Takeaways from Last Watch, 22-23


May 9, 2023- The call came fairly early, yesterday, as I was en route to Sedona, in caravan with Yunhee and her mother following close behind. The need was for someone to cover three or four classes, for an hour or so in each. Much of the work would be transitional, getting the children from one class to another-and some light monitoring of work in between. With today being unscheduled for anything else, I said yes.

There were no “bait and switch” elements involved. I have a reputation for not taking kindly to such tactics, though being reasonably flexible is part of any substituting activity. So, when asked to help the playground staff for part of the three hours I would have otherwise been idle, I put on sunscreen and went down to the field and the fun zone. A little girl showed me her rather well-executed cartwheel, which generated others to do the same. A mixed group of 5th and 6th graders played kickball, with rules that were quite a bit looser than I remember, but it was all peaceful and I saw some strong displays of athletics. All in all, the kids did what was expected of them, and most of the staff were appreciative.

I will be off on other pursuits, during what remains of the academic year. Autumn will see me back, for as many days as I can be available-working around Mom’s birthday milestone (September) and a visit to a teenager whom I am sponsoring, in the Philippines (October). The latter was approved by the agency, this afternoon. One must not depend on investment income and retirement funds alone. Besides, it’s mostly enjoyable to be with the children.

Tomorrow evening, the train will depart Flagstaff, for Los Angeles, then point north. Life continues on a most even keel.

Quiet Streets and Sweeping Vistas


May 8, 2023- We stood atop Airport Mesa, one of Sedona’s premier places to get a quick look at several landmarks, in one fell swoop. My daughter-in-law, Yunhee, and her mother, Mrs. Park, were my visitors for a day. It was Mrs. Park’s first trip out of Asia, and only her second out of Korea- with Vietnam being the only other foreign destination. She is mesmerized by the differences in this western half of the United States-the prairies of Texas, desert around Phoenix and the three microclimates of northern Arizona.

Her questions, as to where are the pine trees and mountains of Prescott were answered, as soon as we turned a corner and saw Douglas firs and Alligator Junipers, then drove down a street and had full view of the Bradshaw Range. All this was within Prescott’s city limits, of course. What surprised her the most, though, was the fact that our city is walkable- unlike the areas in Metro Dallas that she has seen thus far. I hope she gets to walk along Mill Creek, in Grapevine, when they go back, at the end of this week. She will see a mix of walkable and not, when they visit Las Vegas, in a day or so. The ultimate walkable area, the South Rim of Grand Canyon, will cement her image of North America’s vastness.

Airport Mesa was the last of the spots I chose for the itinerary. Lunch was at Raven Cafe, photo stops included the summit of Mingus Mountain, a ravine just west of Jerome and, of course, Airport Mesa. Coffee, from Mesa Grille, was enjoyed whilst watching the small planes take off and land at Sedona Airport. It was a bustling day, more from their perspective than mine-as it had begun with rising very, very early, catching an early flight from DFW and driving from Phoenix to Prescott, then following me over Mingus Mountain to Jerome, Clarkdale, Cottonwood and Sedona. As we proceeded through the Red Rock city, to our point of adieu, we were each in a queue that was dealing with the aftermath of a serious traffic accident. I took Rte. 179, towards Oak Creek Village and the Interstate highway. The ladies were not so lucky, and inched their way up through Oak Creek Canyon, by choice, and found the backlog was inching along with them.

We all made it to our respective destinations, and tomorrow, while I am in my last day at work for the school year, Yunhee will show her mother what I first showed her of the South Rim. It was a splendid first day for this perky, spirited extended family member to really see what makes our continent such a marvel. In a few days, my own latest journey, by train, will get started. I may even opt for a roomette.

The Ridge


December 23, 2022-

Ocotillo cactus, late blooming and in autumn fade, Ridge Trail, Sedona

Akuura, my Hiking Buddy, and I chose the Ridge Trail as a pre-Christmas route, following a wide loop path, which ended being close to three miles-a fairly easy but vigorous workout. The Ridge in question would have taken us another forty minutes to get to the top-and thus remains a goal for future efforts.

As it was, we got at least one fine view of the great formations to the east and north.

View of Sugarloaf Mountain and Brins Mesa, from first ridge, Ridge Trail, Sedona
Sugarloaf is in the background.
The remnants of last week’s cold snap remain along the washes which drain Carroll Canyon, along which the Ridge Trail runs. Every ice formation tells its own story.
Some juniper trees tell of hard times.

After our loop, Airport Mesa called-with its Mesa Grill providing a fine repast, as always, and the views from the Mesa top offering a different sort of dessert.

Thunder Mountain and Sugarloaf, from Airport Mesa
Sugarloaf and Brins Mesa, from Airport Mesa viewpoint

Ridges, loop trails and sweeping viewpoints also happen in other aspects of life. The afternoon came and went, with no word on the work situation for next semester. Since I have a Plan B, there is not a whole lot of upset on this end. The main thing is that the students get the best possible teacher, given the circumstances.

More immediately, tomorrow will find me on a relatively brief visit to Hopi, to deliver a gift from a hospitalized former student to his wife. The spirit of Christmas will allow for no less.

The Coffee Pot and The Teacup Trail


October 13, 2022- The two of us sat on a fairly comfortable rock bench, gazing at a rather bland, but still comforting, sunset. My hiking buddy, Akuura, and I both have an affinity for Sedona, as well as for Prescott. So, we headed out in mid-afternoon, for the express purpose of a hike which would take in the sunset.

The trail scheme we chose started with Teacup Trail, which heads to this spot, more widely known as Coffee Pot Rock.

Coffee Pot Rock (right), in Sugarloaf complex, Sedona
Coffee Pot Rock, close-up

Much of our hike was spent on Sugarloaf Loop, a fairly flat, circuitous route, that goes between the summit of Sugarloaf Mountain and the rock formations that include Coffee Pot. We walked close to, but not up, the short summit trail. HB is still working up to more vigourous trails. Then the route took us back around, towards Coffee Pot, before we looped up to the stone benches that gave us the views of sunset.

One of the delights of any part of the Southwest is that colours seem to change, as the sun gets lower towards the horizon. Here are two views of Chimney Rock, west of Thunder Mountain and Sugarloaf.

Chimney Rock, Sedona, at 4:15 p.m.
Chimney Rock, Sedona, at 5:11 p.m.

Here is the sunset, which bid us farewell, from our perch on the west slope of Sugarloaf.

Sunset, from Sugarloaf Mountain, Sedona

The beauty of the area is evident, and another beautiful aspect is that hiking in the Southwest is like opening Chinese boxes or Matryoshka dolls, there is always another trail, at the end of the one you are walking. There is much to explore, in the months ahead.

Back To Trailside


April 18, 2022, Sedona- The focus today was to be on Bell Rock, and it was, just not in the way my hiking buddy and I had thought. It was a harbinger earlier, when I turned right, on a green arrow, only to face the loud blaring by someone who had run a yellow and thought she had the right of way. Small potatoes, at the time, as I don’t pay any mind to people who make feeble attempts at pushing me around.

There is, though, the reality that there are few spaces in the trailhead lots closest to the actual landmark trails. This is a matter of both design and land allotment. The idea is to let fewer people use the trails, to minimize congestion. That’s a noble sentiment, but it doesn’t really work. We ended up going to a large parking area, across Hwy. 179 from Bell Rock, called Yavapai Vista Point. There are several short trails, each with amazing views of the great landmarks. Here are five such scenes.

The hordes did not obstruct the day, at least for us. We later had a marvelous lunch at Pago’s, a fine Italian eatery in Oak Creek Village. There was one waitress serving over 50 people, of whom we were among the last ones, for this point in the lunch rush. A second wave was coming in, as we left. Hats off, and a hearty tip, to the lady who was obviously tired, but keeping a brave face!

One last reminder: To brighten the photos, just click on them.

Rain, Fading Colours and Certitude


October 30, 2021- Rain put a slight damper on the celebration of Hallowe’en Eve, in Salem. The last day, or two, of October constitutes a prime commercial windfall for the Witch City. Indeed, October as a whole has emerged as Salem’s prime tourism season. The confluence is that of the city’s being the site of several, but not all, of the trials of people (mostly women and girls) with the American observance of All Hallows Eve-itself a metamorphosis of the early Christian (ca. 4th Century A.D.) honouring of departed saints, and family members of the faithful, for the three days October 31-November 2. British Celts began the custom of disguising oneself as a departed person, and going house to house for small food items. This custom came to North America, with the mass immigration of Irish, Scottish and Welsh people, from the 17th Century onward. It gradually evolved into today’s secular practices of widely varying costume play and the disbursing of treats. Should the rain continue, tomorrow evening, in Salem and environs, it will diminish, but not cancel, the celebration. Having grown up in a town not too far from Salem, I can predict many ghouls, goblins, witches, even 10-foot-tall dinosaurs and skeletons will be afoot-even some in rain gear.

Some scenes from Salem were shared by cellphone, as Hiking Buddy and I drove from Prescott, through Jerome, Sedona and Oak Creek Canyon, to the overlook at that canyon’s North Rim. The idea was for HB to be able to see at least some of the remaining fall foliage-a bit of which was still bright, despite being still in recovery from an injury. That mission was accomplished, and was a good use of a day which was quite open-ended.

The day started with my consideration, again, of the balance between serving this community and following insights from my spirit guides. It is, in my condition of certitude, a question of balance. There are those whose mantra is: “Bloom where you’re planted!” There is also the mantra of “Follow your own path!” The truth, for me, means following a path that incorporates both time spent in one place, serving those living here, and extending one’s network to people and places further afield. My path to certitude thus does not subscribe to the dictates of even the most well-meaning of those around me. Rather, it derives from intense reflection and meditation.

Even the most open-ended day can bring sunshine into the lives of others.

Five Little Pools


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.

United and Independent


January 16, 2021-

Today, my focus has been on two things: Sharing things I no longer need and attending to the unity of all life. I am presently reading Amalia Camateros’ “Spirit of the Stones”, an account of her life that focuses on her growth as an embodied soul and deep connection with the elements of Earth: Air, water, mineral and fire. Amalia is a native of Australia, whose primary connection with North America has been with Sedona, our sister city to the northeast.

In one chapter, she relates her most intense visit to Cathedral Rock, perhaps the most energy-laden of the Sedona area’s many vortices. She describes the promontory as appearing to be two souls, standing back to back-united and independent. The standing rocks are often described by those who have spent time on Cathedral Rock as representing a man and a woman- married, but also each their own person.

That set me to thinking: I was in such a marriage, and when one of us needed the other most, we were inseparable. No pun intended, we were one another’s rock. I am seeing more married adults, among my circle of friends, celebrating their spouses. This is a reverse of what I used to see, from the ’90s into the 2010s, though I know many will reply: “I’ve always been in love with my spouse.” There was more bickering, not so many years ago, and I sense that, with life hard enough as it is, people are realizing what matters most in life.

There is also a rise in the understanding that each human being is a unique soul and that there is no ownership of one by another. Even the use of “my”, in reference to a spouse, or even a child, is fading. Not that many years ago, I was taken to task for using the term “my wife”. The critic was right, though not for the reason he gave (“Only a misogynist would claim to own a woman”). No one owns anyone else, period. It has nothing to do with a person’s psychosexual baggage. Words do matter, though, and when rererring to one’s beloved, children or family members, it’s become my wont to use given names-as well as relationships- end of digression.

Getting back to the blend of unity and independence, the other revelation that came today was with regard to the process of global unity. It must come from the ground up. No downwardly imposed world order will last long. As a community is only as strong as its families, so a planetary order will depend on strong individual nations, each committed to work with the others. This will largely depend, at least initially, on the human race taking the wisdom of the ancients and blending it with the native adaptability of children, in solving novel problems. (I saw this ability, this past week, with a new focus).

The days and months ahead will likely see a clash, of sorts, between those who favour the present, conventional ways of doing things and those who favour such a blend of knowledge, as is described above. There is, though, a new energy taking root.

Ad Intensium


January 10, 2021-

(The above is my own coinage, meaning continuously building in strength or force.)

The cold continues, leaving mornings here, in the Teens

and brings snow to the Texas Prairie,

even to the Piney Woods to its east.

The obfuscation continues,

taking advantage of a quiet weekend,

and foretelling extralegal events,

over the next two weeks,

with a surety born of either

delusion, or collusion.

I sit here, in my cozy home,

getting residual chills,

from memories of last Sunday night,

when I walked in the vastness

of a majestic, but nearly frozen,


I read of another soul’s


in Sedona and near Hopiland,

and recall my having been


by spirit lights,

nine years ago,

in a place named


at the bottom of

Palo Duro Canyon,

and not too long after,

in the bed of the Hassayampa River.

I see and feel

the days and weeks to come,

ad intensium.

Limekiln Trail, Section 3


December 8, 2020- At long last, I got myself on track and found the trailhead from which one may walk from the far western edge of Sedona to the northern edge of Cottonwood, a distance of five miles via Limekiln Trail. It was not a particularly chanllenging trail, though I felt the effects of being housebound and Zoom-bound, for much of the past eight months. A series of 30-minute workouts at Planet Fitness keep me in a modicum of shape, but it will take the rigours of the trail, even a fairly flat trail like the Deer Pass-Bill Grey segment, to get back into a semblance of “fighting trim”.

A rumour reached me that I was likely in the presence of a COVID-positive person, last week. It happens, though, that this individual was nowhere near the school, during the days I was working there, so once again, no worries. People are so worn down, so exaperated by the pandemic, that they will often take anything they hear, and run with it, whilst inwardly trembling. I ask one and all, to step back and breathe-We will beat this challenge, by adhering to common sense rules of hygiene, and ,more importantly, of wellness.

Now, back to the trail-

Here is the eastern end of the segment, at Deer Pass. A discerning eye might notice a human face or two, in the midst of the cairn .
In order to access the trail to the west, one must use this underpass, under Highway 89 A.

The handles to the gates, on this segment, are diagonal, and after wiggling the handle out, it is then necessary to either lift the gate up, or push it down, in order to secure it again.

Most of the trail is single track, like this, though some of the hike involved walking on US Forest Service roads.
One of the Forest Service roads that serve as connectors.
Igneous rock, deposited by volcanic eruptions, further afield, hundreds of thousands of years ago, make the long hike through the Sheepshead Mountain/Canyon sector, all the more fascinating.
This is the remnant of what was likely a miner’s camp, atop Sheepshead Mountain.
This is another marker of a miner’s camp, also long-abandoned.
Here is the top of Sheepshead Mountain’s west ridge. The summit, east of the trail, is fairly lush.
Sage brush has its own fall colours, which arrive on the scene when deciduous trees have long since turned a ghastly gray.
So, too, does Prickly Pear Cactus, especially at higher elevations, offer its fall colours.
Crossings of dry creekbeds and washes abound on this sector of the trail. There are Spring Creek, Sheepshead Creek-and Coffee Creek, which was also a favoured gathering place for miners, in the early Twentieth Century.

So, a long-standing itch in my saddle got scratched. I re-found the junction of Limekiln and Bill Grey Road, which had gotten lost in my mind, for several months.

Bill Grey Road, at its junction with Limekiln Trail.

The remaining sector of Limekiln runs from Deer Pass to Red Rock State Park, further in towards Sedona. It is a distance of seven miles, one way, so I would likely either start early in the morning or would camp overnight at Red Rock. Either way, it’s likely to wait for March or April, with a smidgen more daylight. There are a few other trails in our area that await, and which present shorter distances, out and back.