A Path for Healing

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June 8, 2021, Bellemont, AZ– The events of this year have not lost their ability to surprise, though each one, both joyful and sorrowful, has had roots in what has been bound to occur, sooner rather than later.

I have lost friends and family, recently, yet all of them were suffering from chronic disease. Mom moved, of her own volition, from our family home of 66 years, but that had been in the cards for quite some time.

It was a surprise, however, when a man to whom I had been quite close, when he was a child, walked into the kitchen of the summer camp here, at which I will be director for the next few days. “A” did not recognize me at first, as we hadn’t seen one another since 1995. Life has taken him on several rides, but has not dimmed his intellect, or his drive.

Once he did remember who I was, we had a long overdue conversation regarding a mutual loss, which occurred in mid-summer, in the Eighties. He proposed to me that we undertake a hike, what will amount to a healing walk, in mid-August, in the area where the loss transpired.

Healing journeys have occurred throughout my life, and in particular, over the past ten years. This one will close a small hole in my heart, and at least begin to close the much larger hole in his. Indigenous people, the world over, know the importance of ceremonial walks, in bringing the deepest of hurts to the surface, where they can dissipate.

So it goes, that I am continuously being brought to places where the connections that are necessary are made. This is a particularly strong year of healing and correction.

Two Links, One Finish Line

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April 26, 2021, Sedona- I could have sworn that the destination of today’s hike was not the same place where I ended up, eight years ago. I could have sworn that the Chuckwagon Trail went around to a point east of Devil’s Bridge, a wildly popular hiking destination-even by Sedona standards. Alas, the sole difference between then and now is that today, hiking buddy and I trudged along a road of rocks and sand, whereas “the Chuck” is more hard-packed dirt, and winds around through canyon country. Looking back at my post on the first trek to the area near Devil’s Bridge, I see that the last 7/10 mile is the same.

Oh, well; it would at least be easier on HB’s knees. Hiking with another person is good for my real world connection. I had been getting a bit disconnected, in that regard, going any which way I felt like going-even bushwhacking on occasion. We stopped about 1/4 mile from the actual arch. It was merely a different vantage point from the granite bench where I halted, eight years ago.

There were several awesome sights along the way, though. Here we go.

Lizard Head, visible from Dry Creek Road
Second Lizard Head, just east of Dry Creek Road
All the news that’s fit to paste!
Upper Dry Creek Canyon, with Capitol Butte as its bulwark
West view of Capitol Butte’s Balancing Rock
The road hard taken
One of several cairn piles. There were some larger ones, each of which had a line of selfie-takers waiting their turn.
Eastern view of Capitol Butte’s Balancing Rock
The granite bench, where i stopped eight years ago. Capitol Butte rises above.
Devil’s Bridge, with what looks like a small cave underneath.
West face of Brins Mesa
My PlantSnap app identifies this as a Sweet Cherry tree. Brins Mesa rises, across the canyon.

Thus went a cool weather hike. Devil’s Bridge Trail would not have been a good fit for a warm weather trek, though thousands do such a hike, every year.

Five Little Pools

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April 19, 2021, Sedona- A prime hiking buddy and I set out, fairly early, for a trail here that passes what are called Seven Sacred Pools. The area was frequented, in bygone times, by people indigenous to northern and north central Arizona. The area now called Sedona and Oak Creek Village was known, even then, as a place with healing waters and a spiritual air about it. The people we know as Sinagua settled around the region, and their settlements in this area are known to the Hopi, who are among their descendants, as Palatkwapi-“Place of Red Rocks”.

Soldier Pass Trail is one of those for which parking is limited. A and I found a spot near a city tennis court, and walked along the side of the road, for about 1.3 miles. On the way back, we noticed several people taking a parallel trail through the woods, so that would be a likely route for subsequent visits. Today, though, we saw amazing views from the roadside.

View towards Bell Rock and Courthouse Butte, from Soldier Pass Road. The people who have settled in this lush canyon have settled well.
Zoomed images of the iconic rock formations, accessible from Oak Creek Village
The lushness of the forest canyons, that were carved by Oak Creek’s tributaries, are a wonder unto themselves.
We came to the trailhead for Soldier Pass Trail, finding it of moderate difficulty.
Above, is Sphinx Rock, which remained watching over us.
Devil’s Kitchen is a sinkhole that sits just under Sphinx Rock.
This shows the position of the two great features.
Zoomed view of the southern end of Coffee Pot Rock.
My selfie with Coffee Pot Rock
Light glints off Sphinx Rock
We came to the Seven Sacred Pools, finding five of them with a small amount of water in each. Three are visible from this vantage point.
Looking carefully, note the remnants of a cairn building contest, of some time ago.
This is a section of Brins Ridge, to the east of Soldier Pass and separate from Brins Mesa.

Thus, my first visit to the Seven Sacred Pools introduced me to five of them, with the hope that there will be monsoon rains this year, and perhaps a view of the storied gushing stream, with small cascades heading where the cairns are now.

The Lamb’s Turn

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March 31, 2021- A common saying is that March comes in like a lion and goes out like a lamb. I have seen years in which this month now ending has been as leonine at the end as it was at the beginning, and indeed it looks like Easter weekend will be of that ilk, in the Northeast.

Here in the American Southwest, though, it appears as though we are in for warmer weather, with only the slightest chance of rain, through April and probably May, as well. So, with the gentleness, I find I have somewhat more energy. I am at the age where it takes more effort to start the day facing cold and dark and the fullness of Spring is ever welcome.

I also know, however, that cold and dark will always be with us-and that extreme heat is far from a bargain, also. The lamb can grow into a snorting, cantankerous ram, in short order. Life is ever a process of falling down, getting up again, confronting oneself and delving deeper into what is needed, in order to grow more confident. The lessons offered by every infant who goes forth into toddlerhood, without any of the self-pity that often comes later, come to mind. A baby keeps at the work of turning over, lifting self up, scooting along and finally, walking without falling.

It is an achievement, as well, for anyone who casts aside self-pity, who rises above both depression and narcissism by doing the hard work of emotional turning over, psychological self-lifting, moving along with some support and, finally, moving through life without stumbling and falling. It takes lots of courage and true self-confidence, but at some point, it is more than doable.

Striding into April, I see a clear schedule of special assignments in schools, the Baha’i Festival of Ridvan, lots of hiking and maintaining my vigilance against the pandemic (this last, through May-and June, as needed.). I have made small changes (new pillows for my bed, additional exercises and dietary adjustments to bring my abdomen into compliance with my own health regimen) and commit to deeper exploration of this amazing world.

Sometimes, Word Pictures Work Best

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March 29, 2021- Usually, when I go off on a trail, my camera is with me and photos follow. Today, knowing that the terrain would be the same as that of my most recent hike on Limekiln Trail and that the features will also be visible from the next, and final, segment of that system, I went with eyes only.

There was a slight rise from the trailhead to a vantage point, from which I could see my car and another bowl-shaped ravine, just to its north. From there, a pinon and juniper scrub forest hosted the next 1/4 mile of the route, which headed down into a dry ravine and a creek bed smaller and not as alluring as Dry Creek-at least in terms of coloured stone varieties.

As I walked up and out of the ravine, a young couple walking ahead of me were a bit suspicious, so I took an alternate route, on a trail of volcanic soil, which ended up leading me around to the same road which I had followed in the previous segment. The couple were also nearby, but went about their exploration of the pinon forest, while I stopped at my last little nook and enjoyed gluten-free crackers (rather tasty, with garlic parmesan) and cool water. Though I can digest wheat and other grains, gluten-free products are a nice addition.

As this was the stopping place from last week, turnaround was in order. The cool breeze and bright sunshine made everything seem a whole lot easier today, and I could smell the juniper leaves a lot more fully than I could, even a few weeks ago. Spring will be a nicer hiking season.

Walking Gently

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March 24, 2021- This morning, I introduced a hiking buddy to Thumb Butte, one of Prescott’s majestic surrounding promontories. I chose the route that allowed a gentler ascent, thus giving her a good first experience on the butte, which also offers a steep climb on its other main route.

In any encounter with other people, it is most often the best course of action for the individual to take a gentle tone. Of course, there are times when a firm “NO!” is, in the long run, the true gentleness. The key is always to attend, carefully, to the person or to the group. Intuition is far more important to me now than it ever was in times past. Maybe the times are tougher, but I doubt it.

I simply find that, day to day, my path and that of any given person who crosses it are intertwined, in ways that never occurred to me, even a dozen years ago. I find that a lot of the cues I missed, when clouded by both preoccupation with Penny’s state of being and my own baggage, are front and center now. If those situations that were so problematic, seven, eight, ten years ago, presented themselves again, at least I would know to tread a gentler path-both with myself and those I am sure that were hurt.

Coming out of the pandemic, which I feel we are now, I sense myself staying more in tune with those around me. The gentle path feels the better, stronger way.

The Butterfly’s Heart

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March 22, 2021, Sedona- After an unexpected, but necessary flurry of activity, both online and around Prescott, I set out around Noon, and came up to the southwest corner of this ever-delightful town, to complete another segment of Limekiln Trail, which I have been walking in segments, these past five months.

Today’s route took me from Deer Pass, where I had left off last time, to Dry Creek, a distance of 5 miles, roundtrip. The route primarily follows Forest Service and ranch roads, with Dry Creek Road (FR 9845),leading up the creek’s small, but captivating, ravine. Here, I saw a lone jogger, a few tents in strategic places, and a pair of Shelties, poised and ready to protect their person.

I saw rolling grassland, long white irrigation tubes, people in jeeps and trucks struggling to navigate the rocky canyon road, and a beckoning wall of red rock-off to the northeast. I saw lots of heart-shaped rocks-and a butterfly rock, embedding an inner heart.

It was an inauspicious start, at Deer Pass Trailhead.
It looks like someone from Wickenburg lost their hat.
After a half mile walk along a ranch road, the descent into Dry Creek Ravine began.
A small field of volcanic rock and silt lay at the bottom of the hill.
After passing a few tents and wishing Godspeed to some slow-moving vehicles, I reached Dry Creek.
It was, well, dry. The creekbed is alluring, though, in and of itself.
I walked a bit further up the hill, to my stopping point for the day, from which Red Rock Loop Road is 2.3 miles further, and thus a good parking spot for the next segment, which will bring me back to this spot.
Delights can be small, as well as large, around here, This butterfly-shaped rock reveals its oblong heart.

Secret Cove

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March 16, 2021- My hiking buddy and I got up onto the rocks above one of Watson Lake’s most beautiful sections. As she is not quite up to clambering around the more difficult rock sections as yet, we turned back. Another time will suffice; Secret Cove is not going anywhere.

There are a myriad trails through the Glacial Age’s gift to Prescott: Granite Dells. The hoodoos and small granite mounds that dominate the northeast corner of this town have been a draw for residents and visitors alike, since the mid-Nineteenth Century. The dells form an arc, rising on the north side of Watson Lake and swinging west, to its fellow reservoir, Willow Lake (that sector being called Willow Dells), the area is a hodgepodge of City Park and private residences that have, for the most part, been built in a manner that respects the wilderness.

We walked mostly along a converted rail bed, known here as Peavine Trail. Its wide, flat mien allows bicyclists, equestrians and disabled people equal space, with hikers free to go off on any one of a dozen trails, mostly leading to overlooks of the lake.

Below, is an old photo of Secret Cove, from a hike I took there in November, 2011. The tranquility of the place doesn’t change, and even being shy of the cove itself, we felt a deep serenity.

There will be several visits to this hidden gem, in the near future-especially as the weather gets mild again.

The Big Snow

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January 25, 2021- The heaviest snow we have seen, since 12/24/2018, arrived late last night, and has continued for most of today. It is expected to go on, until about Noon, tomorrow. As I write this, the white stuff is indeed coming down, in robust fashion.

I grew up, in eastern Massachusetts, with snow being a staple of our winter experience, from mid-December to early March. As with many people, I recall snowdrifts being as tall as, or taller than, my ten-and eleven-year-old self.

I recall reading about the Great Blizzard of 1967, when President Johnson sent military food and fodder drops to the Navajo, Ute and Hopi Nations-and the Southwest was blanketed with snow for days. In 1978, I lived in Bangor, Maine and experienced the three-day blizzard, when it was possible, for those so inclined, to cross-country ski in downtown. I also found myself stuck in Skowhegan, Maine, one snowy February night, and blew off the early morning alarm, only to wake to clear blue skies and scrambling to call in “sick” to my workplace, some thirty miles away. In the mid-1980s, setting out in light snow, from the Navajo community of Tuba City, the storm followed three of us, clear to Tucson, with snow even on the streets of downtown Phoenix. In December, 2000, Aram and I were pursued by a snowstorm, from Roanoke, VA to El Paso, as we took a route across the Deep South, with a view towards avoiding winter weather.

Snow can be fickle, but it also can be intense-and so it is, this evening-with accumulation in even lower-elevation areas of Yavapai County. I was to have gone in to two different COVID-relief school assignments, but Mother Nature simply said “Enough!” Instead, I went out, twice, and did some shoveling, as will likely be on the agenda tomorrow. That, too, is something that was a staple of my childhood-and Mom didn’t even need to ask- we just put on our boots and winter garments, and did it.

It is nice, for now, to have a throwback. Prayers, though, go to those who may have lost power, however temporarily, or who had to find shelter, rather quickly.

The Walk that Took Forever

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January 4, 2021- There was a stretch of time, last night, when I wondered whether I would see Home Base, or any place away from Copper Mountain, ever again. That feeling subsided, with focus on a couple of people who are no longer in my life. I spoke, psychically, with the two of them- forgiving one and apologizing to the other. As I walked the re-found trail, which turned out to be not a loop, but an out-and-back, it was enough to know that I would soon be re-united with my car and with Home Base. I also was just glad to be around people again, even if it was just the sight of a few RVs and a still-lit demo room at a place called Creekside Cabins, whose owner had gone to bed and had left a notice saying to call his number, in case of emergency.

It was then that I discovered my phone was out of juice, with not even enough to call 911. After sitting on Creekside’s porch swing a bit, and taking a short walk around the property, I crossed the empty highway and began to walk in what I thought was the direction of the Black Canyon Recreation Area’s Big Bug Trailhead parking lot. (I had come off the trail about a mile too shy, but reached Mayer’s Circle K, right around 5 a.m.

Coffee and a sandwich led to the kind clerks hearing my story, and making an attempt to enlist the help of our County Sheriff’s Department. As I suspected, that didn’t pan out. The officers did come by and ascertain that I was physically and mentally okay-and that I had not left anyone else stranded in the wilderness. A Circle K regular customer gave me a ride to the parking lot, I drove home and slept for about six hours, and the series of life lessons, that came last night and into this morning, settled further into my consciousness.

There is the part about, at 70, certain limits that weren’t front and center when I was a kid and young adult, tend to assert themselves. The specter of mortality is always in the background. There is, more cogently, however, the realization that when misfortune strikes, it is a good time to assess on just what parts of life-and with whom, one ought focus. Thus, as I was walking, and communicating with various people, psychically, a sense of peace came over me. I knew, at that point, that I had much more to accomplish in this lifetime.

In all, I walked 22 miles, the most I have done, in one activity, since I had to walk from Carmel to Dixmont, Maine, in 1977. Then, I did 23 miles. The weather, though, was not as bracing as it was last night and early this morning. As I mentioned in the last post, however, there are some things which, if one is paying attention, only happen once or twice.