Ten More Days in Sedona

Ten days ago, I wrote the following sentence regarding our new life in and around Sedona, Arizona: “As the region takes on more of a home feel, and less of a vacation vibe, I know that my photographer’s reflex will eventually relax a bit, but for now, I just can’t stop snapping the crazy beautiful scenes around me.”

Well, it was optimistic of me to think that I’d soon reach such a blasé attitude about my surroundings, and I continue to snap away as new vistas and sites present themselves to me, many times each day. We have continued to hike every day (even in what passes for bad weather locally, but which would have been considered glorious autumn days in Iowa at this time of the year), revisiting trails that have already become favorites, and exploring new reaches and branches in the crazy huge network of walking paths hereabouts. Katelin has been here the past three days, visiting from Las Vegas, so it’s been lovely to have her join us on our treks as well, as well as for a day trip over to Cottonwood and historic Jerome, far up Mingus Mountain.

We’ve also been relishing the local wildlife, different from anyplace we’ve ever lived before. We hear coyotes wailing most nights, and saw one on a trail one afternoon. We’ve also had a couple of encounters with a herd of javalinas (a.k.a. collared peccaries) that live in our neighborhood, watched a mule deer scale a ridiculously steep rock wall as we hiked, and gloried in birds beyond measure everywhere we look. I’ve already ID’ed 17 species in my Birds of Arizona guide, several of them while just sitting on the living room couch looking out the window at the yard. That’s good birding!

Things are moving quickly with our home purchase as well. We are scheduled to close on Friday the 20th, and our household goods should be delivered a week later. House set-up might curtail some of our time outdoors for a little while, but we won’t likely be able to stay off the trails for long, given their strong magic and overwhelming allure. If you’d like a peek at our second ten days hereabouts, I’ve compiled my best photos in an album on Flickr, as I usually do. You can click the pic of Marcia and Katelin atop Hole in the Sky Rock below to see the rest of the scenes. I’m sure there will be more to come at some point. Probably sooner rather than later, knowing me!


Ten Days In

Since yesterday’s Special Election Selection playlist may still be relevant for a least a few more days, I thought about doing an updated list this afternoon featuring songs about patience and waiting and time not hurrying on. But as I started working on it, I decided that it wasn’t really making the time pass any faster, nor making me feel any better. Scratch that.

So instead I started going through the photos I’ve taken during our first ten days here in Sedona, and organizing them into an album. As the region takes on more of a home feel, and less of a vacation vibe, I know that my photographer’s reflex will eventually relax a bit, but for now, I just can’t stop snapping the crazy beautiful scenes around me.

We’ve made the most of the past fortnight, even beyond buying a new house, with my pedometer telling me that we’ve walked about 75 miles since arriving. We’ve climbed up some rocks and mountains and ambled down into some canyons and washes, and I took a solo trek one morning to find a “hidden” cave high above a fairly well-traveled trail. It was worth the schlep for sure. As were all of the other destinations we’ve visited thus far. We also got lucky, timing-wise, as the deciduous trees in the region seem to be in peak color, adding even more to the already rich regional palette. Wow.

If you’d like to see some of my shots of the various treks we’ve undertaken, click on the photo of the Midgley Bridge over Oak Creek Canyon below, taken this afternoon, during the Golden Hour just before sunset. Sedona sure is a special place. We’re glad to be here!

Unusual Occurrences in the Desert

A couple of days ago, Marcia and I did an absolutely stellar hike of about seven miles, starting and ending at our temporary home in Sedona. Our favorite hikes tend to be loops (in preference to “out and backs”) with some “there’s a there there” spots along the way. This walk met both of those criteria well.

One of the highlights of the day’s ramble was clambering atop a rock formation called Hole in the Sky atop Brin’s Mesa, affording really wonderful 360° views of the various Red Rock formations north of town. There was a young couple from Louisiana atop the rock when we arrived, and with attention to safe social distancing and masking, we swapped photos with each other, eschewing the usual selfie approach. Here we are atop Hole in the Sky:

After exchanging thanks and pleasantries, I walked to the other side of the rock and snapped a southward-facing vista. It looked like this:

I shared that photo on a web forum where I’m active, and as I saw it on a bigger (e.g. non-phone) screen for the first time, my eye was immediately drawn to what appeared to be a figure sitting on a log just below the rock, in the sort of scalloped curve in the yellow stone that shapes the lower left quadrant. Dammit! Did someone photo bomb my scene? Grrr! I had neither seen nor heard anybody down there, so it seemed a sneaky surprise. I blew the photo up a bit and looked closer:

Hmmm. Is that a black-clad goth grrrl sitting on a rock with legs crossed, leaning with elbows on knees while looking back up at me? That seems odd on such a hot day. Or did I capture some hidden person or desert spirit or (burnt) wood nymph enjoying a sunny day instead? Another zoom:

Yeesh. Now it’s sort of starting to take on monstrous proportions. Were scary things moving in the desert in advance of Hallowe’en and its second blue moon of the month? Did I need to investigate paranormal activity hereabouts? By all popular accounts, there’s a lot of it.

After I posted that first blow-up image on the web forum, other folks pointed out some additional oddities in the scene to the left of the Ghostly Goth, highlighted in orange below: a couple of smiling heads at top left, a ballcap-wearing ghost at center, a strange cat-bird hybrid at bottom left:

I’m sure if we kept searching, we’d find plenty more haints and boogers and ghouls and horrors in that clearly haunted little dell tucked in below the big rock. Or, conversely, we’d find more fine examples of pareidolia, defined as “the tendency for incorrect perception of a stimulus as an object, pattern or meaning known to the observer, such as seeing shapes in clouds, seeing faces in inanimate objects or abstract patterns, or hearing hidden messages in music.”

Did we see something ghoulish in the desert on Thursday, or did we see a jumble of wildfire-burnt logs and rocks stacked up randomly per common natural causes? One of those explanations is fun and freaky, especially given the season. One is not so much so. You be the judge. We’re heading out into the rocks again today, so I’ll update you if Ghostly Goth Grrrl and her Parade of Pareidolic Phantasms turn up again . . .

(P.S. Count yourself a good music nerd if you know from whence I cribbed the title of this post).

We and VOC

As an avid history reader and having been to the Netherlands a couple of times, when I see or hear the acronym “VOC,” the first meaning that pops to mind is “Vereenigde Oostindische Compagnie.” That’s the “Dutch East India Company” in English, one of the world’s greatest mega-corporations in the 17th and 18th Centuries, shaping trade and political history in profitable ways that could (and likely did) turn countless monarchs and despots and ministers bright green with impotent envy. The VOC had a bad-ass logo that they stamped on pretty much everything they touched, hence imprinting those three letters deeply in public consciousness, even centuries on. Here, eat your hearts out, modern clip-art and Photoshop designers:

Google has a different reaction to “VOC,” with pretty much the top four pages of search returns being dedicated solely to “Volatile Organic Compounds.” They’re a constant presence in our “better living through chemistry” world, though most of them are things that we’d really be better off not breathing, eating, touching or manufacturing. Needless to say, most of those high-placing search returns are related to ways that you can mitigate or minimize those flavors of VOCs, ideally by purchasing one or more products from helpful merchants using Google advertising tactics to top the returned links and pages.

The Free Dictionary includes 49 references associated with other uses of the acronym VOC, some of them arcane, some of them somewhat obvious. But Marcia and I have learned a 50th definition of the term this week: Village of Oak Creek. It’s a census designated place about eight miles south of Sedona, Arizona, with a population of about 6,500 people. And it’s where we found a house we loved, put in an offer, and have gotten a contract in place for our next permanent home. There are still all of the various paper and legal machinations to grind through over the next few weeks, but it’s a safe bet that we will be in the house before Thanksgiving, and hopefully our household goods will be delivered around the same time.

It was a relatively quick process, on-location, though we did a lot of research and work in advance of our arrival, and it paid off for us. I’ll write more about it once we’re all properly ensconced, but for now, here’s a teaser photo of our new digs. We think it will be a most pleasing new nest!

And Into Sedona . . .

I opened my prior post with a photo of our penultimate sunset in Des Moines. The photo above offers the flip-side of our ongoing half-continental moving experience: this was our first sunrise in Sedona, Arizona, taken this morning from the patio on the rental property that we will call home for the next six weeks. Quite the change in scenery!

We did the Des Moines to Sedona trek in four legs, with overnight stays in Atchison and Dodge City (both in Kansas) and Santa Fe, New Mexico. Plus a quick stop at the Iowa-Missouri border so we could capture the moment of departure from the Hawkeye State in real time. In a pleasing happenstance, the skies were grey behind us, but a bright shaft of sunlight illuminated the path before us to the South. We took it as a positive sign and omen. Because of course we did!

Atchison is a lovely town on the Missouri River. We were a bit bummed that the dreary, rainy skies that had made our moving-truck loading experience in Des Moines sub-optimal then followed us to Kansas, so we were not able to explore it on foot. I had lived just south of Atchison in Fort Leavenworth when I was in sixth grade, and when my father was at the Army Command and General Staff College. (That’s when I adopted The Beloveds as my baseball team of choice). Marcia’s oldest brother had taught Chemistry at Benedictine College in Atchison for 12 years, so we did make the effort to drive by the house he and his family had lived in, as well as the building where the Chemistry Department makes its home, so we could send him current photos. We also drove by Amelia Earhart’s birthplace, in her grandparents’ home on a bluff above the river valley, and had a surprisingly good take-out dinner from a local restaurant called Lopez de Mexico. I commend it to you highly, should you find yourself thereabouts.

Dodge City wasn’t quite as nice a stop, alas. The city has an extraordinary history, though much of the physical proof of that is no longer standing, replaced by modern replicas and/or roadside vernacular offerings. Our hotel was fine, though the view out the window of a trailer park wasn’t as inspiring as other views might have been. Well, except for what appeared to be a double-tall double-wide in the middle of the park, the redneck engineering of which did deeply pique my curiosity. Had it also not been cold and windy there, I’d have felt compelled to go check it out up close and personal. Despite the chill, and desperate to stretch our legs, we found a nice park downtown with a pleasant urban trail, but it didn’t go as far as we normally like to walk. So, being adventurous, we noted that there was a cement drainage ditch that seemed to run the rest of the way southward across town, so we clambered down and walked a while in that as well, ducking through culverts to get under roads, and seeing things that I’m not sure the tourism board would want us to see, e.g. vile racist graffiti, boo hiss!!

Then onward out of Kansas and across the Oklahoma Panhandle to Santa Fe, New Mexico, which was wonderful. We’ve been there before, and we enjoyed seeing some of the changes that have taken place there, most notably a very nice rails-to-trails system that gave us a great walking opportunity. We stayed close to the historic downtown area, which was also nice to re-explore, though it was a bit sad to see the impact of COVID on the vibrant arts and culture scene there. It was also sad that as we were walking about, a rally was being held at the State Capitol Complex against the (smart) measures New Mexico’s elected leaders have taken to combat the strong resurgence of the virus. It did not feel good, at all, to hear “Lock Him Up” chants wafting across the downtown area, though we are not sure who the Covidiots were wishing to incarcerate.

Our final drive took us westward to Flagstaff, then southward to Sedona. There was a major wind event unfolding over the last two days of the drive, making for more of a white-knuckle experience than I would have liked as we were hauling ass at 80+ miles per hour while the car was being buffeted by 50+ mile per hour crosswinds, and we nervously watched 18-wheelers wobbling in their lanes against the heavy air. We made a pit stop in Winslow, Arizona, so we could stand on the corner of Old Route 66 immortalized by Glenn Frey and Jackson Browne in the Eagles’ first hit song, “Take It Easy.” And we got snacks at the local Circle K there, so the rural economic function of that little tourist attraction was properly satisfied.

Much of our trip followed the historic Santa Fe Trail, the Route 66 Mother Road, and/or the BNSF main rail line from Chicago to Los Angeles. It was always interesting to think about how many people, in how many different ways, have made the same journey we made, under often much more difficult circumstances. Good perspective to have, always.

We’ve already done two hikes since arriving in Sedona, walking from our rental house into the Red Rocks region surrounding the town. We’ve also already visited eight houses for sale, and two of them are serious contenders for us. We’re looking at more tomorrow. It’s conceptually possible that we could make an offer and have it accepted before the week is out. We shall see. Lots of exciting potential, in any event.

As always, I’ve been snapping away as we’ve driven, stopped and walked our way westward. You can click on the photo below if you’d like to see the full album of the trip. This shot was taken in Oklahoma. It’s representative of what that entire leg of the journey looked like. Stark, for sure, but beautiful and haunting in its own deep ways. I must say that I prefer scenes like this to scenes involving horizon-to-horizon fields of Monsanto Frankencorn. I guess that’s good, since we’re out of the crop zone for the foreseeable future. Not complaining. Not one bit.

Ioway Out

I snapped the photo above sitting at my working desk, looking west out of our apartment over the Des Moines River at the downtown city skyline. In a few hours, if I happen to look up at the right moment, I’ll get to see my last sunset as a resident of Iowa. Our movers arrive at 8 AM tomorrow, and once they’re gone and we’ve done our final cleanup, we’re hitting the road. We should be in Kansas by tomorrow’s sunset.

I doubt that I’ll get a nice scene like that for our final Iowa sunset, given that this is what things look like outside right now, with a view slightly to the left/south of the sunset one:

Ennnnhhhh, dreary. Although I guess that beats what I saw yesterday morning when I looked out the north window of my office:

We almost made it out of town before that stuff started flying, and we’re supposed to have rain and driving wind tomorrow when the movers are here, but I guess it’s good that we didn’t get a combo platter of all that plus some ice and hail, since that’s all within the realm of normal here in late October. There’s a lot of reasons that we’re happy to be leaving Iowa and headed to Arizona, and that dire weather deal is high on the list. I’m ready to be warmer, and spend more time under sunny skies, than has been the case for most of our time in Iowa. Or Chicago. Or Upstate New York. Or Idaho. It’s been a long, long time, actually, since we’ve lived in place that isn’t normally the butt of weather jokes. Three decades, more or less. How times flies when you’re cold and wet.

In the past, I’ve written posts about things I’ll miss, and things I will not miss when we’ve moved from place to place. I was considering doing that this time, too, but honestly, I’m just tired of thinking about it. Suffice to say the “will not miss” list is a good deal longer and more meaningful than the “will miss” one. Couple that with pandemic ennui and the underlying sense of anxiety that our pending election breeds, and it’s hard to want to spend much time right now beefing about things in Iowa that we’ll be leaving behind. We’re making our case with our feet and our funds, at bottom line, and they’re carrying us elsewhere, fast, where we can invest in a new situation, happily. Enough said.

If all goes as planned, we’ll roll into Sedona, Arizona on Sunday afternoon. We already have house-hunting appointments set up for Monday morning. Very excited! I’m sure we’ll stop for walks along the way, and I’m sure I’ll take pictures when we do, so feel free to follow along here as I update our latest adventures in the days, weeks and months ahead. Are we there yet?