In 2021 I had planned and mapped out an extensive backpacking trip to the Canadian Rockies for September of 2022. We're talking backcountry trekking to some of the best scenery, wildlife, and solitude to boot! Fast forward to February of 2022 when I completely tore my achilles tendon in the first game of my winter volleyball league. And just like that, I was out of commission for months and months.
Around April, when I was finally healed enough to start PT, I asked my physical therapist if she thought my trip and hike was feasible. She said that while she thought I'd be able to go on day hikes, my muscle stamina and strength in my achilles and calf muscle would most likely not be ready for a 5 day, 60 mile backpacking trip. So I could have gone to Banff and Jasper, drove and done day hikes, that was not the trip I planned or wanted to have.
So I cancelled that trip and ruminated on another- I owed it to myself, didn't I? After months and months of resting on the couch, not being able to hike or even walk my dog for the better part of a year, I deserved some adventure still. Monument Valley had been on my radar for years, and has kept popping up into my life in some way or another of the most recent ones. I have never been to Arizona, either (MV is technically in Utah on Navajo lands), so I figured why not have a completely different solo adventure of my own right here in the ol US of A. I did some research and decided my route: Sedona -> Flagstaff -> Monument Valley -> Horseshoe Bend->The Grand Canyon (South Rim). The trip would be 7 days and I'd only spend 2 nights in one place, Sedona.
As far as travel goes, no irritating hiccups or cancelled flights. I had a brief panic attack when I couldn't find my checked bag (gate-checked, but it had all my camera gear) until I realized I was at the wrong carousel. I received an upgraded rental car (a freaking 2023 Ford Expedition) since they didn't have any more of the modest Jetta I had rented, and I was on the road from Phoenix to Sedona, my first stop. I may a quick detour to Dicks Sporting Goods to find some mace. As a women, you can never be too careful (that and I listen to a ton of true crime- MFM-) and it's worth the $12 to have it on hand. When I couldn't find it, I asked a sale associate who told me it was in the women's running section. Now, if that isn't messed up! Somewhere down the line they had a meeting, and it was decided that a lot of women get attacked while running, so why not put the mace where women buy their running gear? IT'S MISSING THE WHOLE DAMN POINT! But that is a post for another day.
Sedona was a dream in itself. The entire town in nestled into these incredible impressive red rock formations (and I'm so sorry I don't know more about geology). Every way you look in an incredible view, and there are so many hikes of all different lengths and difficulties just a short drive away (or even in town). I was really interested to learn more of the "vortexes" and their spiritual draw. I am absolutely a spiritual person and can get "out there", but this trip was more geared towards photography and having the uninterrupted freedom to go where I wanted and when I wanted without worry about a travel buddy being left behind. Next time, I'd love to spend more time in the healing realm of this special place, and really give in to all the spiritual magic that this place holds. And even if you don't believe in that sort of thing, you can definitely appreciate how special and beautiful this place is.
As far as hiking goes, I had to take it easy due to the amount of healing/strength in my achilles and calf and also due to some lower back issues that manifested themselves through the achilles injury (the human body is incredible and amazing and I am becoming more aware of it in so many ways- and it many ways thanks to the injury). I had to pick and chose hikes that weren't going to be too long with too much elevation. So the hikes I chose were Courthouse Rock Loop, Little Chimney Rock, Slick Rock Trail, and a loop around Sugarloaf, Chimney Rock, and Thunder Mountain. I'm not even going to pretend to be an expert on these, but I was in awe with all of them. Maybe it's because I have never spent really any time in the southwest and the landscape is so alien to me (we'll talk about aliens in a little bit...), but I think that it is the colors. The deep reds, saturated blues of the skies, and how the limited greenery just pops from the rusty rocks. Its simple incredible (especially wen you hail from Vermont and it's cloudy about 70% of the time).
The only place I made two visits to was The Chapel of the Holy Cross church just outside Sedona. I was raised Catholic so I am no stranger to churches. Even though I do not practice Catholicism these days, I still love being in the space of a church and have a special place in my heart for it's rituals that are reminiscence of my childhood. But I digress. The reason I wanted visited the Chapel twice was because I was dissatisfied with my first attempt. The Church was my first stop once I reached Sedona but a storm was rolling in. I didn't love the photos- they were dramatic, but I really wanted to the juxtaposition of the red rocks and the blue skies with this incredible architecture jutting out from them both.
The Chapel was also the last place I visited before heading out of Sedona. Strange how that happens. On my second time around to the chapel, I parked down low and took some photos at different angles (as you do) before walking up to the church. This time I went in and took it all in. A small chapel with a larger-than-life view out those front windows. It's such a beautiful design which so nuancingly mimics the feel of larger cathedral. I saw down for a moment, took a few deep breathes, and let the place sink in. On my way out, I hung out on a wall outside and people watched for a while. Tourists (like myself) pointing out all the fun rock formation names and taking pictures with a rock that looks like Donald Trump (it really does).
For the UFO believers out there: Upon arriving home in Vermont and going through my images, I see the image above this paragraph. If you look over at the right hand side up in the sky, you might see something in the sky. To me and many others I've showed this to, it sure does looks like a UFO in the sky!
I hadn't noticed this while taking the photo, but it was damn sure there on my computer screen! I checked at the photos before and after this frame, and this is the only one with this aircraft in the sky (And because I know someone will say it's photoshopped, I have this image as a RAW unedited file and it's exactly as you see it now. ).
So believe it or not, I think it's pretty fun + exciting so I'm going to go on believe what I want on this one! I think we'll wrap the first leg of my Arizona trip up there.
Stay tuned for Arizona in Lieu of Canada Part 2: Monumental Valleys