April 30 – May 4, 2018
Brad found a fantastic boondocking site for us on National Forest land right outside of Sedona. I had never really heard of this crunchy little town, located in what I found to be the most beautiful part of Arizona so far. Sedona is named after a woman whose mother made up the name because she thought it sounded beautiful. Our campsite was in a large meadow, but we could see large red cliffs in nearly all directions. Pronghorn leisurely grazed in the fields, and we watched dark storm clouds rumble by, occasionally turning everything’s color new.
Coral needed a couple of days to recoup from being sick, so on our first full day here Sunny and I went to explore a nearby historical ruin.
As we drove there it began to rain, so when we arrived we had the rare treat of seeing waterfalls pouring off the desert cliffs. The rangers, some of whom had been living on site for several months, said they had not seen waterfalls in the canyon before, though dark mineral stains on the rock walls indicated that flash flooding wasn’t too unusual.
You can only explore the Palatki Heritage Site with a Forest Service Ranger as guide, and we were federally mandated to wait 15 minutes after any rumble of thunder before we could venture out into the rain. The rangers were mostly trying to follow the regulations, but everyone in our small group of tourists was all also trying to cough very loudly during each clap of thunder so that we could hurry up and see the ruins before a worse storm began.
They finally led us up the hill to the ancient Pueblo, where they told us a lot of what is known about the people that lived here. They were part of the Sinagua tribes, which were thriving in the 1100’s and before, but mostly disappeared in the 1200’s with different speculations as to why. Whatever it was that drove them from their homes (very likely widespread drought) most agree that they intermarried with neighboring tribes and now their closest decendants are members of the Hopi Tribe.
I learned something totally new during this ranger talk – their main 3 crops were grown as a trinity – beans, corn, and squash. One seed for each plant was dropped into each hole. The corn grew tall and offered shade to the other plants. The bean climbed the cornstalk. And the squash provided ground cover for water retention. This also allowed for farming methods that required less water, as the farmer could simply pour water in 1 spot for all 3 plants.
We went on several hikes in the Sedona area – although not as many as we would have liked because of several rainy days. The family favorite was up the flagship Sedona landmark – Cathedral Rock. The mileage for this route wasn’t high, but the trek turned out to basically be straight up. We knew there would be some scrambling, but the entire hike ended up a bit more treacherous than we’d realized. Brad & I agreed that if we had been familiar with this trail we wouldn’t have chosen to bring the girls on it. The girls LOVED IT. They voted it “Best Hike Ever”.
For the girls and I, the biggest gift of this stay was meeting a new friend, Laurie. She is a true rock hound – she pulls a utility trailer full of beautiful stones behind her camper – and makes jewelry and other beautiful objects to sell all over the country. She taught us that young rock hounds are called “Pebble Pups”, a title which Coral now claims proudly. Laurie got out some of her plastic bins of stones to teach the girls geology.
She also taught me about shakras, and warned me never to consider opening my 3rd eye until all the other elements within my body were in order – otherwise I would be opening my 3rd eye too early and I’d likely go insane like Miley Cyrus. She wore a beautiful, home-made, shakers stone necklace around her neck every day that we saw her.
So as we continue our journey I am ever-amazed at the rich gifts we receive. Moments of feeling cold rain hit our faces, moments of engaging with ancient art, and moments of connecting with new people who we otherwise would never have met. And it’s impossible for me to say that one gift is greater than other. Perhaps all of these gifts are not only intertwined, but are actually the same great gift. The gift of life – of living through new moments, of experiencing the cycle of cause and effect rippling between all of nature, which is really everything…the people, the stones, the stories. After all, we are made up of the same material that birthed the stars. So the great gift in all of this is simply the chance to step forward with a grateful heart and a mind ready to learn things and contemplate new ideas.