Back in June, I headed to Sedona, Arizona with two of my friends from Los Angeles for a girls’ weekend. The first time our trio traveled together, we spent a whirlwind 10 days in Brazil in 2010. We were overdue for a reunion trip. On the agenda: sun, no worries and making memories. Arizona in June? You crazy? The weather actually wasn’t too bad – hot, but not unbearably so. I feel sun-starved in San Francisco sometimes, so I soak up opportunities in the sun like a cat lazing in a bay window.
K___ and L___ drove from Los Angeles to Phoenix, picked me up at the airport and we drove to Scottsdale to stay for the night before heading to Sedona the next morning. We planned to drop by Amy’s Baking Company, made infamous thanks to an episode of Kitchen Nightmares – the only one I’ve ever seen – due to their crazified antics.
Unfortunately, when we dropped by the next morning, we found out they don’t open until noon. We peered inside, me wary of being too close to the insanity. I feared Amy or Samy might pop up out of nowhere and berate us for daring to approach their precious restaurant. We snapped a pic, L____ checked us in on Facebook for posterity, and off we went toward Sedona.
The drive to Sedona alone is worth the trip. Massive red rocks in all directions, imposing yet awe-inspiring, a postcard come to life and magnified to penetrate all the senses. Even the air felt different. Cleaner. Calmer. We stayed at The Orchard Inn, nestled in the center of town, with a pool facing a panoramic view of red rocks.
A LITTLE EXPLORATION AND SOME UGLY AMERICANS
Once we settled in, we walked the handful of yards to the main drag to explore the town. L___ voiced her disappointment at the amount of tourism-focused storefronts. Up and down the drag businesses beckoned to visitors, with promises of authenticity and pleasure: jeep tours, turquoise jewelry, Native American-inspired goods and psychic healing, among others. This isn’t where the locals hang out.
As it’s located in the Southwestern US, Arizona has a rich Native American history. We “hiked” a short half-mile path to see the ruins of the Sinagua people, Montezuma Castle. The stature of the surrounding mountains gave the illusion of a sunken path, the tall trees whose branches canopied above, and the air, quiet (at first) except for the sounds of our breath and the low hum of ordinary animal activity, created the sense of seclusion and peace. Mother Nature encircled us in a bear hug.
Trailing behind us was a group I referred to as “The Ugly Americans.” If you were to look at a checklist of “Ugly American” behaviors, they’d score at least 90%. Imagine being in the still of a quiet valley, surrounded by rocks older than we can truly conceive, near the protected ruins of an ancient people and you hear the loud flapping of flip flops, the smacking of lips, the swishing of thighs rubbing against khaki and cries of “Hey, look at THAT!” “Moooom, I’m bored!” They may or may not have been slurping on Slurpees. I may have imagined that into the scene during my stereotyping. I’m sure they were lovely people, but they sure knew how to spoil a moment.
DO YOU FEEL ANYTHING?
Sedona is apparently teeming with energy vortexes. We visited the disappointingly named “Airport Vortex.” I expected to encounter whirls of dusts spiraling in the air, maybe with a Tasmanian Devil or two babbling incoherently as it’s tossed about. Some people claim to experience a greater sense of uplifting calm, intense relaxation, spiritual enlightenment, seeing Jesus and Buddha apparate, holding hands and bestow many blessings on you or some such other (OK, I made that last bit up). Sadly, none of that happened. My friends and I kept asking each other, “Do you feel anything?” “Do you feel different?” “No!” “Nothing.” “Um…noooo.” Lack of visits from Jesus/Buddha notwithstanding, the Vortex visit proved it’s worth in the spectacular views alone.
ALL THE PRETTY HORSES AND A LITTLE SNORTING
The next day after enjoying a bare-bones, but importantly, free, continental breakfast at our hotel, we made our way to Cottonwood, Arizona for horseback riding with Cowboy Way Adventures. Can horseback riding be a spiritual experience? Because I think I shared a moment with my horse, Vidalia – though our initial meeting didn’t go as smoothly as I would have expected.
The one and only other time I’d been on a horse was over 10 years ago when my body was more resilient and I had fewer fears. I mounted Vidalia with some trepidation. I startled each time she shifted her weight. “Why does she keep moving like that? C’mon girl stay still for me!”
L___ snickered and teased, “Are you scared of the horse?”
“No! I’m not scared,” I protested. “The older I get, the closer I am to death and therefore the more aware I become of my mortality! Besides, uh, you have heard of Christopher Reeve, right?” She shook her head at me with amusement.
Once my jitters subsided, I got into the groove of things. Chris, a bonafide cowboy if ever I saw one, and a shoo-in to win a Sam Elliott lookalike contest, along with Jen, his younger partner, who looked as though she could have been on Hey Dude, led us on a 2-hour trail which the horses knew well. Much like any group of friends and family, the horses had their favorites of their stable. Chris warned me that my horse would likely try to stay behind the horse being ridden by a little boy who was there with his parents.
Vidalia was a sweet horse. I gradually relaxed as I realized we were in this ride together. She trusted me to be a kind human who’d pet her, treat her gently and let her tail behind her BFF. I trusted her not to up and jump and go horse-crazy and trample me. Once I accepted our partnership in living, I really enjoyed the rest of the tranquil trail. I took in my surroundings: the arid, still, desert heat; listened for rattlesnakes I never saw; marveled at the massive expanse of cactus and we even spotted a jackrabbit. Everything looked straight out of a Wile E. Coyote cartoon.
After our horseback ride, we’d scheduled a massage and I am so glad we did, because sitting on a horse for two hours hurts your butt more than doing 1000 squats followed by 1000 lunges and 3000 burpees. It can’t have looked good to watch us walk.
Generally, I don’t go for massages. I’ll do it to play along when my friends want to “go get massages, mani/pedis” and all that, but I am not really into having random strangers rub all over my mostly naked body. The masseuse will be like, “Wow, you’re really tense! Why don’t you try to relax a little.” Um, your hand is dangerously close to my boob, an appendage I don’t just go around showing people willy nilly, and you want me to chill? Yeah, OK.
Maybe it was the heat, the ride through the dusty desert, the release of all my exhaustion from stress at work, but it was the most relaxing massage I have ever had. I fell asleep. I woke myself up with a snort! I’d heard of such things happening to other people, but it was a first for me.
HERE PIGGY PIGGY
Our last morning in Sedona, we lounged around the pool for a bit, trading stories and enjoying the last bit of calm before heading back to our lives.
As San Francisco has its heart sculptures placed across the city, Sedona has its javelina sculptures dotted across town. It became somewhat of a game (for me, at least) to see if we’d stumble upon more javelinas. Having only found a handful of the ones in existence the previous days, my friends indulged me and we found a park with retired sculptures!
GOODBYE RED ROCKS, YOU’VE BEEN GRAND
We closed out the trip with souvenir shopping, a few more photo opps and a Southwestern lunch.
I couldn’t have asked for a better, more relaxing and memory-making trip with two of my favorite people.
About those vortexes and the enlightenment? The javelinas whose noses I rubbed for luck? A few days after I returned from Sedona, I got laid off from my job. So, there’s that. At least I got a chance to relax before it happened!
Check out my friend L___’s take on our trip at Recipe for Fab!
*Credit for some photos goes to my friends L__ and K___. Thank you!
A few more photos…