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Exploring the Red Rocks of Sedona

Last week, I had the privilege of my corporate job sending me to Phoenix for work. But when I travel for work, I try to take a day (or a few) as vacation in the place where I am working. Over the last several years this has led to amazing times hiking and horseback riding in Hawaii, spending time where Washington crossed the Deleware River during the American Revolution, experiencing the Winchester Mansion, and watching the stars dance and trees walk at Joshua Tree National Park.

While Phoenix is fine, it is also very close to Sedona - a place I have always wanted to go. So I found a fantastic deal for a two-night rental in West Sedona - right at the base of Thunder Mountain, rented an SUV from the airport on points, and off I went.

The drive from Phoenix to Sedona was breathtaking, but I might be a little underexposed to jutting rocks, tall rises, and desert plants. I stopped at a rest area with a lookout and was greeted with a spectacular sight of desert wildflowers in bloom and a herd of horses in the far distance.

rolling hills and blooming desert flowers

I got into Sedona just as the sun was setting. I had just enough time to scope out the unofficial trail one house away that connected to the Andante Trail. The sun turned the mountain in front of me golden as it dipped over the horizon, filling the sky with cobalt blue, then navy, then a black velvet filled with twinkling stars.

I woke up the next morning to unfamiliar bird calls as the sun's rays just started to brighten the color of the sky. My plan was to hike from my front door to the Seven Sacred Pools - before the first tours started. I dressed, ate breakfast, packed lunch, and headed out the door. I hiked from the Andante Trail to the Tea Cup, the Coffee Pot, the Skidmark, to Soldier's Pass. The path was full of twists, turns, rocks, washes, and elevation changes. I was glad for my walking pole in a few areas where the path got steep, but the vista was worth it. Surrounded by the wilderness and the layered red rock bluffs rising above me, I was filled with both awe and gratitude.

Sedona red rock bluffs

Sedona red rock bluffs

When I got to where the Coffee Pot turns into the Skidmark, the rays of the sun started to warm the Juniper and Cypress (both types of cedar) trees filling the air with a scent that took me back to the sacred smudging around the hoop (or clearing) at the Sundance at Crow Dog's Paradise in South Dakota. Cedar is burned in ceremony to make the area holy - to prepare both the space and the people for prayer. It is associated with the west in the Medicine Wheel. But this smell wasn't one of cedar burning it was pure and fresh - the sun opening up the pores of the trees to release a blessing. It felt rejuvenating - I was almost to the pools, but had already been hiking for a few hours. I said a prayer, thanked the trees, and continued on.

path through juniper and arizona cypress trees
path next to a tree with sednoa red rock in the background

The signs directing to the pools got a little more obvious, and the trail markers a little more regular the closer I got. I wasn't expecting it, but I was the only one there. I sat on one of the flat rocks above the pools to rest and take in the beauty of this place. This is when two deer, slowly approached one of the lower pools to drink. They saw me but were unbothered. I watched them take their morning drink, then walk silently into the brush, just as the first tourist jeep tour arrived. Deer is a teacher of gentleness - that we should soften our ways and not force things. Be gentle with others, be gentle with yourself.

seven sacred pools

seven sacred pools

On my walk back, I saw many crows playing in the warming air. They would dip and dive and call out to one another. I loved watching their playful side in the spring air. My walk back was more focused on meeting the plants I was unfamiliar with. I saw St. Andrew's Cross (Hypericum hypericoides), a plant related to St. John's Wort, but used for flu-like symptoms, swollen lymph glands, and exterior wounds. I saw Green Ephedra (sometimes known as Mormon Tea) (Ephedra viridis) a plant known for its relatively strong stimulant properties as well as lung-clearing and assistance with arthritis. The Manzanita bushes (Arctostaphylos pungens) were in bloom - a treatment for diarrhea and poison oak or ivy rashes.

Crow in a juniper tree
Crow in the juniper
blooming manzania bush

closeup of a green ephedra bush
Green Ephedra
St. Andrew's Cross bush
St. Andrew's Cross

I was almost home but stopped to rest for a moment and drink water. As I was drinking, I male hummingbird, excitedly pipped at me, inches from my face. I guess he was thirsty, too, so I poured out water into my hand to let him drink. He rested for a moment on my fingertip, took a few more sips, and then zipped off into the juniper. Although exhausted after a nearly 12 mile journey, that little bird filled me with joy.

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