September 8-13 Zion and Sedona

While we were heading for Zion, Bob received news that the queen had died. Being British it was an emotional moment and we, like so many others, processed the information for days to come.  I posted a separate tribute on my blog to commemorate this legendary monarch.

We decided to travel through the back roads of Navajo land in northern Arizona, with the Vermillion Cliffs to the left, passing by Lake Powell, etched into the orange and peach sandstone, though you could tell the water levels were quite low.  The terrain into Zion was a prelude of what was to come; we passed through the Paria wilderness, home of the famous “Wave” where we sadly were not able to pick up a permit during the lottery.  As we reached the Grand Escalante Staircase a fierce thunderstorm was rolling in that gave us a good drench but not flooding. 

When we arrived at the east side of Zion, the landscape turned into pink and apricot ridges, complimented by haystacks sculpted by the elements; you could still see what looked like ancient lava flow. 

Heading towards the Zion East Tunnel

When we reached the entrance to the park, we were issued the tunnel pass as we were within the limits to pass through (check the Zion NPS site for requirements and instructions) – we waited while the kind and humorous Park Ranger arranged our passage.  We were the only vehicle going through at that time, I suppose it was later in the day.  

If we thought what we had seen so far was astounding, we were certainly in for a treat when we passed through the tunnel.  

Just Wow!!!

The effect is the same as witnessing places like the Grand Canyon and Yosemite for the first time; it’s sometimes hard to believe such marvels exist for real.

Zion on the way to Springdale

We got settled into the Holiday Inn Express in Springdale for the evening.  Later we watched the full moon rise over the peaks outside our window; everywhere we looked there were lovely views of Zion. 

The next day we took the shuttle from Springdale to the Visitor Center where we picked up the Zion Shuttle to different spots around the park where you can hike.  We decided to do the Narrows, which is world renowned and we were accompanied by a fair stream of foreign tourists.  We walked via a well-groomed path to the riverbed and started wading through the knee deep water. I took my hiking poles as you can’t see the rocks and it’s easy to lose your balance.  We zigzagged from one “shore” to the other.  We were wearing hiking boots that we weren’t worried about getting soaked – I was thankful for that!  We saw people in sliders and other types of shoes that would not give you the support needed; the current could be quite strong in spots and the rocks were precarious.  We meandered, albeit slowly, through this wetland of a enthralling slot canyon.  Since it is cooler due to the canyon being mostly in the shade and being in the water I certainly didn’t feel dehydrated.  In the end we did eight miles🥾

The Narrows

When we finished we took the shuttle back to the village, jumping off to marvel at the scenery and hopefully spot  a condor or two.  We decided to have a nice pub lunch at the visitor center – we had earned it!   When we got back to the hotel, we put our feet up until we could muster the energy to check out the downtown area and grab a gelato.  Zion isn’t really big and we didn’t take too much time, checking out the usual shops and a few galleries. The shuttle system is great and it’s really easy to get around. 

We left the next day, delighted that we were going back through the tunnel and we could do more touring as we left the park, backtracking through the Grand Escalante Stair Case and Lake Powell.  

Like those other stupendous places we have visited so far on our journey, Zion must be experienced; it is truly in a class all by itself.  

We made our way to Sedona, a bit worried about the flash flood warnings and we saw some dandies on our weather app radar; lo and behold we wound up behind a long line heading into Flagstaff, and after about a half hour we managed to get through the flooded part of Highway 89, slick with mud but fortunately we are a high profile vehicle.  It was a different story on the other side as the road was completely flooded out and would take hours to get cleared out- we saw the long line of folks stuck coming the other way.  These storms are not to be trifled with!  

It was pouring heavily as we came into Sedona and we got to our site to wait out the storm before heading to the market to pick up supplies.  

As we learned, the weather app can say it’s a clear day then boom…in an hour you hear the thunder and then the rain starts.  One just crept up on us as I am writing this – it’s getting closer and the thunder is starting to crack and I can hear the rain on the awning.  Oddly these storms in Sedona haven’t kicked up a lot of wind.  

View as we walked from the RV Park to downtown Sedona

The next day proved to be warm and dry and we decided to promenade downtown Sedona.  Many of the shopkeepers were commenting that it is now the slow season and were slashing prices.  There were a fair amount of tourists but not as packed as when we were there in the spring.  It was nice to have elbow room to explore where we liked, in no rush and dining al fresco watching the world go by.  

The following day we picked up a rental car so we could hike Devil’s Bridge.  It was warm and I was struggling a bit to get up the ridge as the sun was extremely intense and it probably would have been a good idea to have started earlier.   After drinking electrolytes and downing a protein bar, I sat in the shade on the ridge overlooking the canyon, glad I had made the effort.  

Hanging out at the Devil’s Bridge Trail

We stopped by Exposures Gallery on the way back so I could ogle the artwork that was way out of my budget range when I spotted a Worrell;  they are one of the main galleries  representing his work and usually have an entire room filled with his creations – all found was a single wall; he died recently and there had been a run on his work… I found one of his smaller wall sculptures relinquished by his daughter that was available for sale at a reasonable price!  

The sculpture is a bronze called “Greet the Sun”. The etching on the back affected me deeply in the same way the sculpture did.  Knowing how fleeting life is, and having endured so much, I told myself “I can do this, I can afford this.”  This piece spoke to me so strongly it was as if Worrell’s spirit itself said “this is meant for you.”  I never had a piece of art give me such a high; it literally brought tears to my eyes.

James, one of the Gallery employees, passionately explained to me every detail of the piece and how a remote cave painting provided the inspiration for his work: The shield depicting protection, the staff for defense, the patina animal skin symbol of a shaman, and the symbols of journey etched into his tunic.  

This piece, though small, will remind me of the expanse of the spiritual journey I am currently on.  

We spent the rest of the afternoon doing laundry which was fine; an aggressive storm cell came through; thunder, lightning-wrath-of-god type stuff that drove us indoors.  After it dissipated we motored through the drenched streets, the sweet smell of the after-storm and cooling temperatures was downright intoxicating.  We dined at the El Rincon Restaurante in the lovely Tlaquepaque Village. I had a Navajo Pizza which is like having a green chili enchilada spread over some seriously deep fried Fry Bread.  That and a flavorful margarita closed out our epic experience in Sedona. We spent a somewhat restless night being battered by more storms, thundering overhead as we huddled in the wake of the unrelenting tempests.  

As many who have visited know, Sedona is a New Age center due to the theory of vortexes that promote well-being.   I cannot speak to that, but the atmosphere in this rarified space is like no other; the scenery, the intensity of alpine skies – you feel like you are floating on the very thunderheads that form in the distance, highlighting the rustic red buttes, encircled by the blue-green vegas that are embedded into the fabric of Sedona itself.  Even the seemingly apocalyptic storms that pass through enhance the experience, insisting that balance must be maintained. The contrasting landscapes of Sedona tell the tales that while we populate this land, we cannot fully claim it; Mother Nature reminds us of her presence when she mercilessly washes all who stand in her way down the unforgiving arroyos and onto oblivion.  

Mar 12-14 Needles Outlook, Canyonlands

We headed for the high altitude Canyonlands Rim Recreation area, home of the Needles Outlook and Windwhistle Campground.  We explored the Outlook with it’s sheer precipes akin to the Grand Canyon, though the lighting was a bit harsh and the landscape was less defined as a result.  We decided viewing would be better in the morning.  

We went off the grid for a few days with barely any signal and definitely no Wi-Fi.  We are so attached to our devices that we wondered how we coped back in the day when we camped and had no signal.  That’s where having a good book, editing photos and journaling really come into play. 

On the way back from the outlook we saw a volleyball on the side of the road, that like Dave, must have done a runner.  Realize that there is no trash on the sides of the roads here – it’s completely pristine so it really stood out.  We picked it up and it turned out to be a Wilson!  So Wilson became part of the family to keep Grogu company. I’m sure the family misses Wilson but he has found a good home so we are sending out positive vibes.

Welcome Wilson!!

We went to the campground with it’s smooth rounded sandstone backdrop and found a level site.  There are no sharp edges here as if the wind decided it wanted to define a different pallet from other areas of the Southwest.  The shaded areas were still protecting the snow that was slowly melting as the pressure system that had been plaguing us finally decided to move on. There were only two other campers around out of the fifteen sites and even they eventually siphoned off leaving Bob and I alone in this little slice of Paradise. The quiet is what I craved after all the stresses of noise pollution, and I sat and contemplated this level of emptiness thinking my surroundings had done fine without me for thousands of years.  There were occasional birds and the tracks of deer but otherwise you could meditate virtually undisturbed for quite a while.  

The emptiness is helping me reboot and I’m re-wiring myself to slow down.  The physical problems (knots) with the shoulders and my arm are finally subsiding.  I’m starting to lose track of the days which is both a curse and blessing.

The weather remained clear though there was the occasional gusts of wind.  When the wind died down and the sun came out it was warm and pleasant. 

The morning jaunt along the Needles Outlook turned out to be the best bet.  Though it was thirty degrees out with the wind making it even chillier, it soon heated up.  As we we are a contained unit we sat in solitary bliss and had our coffee and breakfast against the magnificent backdrop of the Canyonlands without another soul around. We switched on the local radio station which was playing Native American music.  Otherwise all you could hear was the wind and the indian chants drifting faintly from the RV.

For a moment I felt like the “Lady in the Wind.”  There was no rush, just nature and all the beauty that erupted from the vast Canyonlands of Utah for those who wish to partake.  

The Needles – Canyonland

Later that day we hiked the nature trail around the campground and learned about the fauna and flora; the twisted juniper and their edible berries, the sage and other plants used for medicinal purposes by the Navajo.  

BLM has done an incredible job of installing and maintaining this area considering how little it appears to be used. 

Otherwise we relaxed, enjoying the view until the wind kicked up.  Bob dug out the barbecue and we had “Willamette Valley” chicken breasts wrapped in bacon (from the local market no less) with wild rice and steamed carrots topped off with a nice Warr King Rose’ from by brother and frozen Mochi for desert. This was the first major meal we cooked in the RV while being on the road.  Glamping at it’s best!  

It was Sunday and four other campers showed up which we found interesting as the weekend was winding down.  They settled in, one was strumming on the guitar that drifted through the canyon along with the smell of campfires.  

We saw a weather system coming in and heard rain on our roof later that night but woke up to the sun and warm coming over the indelible sandstone features of the Moab area.