Monday, February 14, 2011

Sedona - Day 4

The fourth morning when I awoke in Sedona, the sun had already warmed up enough for us to sit on the promenade deck for our breakfast. During our stay in Sedona we stayed at the Best Western Inn of Sedona, highly recommended for the views and the wonderful amenities. The outdoor pool is heated to 85 degrees year round which sounds like a rather novel idea until you realize that once you get out of that pool, you have to walk to your room - outdoors. I am not particularly fond of being wet and cold (they usually go hand in hand) and nothing could convince me otherwise. Besides I had already done the hot tub the previous evening. I had already defeated the "wuss" factor so there was nothing left to prove.

My breakfast was tapioca pudding, the fridge leftovers. After leaving the hotel, we did some shopping and then went to the fourth vortex on the way to the Sedona airport. There was a slight hike to an area between two hills where there are two spectacular views of Sedona.

The twisted juniper trees were easy to spot here.

Having visited 3 of the vortex sites before now, we wondered if juniper trees always grew twisted. I went on a walkabout to see if there were any straight ones. In retrospect, this was tricky since we were always looking for juniper trees at vortex sites, and they were... well, twisted. What I did notice was that there was definitely varying degrees of twisted. Having never taken that science class, I was quite impressed that I was starting to recognize a specific tree. And then I found a straight one! Here is the proof:

As for that vortex energy, I sat in the sun overlooking the valley, again quite taken by all the sunshine. Then I heard a sound of a horn, and then another. When I looked up, I saw two men with large horns, polished. They said they were trying not to alarm me. When I asked what the horns were, they said it was a Jewish tradition of sending out blessings to everyone. I took my blessings and headed down the path around one of the hills. I stopped to take a picture of yet-another twisted tree and found that I had vertigo. Hiking seemed like a bad idea. I haven't heard that vertigo is a vortex experience but if it was, it was hardly subtle. But all in all, after visits to 4 vortex sites, I can't say that I felt the energy.

But apparently it doesn't matter. We were told that vortex energy will travel with us, even if we didn't feel it while we were there.

My body is happy. Walking and hiking and sunshine are all good medicine.

More shopping in downtown Sedona. My treasure find was a tennis bracelet. Our last meal in Sedona was at New Frontiers Natural Marketplace, a definite hangout for us.

About 3 o'clock, we headed up the canyon to the Flagstaff airport. We stopped at the Native jewellery outdoor markets, two outdoor areas where brave-weather women display their beautiful wares. Another must see, especially if you want to have a hankering for jewellery.

The further we got from Sedona, the cooler the weather, and more snow on the sides of the road. It was definitely melting but one of the luggage handlers told me that they were expecting a week of snow in the following week. We arrived in Phoenix 45 minutes ahead of schedule. We had plenty of time for me to have Carvel ice cream and our dinner at a terminal pub. Nachos and quesadillas followed by papaya digestive enzymes. Life is perfect!

The flight from Phoenix to Spokane was very comfortable as we had seat with extra leg room (Row 4 of a Boeing 737 if you ever have a choice!), and though I lost the game of Scrabble, I played some clever moves. And then I got all wrapped up in my book - The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo.

We got to Spokane 35 minutes early. I saw a woman from our home town while we were boarding the plane, returning from Mexico. She was wearing flip-flops and capris. I could see as we walked into the gusts outside the airport that we had an advantage. Our 4-day vacation had acclimatized us to any weather.

Friday, February 11, 2011

Sedona - Day 3

We woke up to one bright sunny day. By 10 o'clock, there was lots of promise of a warm day. Since this is our last full day in Sedona, we decided spending our time outdoors was high on the agenda. We decided to visit the vortexes. What we have heard so far is that the vortexes are growth inspiring, often subtle but sometimes quite powerful energy that flows through a person. People often feel uplifted and positive after having experienced the vortex. Finding the vortexes can be a bit of an elusive venture much like a treasure hunt. Some people have told us that it doesn't really matter because the vortex energy is all over the entire valley. So we got it, no matter what. We had accumulated several maps and finally we used the one that we found when researching our trip. We were ready for our vortex encounter.

Our first stop was at the Red Rock Crossing where we get a close up view of Oak Creek and Cathedral Rock. We walked along the creek until we came to the point where the creek is closest to the Rock. This is where the vortex is its strongest. As I came through the trees opening to the creek, I heard a bell not unlike one I had heard in meditation. Could this be the sound of a vortex? When I looked across the creek, I saw 3 bicyclists on the path and realized that that sound was attached to a bike. I was definitely disappointed but figured that a bell is not subtle. I continued my quest.

The idea is to be quiet enough so that you can feel the energy. As we sat on the creek's edge, I found that I was bedazzled by the sun and the wondrous heat. I would say that my awe overpowered any subtle effects of a vortex. When I looked up, here is what I saw:

As we were walking out to our car, we met our medical intuitive. Considering that we had officially met only 3 people in Sedona, seeing one of them on the trail were pretty impressive odds.

Our next stop was Boynton Canyon Vortex which in its directions gives an impression that it is an easy hike. And it is, for the first 3/4 of a mile, and then it is up, up, up and around, around, around a knoll, which looks like this:

All around this knoll is where the vortex is its most noticeable. I sat on a red rock overlooking the valley and more red rocks, which are ever inspiring. What I noticed was that I was weary from my hike. Happy though.

Our third stop was at Bell Rock, which we had visited on Day 1, though briefly. Rose decided to take the Bell Rock Trail and I decided on the Bell Rock Path. The Trail goes up and around, and the path goes all around the circumference of the Rock.

Most people choose to take the Trail so I was mostly alone on the Path. The sun was beginning to slide over the mountain opposite. As I walked, I looked for the tell-tale signs of a vortex - twisted juniper trees. Here's one:

I continued up the red sand path, looking at cactus and trees and that immense red rock on my left. Suddenly in the middle of the path, I saw swirling red dirt, a perfect funnel shape - a vortex!

This is the first I have ever heard of SEEING a vortex, but one just has to be open to anything.

And that was the end of hiking for the day. Here's some other highlights of the day:

1. Hot tub (finally warm enough!)
2. Cold Stone ice cream - talked to a delightful couple from Sioux City.
3. There are 62 Cold Stone stores in Phoenix!
4. We met Nick from Nick's on the West Side, our dinner choice.
5. Another spectacular sunset.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Sedona - Day 2

The first news of the day is that I sat outside for an hour reading the Kindle. This is noteworthy because first of all the weather is heating up and secondly, this is my first experience of reading outdoors with my new electronic gadget and it is as so many have told me - very easy to read outdoors. I am reading The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo and I am hooked!

The terrain in Sedona is getting very familiar; each outing we need to rely on the maps less and less. Thanks to Trip Advisor, we have had two wonderful dinners two nights in a row. Yesterday was the India Palace, one of the best Indian restaurants I have experienced. Today we had Mexican at Cafe Elote, a very popular place to eat. We had a 20-minute wait but it was worth it. Both highly recommended and on the top 5 of restaurants to eat in Sedona. Each day is a new food adventure!

Today we spent experiencing other wonders of Sedona. First we visited a medical intuitive, trained by Caroline Myss. And then we had a hot stone massage. Both of these are a first for me; what a treat!

By the time we had finished our appointments, it was time for the sunset, definitely a must-do for sun-deprived Canadians. Each day has had totally sunny days, from one end to the other. This, I know, I will miss.

To me, the sunset is the most spectacular on the mountains opposite.

Interesting facts and trivia about Sedona...

1. We have the best view of the mountains from right outside our hotel door.
2. Sedona was named after a woman, the wife of the first postmaster.
3. Lucille Ball and Walt Disney used to live here.
4. The McDonald's in Sedona has teal arches, the only one in the world that does not have the golden arches. The city did not approve of the yellow arches because the colour didn't mesh with the red rocks.

Wednesday, February 09, 2011

Sedona - Day 1

The journey from Spokane was two-legged, a layover in Phoenix and then Flagstaff. When we landed in Flagstaff, there was snow all along the tarmac. Snow? When I talked to the rental car fellow, he said, "Well, it is Flagstaff." Though I have never been to Arizona before, I had heard it is a place where people go to get away from winter. I couldn't leave town soon enough. What I found out is that Flagstaff is 7,000 feet above sea level. And I was relieved to find out that Sedona is 4,500 feet.

We travelled along the windy road in the dark, a narrow road etched alongside rock formations. We got a taste of the red and wished it was light so we could see it all. Even in the dark, the lights of Sedona were striking when we rounded a corner.

When we got out of the car, the temperature was much colder than we had anticipated. In my rebellion against winter clothes, having had more than my share in this long winter, I choose to bring along a fleece as my only outer clothing. I was imagining spending a good deal of my time in front of the TV.

When we woke up this morning, the sun was peering over the mountains and we watched the red rocks glow as the sun shone on them. Sedona is in a valley full of red sandstone formations. And the sun, which there is plenty of here, shows them off proudly.

After finding one very groovy natural food market, New Frontiers, we set off for the Trolley tour. We found out that once upon a time (The Permian Period) this area was submerged in water. With a high iron content, the sandstone ionized which causes the red colour. Some of the taller formations are lighter in colour; these were not submerged under water.

Our tour guide said that in 58 million years, these sandstone formations would be no longer here because of erosion. "You picked a good time to visit here," he told us.

The highlight of the tour was the Chapel of the Holy Cross, completed in 1956, built into the mesas of Sedona. Here it is:

After the tour, we decided to try the most famous hike, the West Fork Trail. The trail is considered to be one of the best in all of Arizona. When we drove up the Oak Creek Canyon, we came across an outdoor market where vendors sold jewellery. Many vendors. A lot of jewellery. We were a bit late by the time we got to the trail. We considered whether this was good timing or to do it another day. In the end, we decided that we would pay our $9.00 parking fee and do as much of the trail as we could.

Not too long along the sandy trail, the sun vanished behind the mountain, and it got chilly. And then, this is what we encountered:

Yep, that is snow AND ice. Oh, we had seen the signs that advised hikers to watch for icy conditions but since we are from Canada, we thought - yeah, yeah. We walked on finding ground when we could and walking gingerly where we could not. But when we came to the part where we had to cross the creek, the partly ice-covered creek, we decided to call it a day. We drove back to Sedona, very grateful for the sun shining through the windows.

Next plan was to go a visit one of the vortexes. Vortexes are energy centres; there are 4 primary vortexes in the area though all of Sedona is known for being a powerful spiritual centre. We decided on Bell Rock. Most of the formations are named because they resemble shapes. Here is Bell Rock:

Often vortexes are earmarked by juniper trees that grow twisted because of the energy. All alongside the parking lot, I saw several twisted juniper trees. The parking lot. Because I did not get out of the car. The wind that raged all day was bitterly cold because the sun had disappeared behind a rock formation. We decided to go and see the sun set.

One of the best views is from a mesa near the airport. We drove up to the top, with a number of other vehicles, found a parking spot and found the lookout point. From this view, we had a perfect view of the sunset as well as the most exposed area to the wind. I had wrapped myself in my pashmina scarf with several layers underneath, but that wind found its way through it all. We abandoned the idea. But not without a picture:

My travelling companion, Rose and I, have drew a list of travellers' tips when coming to Sedona.

1. If you insist on coming in February, bring warm clothes.
2. If you insist on coming in February and doing a hike in a canyon, bring along cleats.
3. If you have a four-hour layover in Phoenix, think about renting a car from there. The driving time from Phoenix to Sedona is 2 hours. Unless you really want the Carvel ice cream they sell at the airport. Which I recommend. Highly.
4. And finally, for heaven's sake, plan on staying more than 4 days.

That's it for now. I am sure we will have more advice. I am going to find my earplugs. The wind is howling outside my door.