Saturday, September 9, 2017

New Age Spiritualism to a Tribute to Capitalism

Sleep is for sissies, so Mindy and I were up with the sun this morning. Our last morning in Sedona, we wanted time for a hike through the Fay Canyon. This short trail is known for being busy, so the early start would also help reduce the crowds. The empty parking lot at the trail head was a good start! This sign; however, was a little unnerving when we had just arranged to have the place to ourselves...

Deserts would have little bears, right?

The pretty trail cut through the wooded centre of the canyon with red rock cliffs rising on both sides.

We saw toads, hares and birds, but no bear. (A mix of disappointment and relief.) The hummingbirds are loud enough here that you might think you're hearing a bear!

At the end of the maintained trail, we dodged large white flowers - looking like someone's garden - and up boulders to the Fay Arch.

The hike along the valley floor was pretty, but the sights from up high made this worth getting out of bed!

The echo was fantastic, so Mindy and I entertained ourselves talking to ourselves. Yes, ourselves. Sitting beside each other.

Though we were heading back to the hotel for breakfast, we stopped at Local Juicery for a delicious and healthy start to the day. Not "a local juice store", but a store called Local Juicery.

After some more Tarahumara burritos, we packed up and headed out to the Fiesta Tlaquepaque in the Tlaquepaque Arts and Crafts Village.

The fiesta was a little disappointing, really. Aside from the stage, this festival seemed more focused on bringing people in to the existing shops throughout the Arts and Crafts Village. While some shops were pleasing to walk through, nothing much appealed to us. Except the Navajo rugs - I would have loved to bring one of those, home. Problem being, even if I was going to spend $14,000 on an area rug, I wouldn't know what to do with it. Do you put it on the floor and risk it getting dirty? Do you put it on the wall? I chose to put it back on the rack in the store and walk out empty handed.

Back in the car, we put the peaceful beauty of Sedona behind us and began the trek down to Scottsdale. Elevation drops quickly and soon red rocks were replaced by Saguaro cacti. Also, we saw a ramshackle van in a parking lot with a big sign "$7 jeans". I guess those "fell off the back of a truck"? Soon enough, we were pulling up to the entrance of the luxurious Fairmont Princess resort.

We had aggressive plans of getting out for a hike or run in the desert this afternoon, but by the time we had unpacked and settled in after the drive and busy morning, we had limited time before a reasonable dinner time. I wanted a workout of some sort, so I accepted the irony of heading to the desert in order to swim.

Dinner was at the four diamond restaurant at the resort. The service was stellar, the food marvelous, and the sommelier most impressive. This guy is 36 years old and is one of ~600 advanced sommelier in the world (2 in Arizona). He is taking his master sommelier exam in autumn, and if he is successful, he will be one of only ~300 in the world. He knows his stuff! I guess he had a bit of time, or he was entertained by our ignorance of and interest in wine. After talking to us about some of the very impressive wines on the list...

...I asked him whether someone with my undeveloped palate would be able to appreciate a wine of that calibre. He stepped away from the table and brought back a small glass of wine for me. "Try that, and I'll be back." It was interesting. Like three different glasses of wine: the nose was sour, the first flavour very light and thin, and if I let it sit on my tongue it developed a lot of punch. I didn't really like it. It was a $300+ bottle of French Bordeaux. Um....I mean... I loved it(?)

We had a magical walk back to the room through the night-time resort, then off to bed.

Friday, September 8, 2017

The Meaning of Life

I started the day with some office time. Though I am on vacation, I didn't really mind...

Once Mindy got up, she put an end to that, anyway. Off to breakfast! This really is the perfect hotel for us, when it serves Tarahumara burritos! (The Tarahumara are a tribe that originally settled in the Copper Canyons in Mexico, and were the subject of one of my favourite books: Born to Run.)

Well fed, we set out on another day of adventures. We started our day with a tour of the Chapel of the Holy Cross, a small church built into one of the most awe-inspiring landscapes. The chapel was designed by one of Frank Lloyd Wright's students (that should score me some points with Garry!).

The pedestal on which the chapel stands makes full use of Mother Nature's backdrop!

Knowing how some of the mega-churches operate here in the USA, I can't help but be a little cynical. As I looked out from the walkway leading to this church, I couldn't help but wonder if the mega-house across the road belonged to the priest of this chapel

That's probably not fair of me, though. There are a number of estate homes in Sedona, and besides, this chapel isn't big enough to be a mega-church.

Refreshed in spirit (or not), we set forth to the The Crack; according to the images on Google, this hike on Bell Trail would lead us to a beautiful pool in Wet Beaver Creek. Unfortunately, we seem to have made a common wrong turn:

We probably should have just turned around and gone to the trail head. Instead, we found an area to park and decided we would fine our way along the creek (on the wrong side). Things started promising, as we found a pretty path that ran parallel to the water.

And wasn't so clear. The path would suddenly end in a thicket of spiny bushes, or it would wind back on itself, and we made our way to the creek itself to scramble over the rocks at the edge. It's only....4 miles to The Crack...

Right or wrong, our "scenic route" offered cool shade under the canopy of trees at the water.

We crossed over the creek and back again, finding bits of overgrown trail that would carry us along a hundred metres, or a hundred feet, before fading away into the undergrowth. I was startled by a 3-foot long snake slithering through the grasses, and at one point we were deafened by what must have been thousands of grasshoppers or crickets chirping at us from the banks on both sides and the trees towering above.

At times, when the shrieking bugs relented, we heard faint voices off to our left. Following them, eventually we saw people treading the Bell Trail. We found the proper route!

Mindy doesn't walk as fast as I do, so she would run ahead and then wait for me. Honestly. She wasn't trying to lose me in the wilderness. I think...

The flat trail along the creek began to climb sharply up a red rock "mountain" (small mountain), and the rough rocks in the hot sun worked our tired legs.

Crazy to think that this path was established to herd cattle from one end of the canyon to the other - and that it's still used for this to this day!

We would occasionally come across other hikers doing the return route; they confirmed that the work would be well worth it! I could tell Mindy's enthusiasm was starting to wane as we climbed higher and higher around the side of the mountain, and then suddenly we were there!

First order of business:

A stunning swimming hole where the creek cut a gorge through the rocky riverbed. Clear, refreshing water and - being early in the day - the place was largely to ourselves.

We found a sunny rock to sit and dry ourselves as we ate our picnic...

...until we noticed that our beautiful vista was dotted with other people's garbage. What ignorance. :( So I did a little "tidying up" for the next people to enjoy.

Eventually, knowing that we had a long hike back and more to explore this afternoon, we pulled ourselves away from the serenity of the Crack at Wet Beaver Creek and started the expedition back to the car. More sights on the way back.

Despite the heat, it felt faster - we were going downhill for the first couple of kilometres. This time, we took the proper path all the way back to the trail head, and then I ran the mile to the car. We were both fatigued from the heat, the sun, and the 13km hike, but this town seems to specialize in liquid energy:

Refreshed, we drove to the Amitabha Stupa & Peace Park, a sprawling homage to Buddhism set against a backdrop of red rock cliffs.

The Stupa is built upon one of Sedona's energy vortexes - where the earth's energy concentrates into healing power (or so they say). I didn't feel the energy the way I do the liquid kind, but, like when I walked into the chapel this morning, I understand how people find peace in such places.

Whether you believe in energy vortexes or not, Sedona is a magical place. What other small town can successfully take on the "golden" arches?

Dinner was at the Elote Cafe, a happening place specializing in Mexican and Southwestern American cuisine. The 40-minute wait for a table flew by as we sipped out drinks overlooking the pool and grounds of the adjacent hotel, chatting with two loquacious Texan women who were well into their bevvies.

Once seated at our table for dinner, Mindy pointed out the table of (different) women sitting next to us - they had been at the adjacent table at Mariposa last night! As they were getting up to leave, I interrupted and confirmed that we had seen them last night. They laughed, complimented us on our "foodie" nature, and jokingly said "I guess we'll see you tomorrow night in Scottsdale?" Um, yes. We will. They aren't staying at the Fairmont - we confirmed.

So where does one find the meaning of life? Is it an architectural marvel of a Christian church? A peaceful Buddhist sanctuary? Some Gaian philosophy that worships the marvels of nature? Or simply the Crack of a Wet Beaver?