Sedona has my heart. The red mountains cause excitement while at the same time instilling a sense of calm. This place is like any other.
When I arrived in town on Thursday evening, I sat down at a restaurant in uptown Sedona. Over dinner, I combed through websites looking for an affordable hotel. I found a $45 teaser rate on google but the rate had expired before I could snatch it up. The Hotel Tonight app came to the rescue with a $50 studio suite at the Bell Rock Inn. The room was much more than I needed with a full kitchen, living room (w/fireplace), & king-sized bedroom. Though it was too dark to see the mountains upon check-in, I could feel how close to the mountains were.
At dawn’s light, I could see what was concealed by the darkness. The inn was sandwiched between Bell Rock & Cathedral Rock. As I checked out I picked up a trail map and headed toward the Baldwin Trail where it intersects with Oak Creek. A Red Rock parking pass is only $5 and it allows you to park at any designated spot for one day.
When I woke it was a chilly 44 degrees, so I started with a base layer that I purchased from Lidl. I had room in my backpack for 32oz of water and a Hatch chile sausage stick.
The trail followed the shaded creek bed for a flat & curvy distance. The dark green path brightened into a gold & red path as I climbed slowly into the sky. To be honest, I expected to walk for a half hour or so before turning around. After that, I planned to drive to another trailhead to hike a similar amount That would allow me to fill my camera with photos and satisfy my visual needs. This time was different. With each foot I ascended the endorphins, mood, or just excitement increased. For the most part, I was alone on the trail. I saw less than 15 people during the whole day. 5 cyclists made up one group with the others being spaced throughout the day.
I’ve admitted that many of the details with this trip are made up on the fly and this hike is no different. I knew the trailhead location but made no attempt to decipher the trail map other than knowing the name of the trail. My strategy was to only turn right. That way I would know how to return to the same spot. I made the assumption that the trail would take me up to the closest mountain peak. Little did I realize that the path I chose would take me up and over the saddle of Cathedral Rock. That very spot is considered to be the strongest of the vortices. If that’s the case, it was truly something magnetic that drew me to it.
I walked for about a mile before I encountered a Caution Sign that said: “Extreme Difficulty Experts Only.” It wasn’t clear if this sign was meant for mountain bikers or hikers. The photo was of bikers but it still described conditions that were concerning to me. Specifically, the phrase “pick an alternate trail if this one is over your head.” I haven’t seriously hiked in quite a bit…especially an “extreme” trail. LOL. After pausing to think, I decided to turn right continue up the Hiline trail. It didn’t take long before the trail became more steep and much thinner. I saw bike tracks in the dirt & dust so I knew that it was a shared trail. The trail was so steep and rocky that I couldn’t imagine any bikers coming down from the hills. After all, how would they get their bikes up the hill, to begin with? The only way up to the top is by foot. I guess that they have to carry their bikes up so that they can ride them down.
As I walked, I thought “I’ll go to the next curve then turn around.” This thought happened over and over. Each time I’d make it to the supposed turn around location, I kept going. I don’t know what I was heading to, but I kept going. One time I saw a couple on a ridge and thought that I’d at least go that far. Another time, I met a group of bikers coming down the hill and thought that I needed to see where they came from. Then finally, I saw a couple in the distance on a far away ridge. I decided that was my final location.
The couple greeted. I joked that I needed them to make me turn around. They laughed and said that they understood because the end of the trail was another 2 miles ahead. The wife asked if I had come up the Hiline trail because that meant that I walked up the chute. She said that it was too steep for them because she has slid down that section before. Evidently, my chosen route was advanced after all. They sat down to have a snack on one vista while I walked a little further for another quiet spot to have my snack. The large round rock that I found to sit on was perfectly sized for me to sit cross-legged.
The week before my trip started I took a Silence & Solitude retreat in Winston. The workshop was a 6-hour silent meditation to reduce stress by quieting any negative inner dialogue. The skills that we learned included loving-kindness meditation, walking meditation, gazing meditation, & Zen meditation. I learned a great deal from the workshop and carried the notes with me on the Sedona hike.
I found a round rock nestled between a few bushes to sit on for a rest. It had a sweeping view of the valley floor and neighboring mountains. I sat down to have a snack and drink a little water. Then I pulled out my notes and started a loving kindness mediation. It consists of a simple refrain:
May I be filled with loving-kindness,
May I be well,
May I be peaceful & at ease,
May I be happy.
This statement is repeated 3 more times but replacing the subject with you, they, & we. This practice is meant to promote compassion in yourself & others.
Next up, I looked across the valley and found one boulder to stare at. Once my sight was fixed to this point, I let my stare go unfixed. While soft gazing at this point, I attempted to clear my thoughts. Focusing on the breath is the way that I kept bringing my random thoughts at bay.
For me, the key for meditating is to approach it with no judgment. When judgmental thoughts come up (such as am I doing this right) it’s important to recognize them and simply refocus on the breath. All the while, I kept a fixed stare on the rock across the valley.
I could initially feel my heartbeat (probably from the climb) but the longer I sat, the more that I could feel my heart rate slow. At some point, I closed my eyes and I began Zen meditation. The purpose as (I understand) is to simply sit in silence to clear the mind, without thinking about anything specific. Besides creating an immediate sense of calm, the stillness lowers the stress hormone, cortisol. I was only 3 feet from the trail but the couple I shared the plateau with walked by without seeing me. I’d like to think that I had become one with the environment. This hike was exactly what I needed, even if I didn’t realize what I needed.
I walked down the mountain thinking I did that, I did that. Thank you Sedona!