On the Rocks

Easter morning in Sedona, though it didn’t feel like Easter at all.  After a quick and refreshing shower and a phone call home to mom that bordered on frustration overload, we set out for a an early morning “easy walk” that would bring us up to Cathedral Rock.  After a few steps of climbing however, we fast realized that the trail we were ascending up was not the “easy walk” described in the book.   Not to be deterred, we continued to scale the slippery and steep rocks which at times made it seem as if we were more rock climbing then hiking.   We were in fact not just taking a leisurely stroll up to Cathedral Rock, but climbing the mountain itself.  The struggle was well worth it however, as we were treated with amazing panoramic vistas of much of Sedona the entire way up.  When we finally reached the top we perched ourselves in the “saddle” of two peaks and were able to view a greener, less dramatic but equally impressive vista on the other side.  We took some pictures then started our descent down and I continued to be awed by the views and realized that even though I wouldn’t be spending this Easter in a church, there was a strong sense of spirituality in the outdoors, one that I am not often privy to back on the East coast.Image

Easter Sunday continued to be a spiritual day for me as we set off for a long hike up Bear Mountain after fuelling up at theCoffeePotRestaurant-“Home of 101 Omelets.”  We were looking for a long and challenging hike and everyone, including the guidebook suggested this was it.

 

Coffee Pot Restaurant- Home of 101 Omelettes

We started off on our trek around 1:30 in the afternoon which is never an ideal time to start a hike, particularly in theArizona desert.  Still, we were excited and convinced that we would make it.  Besides, we told each other that if we didn’t summit by 4pm we would turn around wherever we were.  These were lies we were both telling of course, though neither one of us spoke it aloud, perhaps because it made us both seem safer and more responsible, perhaps because we were in awe at the majestic peak we were about to climb up.  Little did we know that this was merely an illusion.  The true summit lies well above the one that stood before us.

After hiking through a flat, flower covered meadow and up a small yet steep descent, we came to the first of 3 “false summits.”  We rested and enjoyed the views for a while, shoving down popcorn for the salt and water for hydration.  The view was incredible, and even though we knew it was not the true summit, we thought “surely we must be close with views like these?”

We were wrong.

We continued our ascent and ran into many happy hikers on their way down whose breathing seemed unlabored and easy, unlike mine.  When I stopped to ask one of them “how far to the summit”, a tall lanky man fully outfitted in Columbia gear sarcastically responded “It’s the 4th stop on the elevator.”  We laughed, though part of me, the part that was struggling to lift each leg in front of the other while simultaneously breathing in and out, wanted to kick him down the mountain.

Shortly after this encounter, we turned down into a bowl of red rock that was just awesome!  It was as if a canyon had been formed up top within the mountain.  Recharged by the scenery, we plowed up till we reached another false plateau which almost crushed our spirits entirely when we realized it wasn’t the top.  Luckily however, just a few short steps away was the summit where  we were greeted by an incredible view of theSan Francisco Peaks to the North and a panoramic vista of Sedona to the South.  From this summit, the parking lot where our car sat looked like ants.

View from the Summit

 

Me at the top of Bear Moutain

 

It was 4:30 pm by the time we summited, but we were relieved to find a group of 3 other hikers at the top.  It was comforting to know we would not be alone on our descent down.  We sat at the summit for just over a half an hour, taking pictures and what not, then began our descent about 15 minutes behind the last of the hikers at the top.  We were probably about 2/3rds of the way down when Michelle panicked because the trail suddenly did not look familiar.  We saw a wall of red rocks in front of us which neither one of us could recall from the way up.  The trail markers in the desert are much different from those we are used to on the east coast in the Catskills orAdirondacks.

After much debate over whether we should back track up the mountain and find where we thought we came off the trail, or continue down what appeared to be another trail, we opted for the latter.  The sun was quickly setting behind the mountains and we were both fairly certain that we were going to be stuck in the wilderness after sun-down either way. I don’t think I have ever hiked that fast out of a trail.  Finally, after almost a half an hour of jumping and skipping, we turned around an edge of the trail that looked out onto the road where we could see the parking lot with our car, and one other in it.  This was  a relief.  Even if the trail didn’t take us right to the parking lot we figured we could just hike up the road if need be.  Turns out however, we were on the right trail all along.

About 1 mile out from the trail head, as we came across the flower dotted meadow, we heard the sound of coyote’s close by.  Now all logic and reasoning tells me they don’t bother human beings.  But logic and reasoning don’t rule my heart which told me to get the hell out of there as fast as I could.  I took off, literally sprinting to the car.  It was 7pm when we finally jumped in the car and by the time we pulled out of the parking lot, the sun had fallen behind the wall of red rocks to the West and it was dark.

That night, over an excellent dinner of pasta and wine at Ken’s Creek-side Restaurant, we laughed about the whole scenario and I quietly reflected on the power and spirituality of nature.  Though I didn’t spend Easter Sunday as I traditionally would, in a Catholic Church, I felt connected as ever to a higher power.

 

View on the descent of Bear Mountain

 

 

 

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