Monday Smiles – 5/18/2015

20150515_102944We picked up our friends, Rita and Barry, who’d flown in from Virginia, at the Phoenix Airport last Tuesday afternoon.   Our friendship as couples goes back over fifty years and my wife, Muri, has been friends with them since fourth grade.  Once, they lived in nearby Irvine but grandkids called them back to the East Coast.  We’ve often talked about getting together a couple times a year but it usually settles back to an annual event, which only makes us look forward to our visits more.  From the airport, we took the busy Interstate 10 Freeway through Phoenix to Route 17 headed toward Flagstaff.

Arizona is mostly a desert state, and Route 17 passes through miles of wilderness, the kind of country I call MFN, the Middle-of-Freakin-Nowhere.  Whether you consider it beautiful or not depends upon whether you are a fan of the desert barren beauty, undulating hills covered with scrub bushes, Manzanita and cactus.  And many shades of brown.  As Route 17 travels northward into the high desert, the scenery gets greener with more small trees among the Saugauro cactus, but still, to four people who grew up where forests meant real trees, the sign announcing that this is the Coconino National Forest seemed like an overstatement.   At the intersection with Route 176, we headed north toward Sedona, our destination for a mini-vacation together.

If you are a fan of stunning Western scenery, nothing can prepare you for your arrival in Sedona.  As you come over the crest of a hill and begin your descent into town, it is as if you have entered another world.   As far as the eye can see, massive red rock formations are interspersed with greens of every color, not just cliffs and hills, but spires and towers with names like Courthouse and Cathedral and Bell Rocks.   We checked into our hotel, the Arroyo Robles, and this was our view from our balcony.

P1010350

That figure on the right is known a Snoopy Rock, by the way.  If you can’t quite make it out, perhaps this shot, with a different lens, will help.

snoopy rock

Wednesday, we took a four hour train ride through Verde Canyon, another beautiful red rock canyon 30 or so miles from Sedona. Thursday we went exploring.  Our first stop was the Chapel of the Holy Cross, a small but stunning Catholic church built into a red rock cliff.  When we hiked up the hill to go inside, a choir from Waldorf College in Iowa was giving a recital.  They were wonderful and listening to them in such a beautiful place … and with such fortuitous timing … gave me goosebumps.   We picked up a picnic lunch and drove out Red Rock Loop, one of the many scenic loops around Sedona.  On a whim, we took a turn that led us to a real National Forest (with real trees) at the base of Cathedral Rock and adjacent to the so-called Vortex.   After lunch, we hiked to the foot of Cathedral Rock to the red rock plateau where New-Agers believe there is a vortex of energy and build thousands of small rock towers called cairns.   I’m not sure how anyone could spend time in such a stunning place without feeling energized, vortex or not.   We spent the rest of Wednesday driving from site to site, each spectacular in its own way.   I must have taken two or three hundred pictures but they really capture only a fraction of the majesty of the place.

So, here it is, Monday.  We’re home again.   But we’ve had a small vacation with dear friends in a place with beauty that was best described by Barry … How could anyone look at this and not believe there’s a God?   And I get to share it, in a small way, with you.  I’m smiling.

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