumper traffic for much of the way. Honesty compels me to admit that at one point I drove east-coast style and cutoff another car as I changed lanes. Just as in NJ, changing lanes really didn’t accomplish much, but at least I was behind a car and not an SUV so my sight lines were better. 🙂 We made it back home in time for showers and a change of clothes so we could meet my son’s landlords for dinner. We had a VERY tasty sushi dinner at Sushi Ken. The presentation was excellent and the rolls were large and filling. We had a bottle of saki as well. Like mead, this will not become my go-to drink, but it was enjoyable and suited the food. We got back to the hotel and crashed. It had been a long day and we had great plans for the next day as well!