Expect the unexpected. That has become a modus operandi for me during my Arizona desert hikes. Today, I discovered the “Standing Stones” at Pinnacle Peak, a Scottsdale mountain I have hiked dozens of times over the last 30 or so years.
MY SPRING EQUINOX HIKE LEADS ME TO A SACRED SITE FOR THE FIRST TIME; PLAYING A GOOD SAMARITAN TO A SUFFERING TOURIST AND MEETING “COLIN FIRTH?”
Expect the unexpected. That has become a modus operandi for me during my Arizona desert hikes. Today, I discovered the “Standing Stones” at Pinnacle Peak a Scottsdale mountain I have hiked dozens of times over the last 30 or so years.
I had no idea they existed when I was guided to revisit the Pinnacle Peak trail. I had intended to dedicate the hike to the Spring Equinox which will take place in a few hours.
Spring will officially arrive on Monday March 20 at 10:29 a.m. UTC. Translated into Pacific time zone, that means we’ll welcome La Primavera tonight at 3:29 AM. Well, I am not planning to do any hikes at that hour, except perhaps in my dreams. So I headed out to the mountain right after noon today.
The first thing that struck me when I got up to a respectable height from which to observe the desert was how green everything was this year. “Scottsdale must have had a lot of rain this winter,” I surmised as I continued the climb.
By the way, you can see in the above panorama picture the famed Four Peaks Mountain which graces all Arizona license plates. It does exist. It is not just an artist’s creation. 🙂
DISCOVERING “STANDING STONES”
Then, for the first time in over three decades, these natural standing stones caught my eye. They were huge! Can you see me in this shot? I placed myself there to give you an idea of the enormous size of these boulders.
Perhaps it was last night’s dinner discussion Elizabeth and I had that led to the discovery of these Standing Stones. Both of us have been reading all the “Outlander” series books by Diane Gabaldon for a long time now. And last night we decided NOT to go to Scotland as we had been contemplating for our late spring to Europe. So maybe our Spirit guides applauded that decision by providing a set of natural Standing Stones within a few miles of our Scottsdale home.
Anyway, back to March 19, 2017 and my today’s Pinnacle Peak hike. On my way up, I made a mental note about these Standing Stones and vowed to try to find a trail that my lead to them on my return trip.
Take a good look at this first shot. Can you see me? I placed myself there to give you an idea how big these megaliths are.
A GOOD SAMARITAN DEED
As it turned out, I had climbed the Pinnacle Peak trail summit four times today. Twice for me, and twice for a stranger.
At Owl’s Nest, the rest point at the south end of the trail, which offers a good view of both Scottsdale and Phoenix “Valley of the Sun,” I met a group of people resting on a stone fence. A middle-aged man, two women and four teenagers. Obviously out-of-towners, judging by the whiteness/redness of their skin and their need to soak in more of the sun’s rays.
“You are smart to cover yourself like that,” the man, who looked like the British actor Colin Firth (Best Actor Oscar for “King’s Speech”, 2011), remarked looking at my hiking outfit.
I was covered head to toe. The only part of my body that was exposed to the sun were the tips of my fingers (I wore my biking half-gloves).
“Well, I live here,” I replied. “And we Arizonans have learned to respect the damage our sun can do, especially at noontime.”
The man just grunted in approval. Or lament that he had not done the same? Maybe he just muttered “smartypants” to himself?
Tuscan Sun Festival
On my way back to the trail summit from the south side, I passed the same group of people. They were all hugging the shade under a large rock which protruded from the mountain wall.
One of the two women, the heavier one, seem to be suffering from heat exhaustion. She was sitting on a rock panting heavily. The teenagers, probably her grandchildren, were standing around her looking worried.
“Colin Firth” just gave a disapproving look. “Smartypants II” he may have muttered.
As I reached the summit for a second time, I remembered seeing an alcove where other Good Samaritan hikers had brought jugs of water. They were ostensibly intended for the Pinnacle Peak park staff watering the new saplings.
“But in this case, a human needs it more,” I muttered to myself as I headed down toward that alcove.
I picked up a jug of water and started climbing back up toward the summit. And then down the other side of the mountain to where this group of tourists was resting under a big rock.
When they saw me again, for the third time in less than 20 minutes, their eyes widened in surprise.
“This water is intended for the plants,” I explained, setting the jug on the ground under the lady who was suffering from heat exhaustion. “So I would not drink it. But it will help you cool down if you pour it over your head.”
Everybody was now talking at the same time, expressing their gratitude. The lady who was in trouble said she was feeling quite good now. “My heart rate is almost back to normal,” she said pointing to her watch.
“Nonetheless,” I said and smiled. “You can still enjoy a desert shower.”
More expressions of gratitude. Even “Colin Firth” got off his perch (he was sitting on a rock, also in a shade), and gave me four-knucked high five with his left hand.
“Well done, man,” he said.
I noticed a wedding ring on his left hand as a responded in kind with my left. So who knows, maybe it was Colin Firth. Or his twin. I did not hang around to socialize.
“You’re welcome,” I said responding in kind with my left hand, as I continued climbing back up toward the summit, passing it the fourth time in a single hike today.
VISIT TO “STANDING STONES”
I was really excited to explore the desert and see if I can find a way to reach the newly discovered Standing Stones of Pinnacle Peak. Alas, my first effort failed. I did have good hiking shoes. But not good enough for a steep downward slope and the gravelly ground which felt like a slippery ski slope despite the 90F weather.
“I’ll have to come back with my Tom’s Thumb shoes,” I said to myself.
Tom’s Thumb is another slippery trail on the east side of Scottsdale’s McDowell Mountains. After having a few close calls slipping and sliding on my regular hiking boots, I bought a pair of baseball shoes with cleats specifically for that trail. They worked like a charm.
But before giving up entirely on my Spring Equinox Standing Stone adventure, I decided to explore another trail I noticed on my way back up. Bingo! It led me right to the Standing Stones.
Here’s a picture I took of them standing right under and also looking to the Pinnacle Peak on the right.
And now here’s a view of Pinnacle Peak from INSIDE the Standing Stones.
I then pulled out my flute and played Amazing Grace and El Condor Pasa standing in the shade of the giant megaliths. And I brought back a “kulla,” a sacred stone (quartz) I actually used to prop up my camera for this shot.
Don’t worry. Nothing untoward happened. I was not pulled back by a time machine into the 18th century, like the Claire Randall character in the Outlander series. Or else you would not be reading these lines.
Anyway, so now I have another new destination, a sort of my own private sacred place at the Pinnacle Peak park. Well, maybe not 100% private. Maybe I’ll bring Elizabeth with me next time. If she is brave enough to join me. Lest she be pulled back into the 18th century. 🙂
SCOTTSDALE, ARIZONA – MY HOME TOWN AS SEEN THROUGH MY AND VISITORS’ EYES
Scottsdale, Arizona is my home town. Well, as much as any place on this planet is, I suppose. I have traveled millions of miles around the world and have lived in so many places and countries that I feel I have earned the right to choose my “home town.” And I choose Scottsdale.
How can I be sure?
Well, my kids grew up in the desert. And because I have always returned to it.
I have tried to leave Arizona several times. First, in 1996 when I bought a beautiful 10-acre property in Western Australia (see the Bolt Hole – (https://www.facebook.com/BoltHoleWA/). It was pure magic that lasted 9 years. But I eventually sold the property in 2005 and returned HOME to Scottsdale.
The day after 9/11, when there was no air travel in this country, I hit the road in my 1992 Infiniti in search of a new home. I drove through 10 western states, and even looked in Alberta, Canada. But on my way back, when I turned off the I-40 at Flagstaff and heading down toward the desert, my heart fluttered. I was coming back home.
And so I stayed. Until 2009. That’s when Elizabeth and I moved to Maui – another Garden of Eden in Paradise on Earth. That adventure lasted 8 years. And only a few days ago – March 9 to be exact – we returned HOME to Scottsdale.
So you see… that’s why Scottsdale is my home town of my heart’s desire.
THE WAY VISITORS SEE US
Now, it is always interesting to see how other see us. Like the winter visitors to Scottsdale, for example, the veritable “snow birds.”
As if reading my thoughts on the subject, my longtime Canadian friend from Ontario sent me a link to this travel story:
Ten Reasons Why Snowbirds Need to Fly to Scottsdale, Arizona – https://goo.gl/Yg919V (by Amandalina Letterio)
To which I want to add the 11th – HEAVENLY SCENTS. But only during the month of March.
Citrus blossoms at this time of the year give Scottsdale a heavenly scent. There is nothing quite like it. You just have to experience it to fall in love with it, especially in the districts like Arcadia, where the citrus trees abound. And I guarantee you will want to keep coming back, year after year.
Cactus League? (which also takes place in March).
Nah. That’s for the baseball jocks. I used to like it decades ago when you can lounge around on the grass at the old Scottsdale stadium on Osborn St, and watch the likes of Barry Bonds do their magic only a few feet away from you.
But now, with the Talking Stick Ballpark that looks like a smaller version of a major league stadium, forget it. Elizabeth and I only go there when somebody buys us a ticket and a meal. Like my AZ bank did last year.
Anyway, Scottsdale is the place to be in the United States during the month of March. There is nothing quite like it.
TURNING 70 IN MAGNIFICENT CANYONS OF ARIZONA, UTAH – A JUNE 2-5 TRAVELOGUE
June 4, 2015, :45 AM – Day 3 – Zion National Park, St George – UTAH
It was late afternoon by the time we entered the Zion National Park. The drive down Hwy 89 from Bryce Canyon seemed shorter than going up to it earlier in the day.
Before we got to Zion, however, there were three sightings that were worth photographing. We missed the first – a herd of deer – that Elizabeth had spotted first. I did not have enough time to fire up the camera while driving.
The second sighting, however, just as sudden, was even more surprising. I did catch that one on film.
A large herd of Bison was grazing in a field off Hwy 89. We had read the day before about the Bison at the North Rim of the Grand Canyon but had no idea that they were also here in Utah, on the doorstep of another important national park (Zion).
The second shot – that of a run-down house/barn – is something I had photographed in my mind on our way up to the Bryce Canyon. On our return drive, all had to do remember a few landmarks before we got to it, near the village of Orderville.
I pulled over so quickly that Elizabeth practically jumped out of her seat.
“What’s wrong?” she said.
“Nothing. I am just stopping to take a picture of that ruin for you.”
Elizabeth loves to paint rusted out barns and other dilapidated buildings. Don’t ask me why. She just does. So I tried to preserve this one in the camera’s memory. Maybe one day, it will morph into a painting…
ZION NATIONAL PARK: MAJESTIC, MASSIVE
Our jaws dropped when we saw the first of many massive mountain formations. The one on the right looked like a giant lump of “masa” (tortilla dow) had been pressed down by some enormous force, and left to bake in the sun and the wind of the canyon. It’s surface was cracked from top to bottom, like thousands of fish scales.
Its actual name is Checkerboard Mesa, we later learned from the map.
For these next panorama shots, I did pull over to take the pictures.
Another “checkerboard” rock story, just a wider angle of it.
And then we entered a very long tunnel (see the map). At its other end, we took these shots…
Of course, there are many other parts of the Zion National Park we did not get to see. Many of them are not accessible by road anyway. Some require 8- to 12-hour one-way hikes to reach them.
Here’s a selection of some of the Zion file photos which illustrate the majestic nature of this national park. They were evidently taken by the lucky and probably exhausted hikers who made it to such spots as the Subway or the Angels’ Landing.
I don’t want to even begin to interpret this last photo taken at the Subway (see the map). All I will say is that there is an optical illusion there. Just what it is – I will leave to the imagination of all female readers of these travelogues to figure out. 🙂
* * *
June 4, 2015, 8:45 AM – Day 4 – DRIVE HOME – St George, Utah to Scottsdale, Arizona via Las Vegas, Nevada
ST GEORGE-LAS VEGAS-SCOTTSDALE, EARLIEST MONSOON EVER RECORDED IN PHOENIX AREA
Our last day of the trip was basically one long car drive. We left St George, UT around 8:45 AM, and arrived at our home in Scottsdale around 3:30 PM.
Along the way, we went in and out or Arizona between Utah and Nevada, drove through Las Vegas, NV after its rush hour was over, and then settled for a long an uneventful drive through the Arizona desert (see the map).
Before we got home, though, after we passed Wickenburg, we drove through a regulation monsoon… rain, lightening, thunder, dark and ominous clouds.
“I can’t believe it,” I said to Elizabeth. “This is the earliest I ever remember seeing a monsoon around here.”
And I have lived in the Phoenix area of Arizona for over 32 years.
“Must be El Nino,” I added.
Indeed, the next morning, after a night of thunderstorms and occasional heavy rain, I got my confirmation. It WAS actually the earliest monsoon EVER recorded in the Valley of the Sun (Phoenix/Scottsdale). The earliest previous monsoon onset occurred on June 17, 2000. In the Phoenix area, the average start date is July 7.
Here’s also a post I made about El Nino about three weeks ago (May 16) which puts things in perspective globally as well as locally.
2015: ANOTHER EL NINO YEAR
May 16, 2015
CLIMATE PREDICTION CENTER/NCEP/NWS: There is an approximately 90% chance that El Niño will continue through Northern Hemisphere summer 2015, and a greater than 80% chance it will last through 2015.
Well, no surprise there. We had not experienced as much rain at the Rainbow Shower, Maui as in the first four months of this year since we moved there in early 2009.
And now that we are at the Eagle’s Nest, Scottsdale, Arizona, we are getting the other side of the weather stick. Since yesterday afternoon, it had been raining throughout the night until this morning.
And this morning’s temperature was in the low 50s (F) (12C). I was shocked when the heat went this morning even in our house.
Normal daily highs for Scottsdale are in the low 90s (33C) at this time of the year. Today, looks like we are not even going to touch 70F (22C).
So what’s going on? Take a look at these two maps. It is El Nino paying us a visit in both Hawaii and Arizona.
TURNING 70 IN MAGNIFICENT CANYONS OF ARIZONA, UTAH – A JUNE 2-5 TRAVELOGUE
June 4, 2015, 7:45 AM – Day 3 – Vermillion Cliff Dwellings, Red and Bryce Canyons
Figuring this would be a long day, we got an early start. We left the Marble Canyon Lodge, our home for the night, before 8.
CLIFF DWELLINGS UNDER VERMILLION CLIFFS
Our first stop on this long and exciting drive was at the cliff dwellings under the Vermillion Cliffs. The location was not far from that rustic restaurant at Lee’s Ferry Lodge where we had a delightful birthday dinner the night before.
What a difference the light makes, though. You can see on the left a shot I took that evening showing the Vermillion Cliffs above the restaurant. And again, the same cliffs in early morning above the cliff dwellings. Here’s more…
We actually had no concrete itinerary for the day. Our intention was to drive to Kanab, Utah (see the above map) and see what we can find about the Wave hike and lottery. And then depending on what that turns out to be, we thought we might go up to Bryson Canyon or Zion or maybe even both.
When we got to Kanab, we found out that we would have to spend two days there just to find out if we would win the lottery for the Wave hike. And the odds were 1 in 6 (10 slots for about 60 people who show up every morning).
“Forget that,” I said. “Let’s go up to the Bryson Canyon” (about a two-hour drive from Kanab (see the map). “The picture I posted should suffice,” I added.
Boy, was that ever the right thing to do. You’ll see in a minute the fabulous scenery that we encountered there. But first, check out this roadside breakfast scenery we picked for ourselves randomly just a few miles north of Kanab. It was a side road, just off Hwy 89.
It was very peaceful and relaxing.
We were unprepared for the beauty that awaited us even before we got to the Bryce Canyon. Check out this pictures we took in the Red Canyon, which is sort of a gateway to Bryce.
“This is eye candy,” I told Elizabeth as I was snapping the shots, some from the car.
We even passed through some cute tunnels along the way.
And then, finally, we entered the spectacular, awe-inspiring, unforgettable, one-of-a-kind Bryce Canyon. This description of it from the National Parks website fits it to a tee:
Hoodoos and forest mixed together
There is no place quite like Bryce Canyon. Hoodoos (odd-shaped pillars of rock left standing from the forces of erosion) can be found on every continent, but here is the archetypal “hoodoo-iferous” terrain. Descriptions fail. Cave without a roof? Forest of stone? Even photographs strain credulity. When you visit maybe you’ll come up with a better name. In the meantime “Bryce” will have to suffice.
Here are some panorama shots of the Bryce Canyon from the Sunset Point. As we marveled over this vista, we had not idea that it took God 50 million years to create this wonder of nature out of limestone.
That’s almost three human development cycles (each cycle is about 18 million years long). To put things in perspective, two million human generations had lived and died while the Bryce Canyon was being created.
HIKING THE NAVAJO TRAIL
At the 8,000-ft+ elevation, the temperatures were in the 60s F. During the day they ranged from 64F to 69F. There was also a steady breeze. Not as strong as on the North Rim the day before, but enough to cool things off a bit more.
“Let’s go now,” Elizabeth surprised me when we reached the trailhead of the 1.3-mile Navajo Trail.
I was delighted to see that she was so keen on doing it even though it looked rather foreboding from the top. Elizabeth generally does not do well on uphill slopes. But I guess the beauty of the place distracted her enough to overcome the physical challenges of the trail.
Navajo Trail begins at Sunset Point and travels down into the main amphitheater at the bottom of the canyon. Here are the trail stats:
But the stats cannot describe the joy and the beauty of doing the trail. And the elation at the end, after we had climbed down and up about 1,100 ft on switchbacks and even some stairs.
Along the way, about half way down the Navajo Trail, there was a little tunnel. Subconsciously at the time, we took two photos – one from each side. Afterward, I realized why. It was the Yin-Yang point of the trail., the point of perfect balance.
I was also delighted to see some very old and decrepit-looking people on this trail. They went from switchback to switchback, from shade to shade, taking a break and resting at each point. But they kept going. And going.
“It’s all a matter of mind over matter,” as I have said many times before. “If you don’t mind, it doesn’t matter.”
And then, we had to start climbing back up again…
But it was all worth it. Take a look at some of these panorama shots taken from the trail.
And then, finally back up at the top of Sunset Point.
“Yeah! I’ve done it!” Elizabeth exclaimed at the end of the trail.
I was also impressed that she did so well, especially considering the trail’s 8,000 ft elevation. Back to “mind over matter”…
After a short pit stop and water break, we continued our drive down
the Bryce Canyon for another 15 miles or so to its farthest and highest point (9,100 ft) – poignantly named the Rainbow Point. It seemed like the place especially named for two people who hail from the Rainbow Shower in Maui. 🙂
Here are some pictures from the various points at which we stopped along the way (see the map – right).
And finally, the Rainbow Point …
“Rainbow Bob” at Rainbow Point
RAVEN SIGHTING NEAR NATURAL BRIDGE
On our way back up the canyon, we stopped to look at a Natural Bridge.
That’s where we encountered a Raven, coolly posing on top of rail post. He stayed there for us for several minutes. And then he fluttered away, as if saying, “okay, you’ve had enough. The show’s over.” 🙂
If Raven is your Totem animal you are very playful and creative. You have no fear of the dark, or the underworld and understand that there is a divine balance between the light and the dark. You find comfort in solitude and enjoy your own company. Raven seeks stillness and quiet, and prefer it to the constant onslaught of chatter and noise in our daily lives. You are wise and often are used as a messenger for others. The spirit world uses you as a bridge to the physical world to bring forth its messages (Source: http://www.spirit-animals.com/raven/).
Spot on again, I would say. I am sure Elizabeth would also second that summary.
ANOTHER GIFT FROM SPIRIT REALM
On our way out of the National Park, I received another gift from the spirit realm. Not more than 100 yards from the gate, we were stopped by flashing lights and the siren of a Park Ranger SUV.
It turns out I was speeding – driving 45 mph in a 30 mph zone. The 45 mph was the normal speed in the rest of the Park. But it had apparently dropped to 30 mph just before the exit.
After the usual preliminaries and a driver’s license check, the park ranger decided to let me off with just a verbal warning,
“Thank you, Spirits,” I said as we drove away.
I knew right away that this was my final birthday gift.
Here’s also a “kulla” I brought home from the Red/Bryce Canyons. Most of the rocks there are Limestone. But this one seems to be a well polished Quartz. Polished by what? (given that there was no water nearby).
And that’s all she wrote from our first visit to the Bryce Canyon, unquestionable the best part of our four-day adventure.
TURNING 70 IN MAGNIFICENT CANYONS OF ARIZONA, UTAH – A JUNE 2-5 TRAVELOGUE
June 3, 2015, 5:45 AM
Finally my real birthday had arrived. Elizabeth and my other friends had made such a fuss over it this year that by the time the birthday actually dawned, I felt I had been celebrating it for days. 🙂
We got up early to have breakfast in Sedona and get ready for a long drive ahead. And what a day it was! I am not talking just about the magnificent scenery. I also received two additional gifts from the spirit realm in the form sacred animals which manifested themselves in physical form – the Deer and Condor. And a revelation that it’s all about the No. 3 – numerologically.
What happened in the next 15 hours on June 3 can be divided into four parts:
Drive from Sedona to Marble Canyon
North Rim of the Grand Canyon, Deer Sighting
Rustic Dinner at Lee’s Ferry Lodge
Second Walk over Lee’s Ferry Bridge, Condor Sighting
So let’s look at each section at a time, as events unfolded…
* * *
DRIVE FROM SEDONA TO MARBLE CANYON
As we were driving from Sedona to Flagstaff, we noticed that the San Francisco Peaks, which dominate the skyline over this northern Arizona city, were still snow-capped.
“Another sign of El Nino,” I muttered as I snapped this picture through the car window.
We got to Lee’s Ferry Crossing bridge a little before noon. The Navajo Bridge, which is what it’s now called, is right next to the Marble Canyon Lodge where we were booked for the night,
We weren’t alone. A group of touring maniacs, driving their Porsches, Beamers, Benzes and Corvettes like there was no tomorrow, also descended upon the bridge like locusts at about the same time.
So we did not stay long. We only took a few pictures and then drove on to check into our 1929-vintage lodge, leaving the locusts behind.
The original ferry operated at this spot from 1872 to 1929. The Navajo Bridge was constructed in 1928-1928, as you can see from the sign below. The Marble Lodge, where we were staying, was the first “tourist” establishment in the area. It opened in 1929.
The view from the bridge are pretty spectacular. The bridge is about 500 ft tall and over 800 ft long. Which is why I thought it was funny that someone should post a “no jumping” sign. It would certainly be a one way flight.
We also had a good fortune to watch two of the Colorado river rafter pass below. You can see them in the above shots.
And now, here are some photos of our “antique” motel – the Marble Lodge (which has actually been renovated and looks quite modern inside).
And now, just to digress for a moment, here are also shots of the same taken early morning the next day. An interesting contrast in the quality of light and shadows, isn’t it?
* * *
NORTH RIM OF GRAND CANYON
After we had checked in at the Marble Canyon Lodge, we mounted our jalopy again and headed up to the North Rim of the Grand Canyon. It took a little more than two hours to get there, climbing most of the time. We started at an elevation of about 3,500 ft (the lodge), and ended up at about 8,500 ft at the Grand Canyon.
Kaibab Lodge, Deer Sighting
Along the way, we stopped at Kaibab Lodge, only a few miles from the entrance to the Grand Canyon National Park. Just to look around. It was one of the accommodation options I had considered for us for this day. But they were sold out. Yet the sign by the highway read “VACANCY.” Which made me curious.
“Oh, we just sold our last room a few minutes ago,” the desk clerk explained. “Haven’t had a chance to change the sign yet.”
Outside, on a beautiful green pasture, I spotted a herd of deer grazing in the distance. They were quite far away. It took Elizabeth a while to actually see them. I snapped a picture anyway, hoping to enlarge the view.
“Hm, that’s an omen,” I thought. “Perhaps another birthday sign from the spirit realm?”
Later, I looked up the meaning of Deer as the Spirit Animal:
What is the meaning of the Deer totem?
When you have the deer as spirit animal, you are highly sensitive and have a strong intuition. By affinity with this animal, you have the power to deal with challenges with grace. You master the art of being both determined and gentle in your approach. The deer totem wisdom imparts those with a special connection with this animal with the ability to be vigilant, move quickly, and trust their instincts to get out the trickiest situations.
That’s spot on, as far as I can tell. And I think that Elizabeth would confirm it, too. So no doubt, this was another spirit message for my birthday. The Deer was the first of the three Spirit Animals that were to show up on this trip.
We also saw another herd of deer the following day, while driving from Bryce Canyon to Kanab (Utah). It was Elizabeth who spotted them first that time. Evidently she also has the Deer spirit medicine in her energy mix.
TOURING & HIKING (A LITTLE) THE NORTH RIM
The first place we stopped at after we entered the North Rim of the Grand Canyon National Park was the administrative offices of the Park (see the maps below).
We wanted to find ouy for what activities one needed to get permits, and which areas were open for free roaming. We had learned from our Sedona friend Karen, for example, that to do a hike to the Wave (in Utah), one needed to get a permit. And that there is a lottery to decide who gets to go because the access to the Wave is restricted (to only 10 slots a day, we found out later).
A very nice park ranger spent almost half an hour educating us about all this in his office. He also showed us the best places to go to at the North Rim, both by driving and hiking. We thanked him profusely.
After that, we drove to the actual North Rim, parked near the Lodge, and then spent the next hour or so walking around and hiking to the Bright Angel Point – the farthest protruding piece of high country into the Grand Canyon (see the map).
It was so windy along the way and at that spot, that I jokingly said to Elizabeth, “maybe this should be renamed Hell’s Angels Point.” 🙂
(After the notorious biker club and Howard Hughes’ 1930 film). You can see Elizabeth’s hair flying in this shot, as she is desperately trying to hold on to that rock, so the wind would not blow her away).
This is the shot of the Bright Angel Point I took from that same spot. I also had to hold on to the same rock with one arm while holding the camera in the other.
Anyway, here is a photo album we brought home from the North Rim, starting with some panorama shots:
After about an hour or so, we drove on to Point Imperial, the highest point of the North Rim National Park, some five to six miles away from the Visitor Center (again, see the maps). This is where we took these shots…
And that’s all she wrote from the North Rim on my birthday. It was later afternoon and time to start our long drive back to the Marble Canyon Lodge.
* * *
RUSTIC DINNER AT LEE’S FERRY LODGE
On our drive to the North Rim earlier this day, as we were passing this place not far from our Marble Canyon Lodge, I said to Elizabeth, “this looks like the rustic restaurant I envisioned for my birthday dinner.”
We agreed that we should check it out upon our return.
And so we did. It was marvelous. This “rustic dinner” ended up being Elizabeth’s third favorite experience of the entire trip.
* * *
SECOND WALK OVER LEE’S FERRY BRIDGE, CONDOR SIGHTING
After dinner and a short drive back to the Marble Canyon Lodge, Elizabeth suggested we go for a walk to and across the Navajo Bridge which we only quickly perused this morning. The sun was just about to set, so the light was very different from our first visit to the bridge.
Little did we know that this light exercise would also include a second sacred animal sighting. This time it was a Condor. I could not believe my eyes. I never knew that there were any Condors in Arizona. This one, however, was perched atop a rock deep down in the gorge under the bridge, evidently settling down for the night.
I realized almost immediately that this was no coincidence. This was clearly yet another-second birthday greeting from the spirit realm.
You see, the Condor is revered by the Andean shamans as the sacred animal of the East cardinal direction, of the Air element, and of the Hanaqpacha (Upper World) where the Ascended Masters reside (see Condor Air/East/Upper World). I always address the Condor as such when I open the sacred space before shamanic ceremonies.
And now, on my 70th birthday, for the first time in my life, I was actually seeing one in the wild.
Pretty, wild, huh? 🙂 Looking at it from high up on the bridge, it was hard to believe that this creature has the largest wingspan of any bird – often 8-10 feet wide.
The Condor’s lifespan is similar to humans’. It averages around 70 years. Some birds have been known to live to be a 100.
Upon our return home, I also looked up the properties of the Condor as the Spirit totem:
Condor— Soaring above limitations, imminent changes, knowledge concerning the dead, a new vision through death and rebirth
Andean Condor— Condors motivate us to collectively reach out and share the knowledge we have stored within ourselves.
TURNING 70 IN MAGNIFICENT CANYONS OF ARIZONA, UTAH – A JUNE 2-5 TRAVELOGUE
SEDONA: KYANITE NECKLESS, YAVAPAI POINT VISTA, HILINE TRAIL HIKE, THREE GIFTS & MORE
Sedona was our first stop on this 4-day birthday adventure. We got there in late morning, and spent some time looking at the souvenir shops. It was a delight to be able to do it in the off season for Arizona. No hordes of tourists. Easy to find parking. Leisurely stroll along Sedona’s picturesque streets.
We actually had no intention to buy anything. But I ended up giving myself a birthday anyway. It was a piece of Kyanite which we made into a neckless with the help of a crystal shop clerk.
Besides its wonderful healing properties (see the photo), Kyanite was the principal mineral that helped me open up my “eagle vision” during my two-month 2013 Desert Quest.
We had some laughs, too. Such as with this sarcastic “Homeland Security” T-shirt message: “Fighting Terrorism since 1492.” 🙂 Elizabeth’s feet protruding under the shirt provided an unintended chuckle or two. 🙂
We also stopped by Starbucks, where the above two shots were taken. I thought I’d cash in on my birthday drink I got from Starbucks via email. Alas, this store was a franchise. So they did not want to honor the company rewards!?
The closest “full” Starbucks was in Flagstaff, we learned. And we sure weren’t going to drop everything and drive that far for a free drink. In fact, I still have the unclaimed reward. We have not used another Starbucks on the entire trip.
YAVAPAI POINT VISTA, HILINE TRAIL HIKE
The highlight of our day in Sedona was the afternoon hike we had planned with our good friend Karen, an experienced trail guide, especially in the Red Rock country. We all met at the Yavapai Point and proceeded from there up the mountain.
Amid much chit-chat as always, I kept stopping to take occasional photos. The scenery was breathtaking. You can judge for yourself. Here are some views from Yavapai Vista…
This is also where I also shot a short video which offers a 360-degree view from the Yavapai Vista:
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As we continued farther up the mountain on Hiline Trail, we kept coming across the magnificent blooms of the Blue Agave cacti, also known as the Century Plant.
Although it is called the Century Plant, this cactus typically lives “only” 10 to 30 years. It has a spread of about 6–10 ft (1.8–3.0 m) with gray-bluish green leaves 3–5 ft (0.9–1.5 m) long, each with a prickly edges and a heavy spike at the tip that can pierce to the bone.
Believe me, I know that from personal experience. 🙂 “To the bone” is right. We have three big Blue Agave on our property in Scottsdale. And they are about three times the size of these we were seeing in Sedona. I (trans)planted two of them in 2006 (see above).
Near the end of its life, the Century Plant shoots up a tall, branched stalk, laden with yellow blossoms that may reach a total height up to 25–30 ft (8–9 m) in height. Like these we saw on the Hiline Trail.
The plant dies after flowering, but produces suckers or adventitious shoots from the base, which continue its growth. So when you see these magnificent flowers, know that that’s the Century Plant’s last hurrah.
The Hiline Trail is not too arduous, especially if you spend the hike in animated conversations, as the three of us were doing. Overall, it takes about two hours round trip. But the trail is very rewarding in terms of beautiful scenery and panoramic views.
END OF THE TRAIL
The trail comes to an abrupt stop at the end. There is a clearing that offers again 360-degree views with sharp, nearly vertical drops in the north and west directions. This is where all these pictures were taken.
Elizabeth said when seeing this black-and-white photo, “it looks like I am standing next to the Lone Ranger.” 😀 And I replied, “this is us in the 1930s.” 🙂
PIZZA DINNER AT TLAQUEPAQUE SQUARE
As we usually do after a Sedona hike, we went to dinner at Oak Creek Brewery in Tlaquepaque Square. That’s about the only time these days that we can afford to eat pizza. Too many glutens and all that. But we sure did enjoy this one… 🙂
After dinner, we went for a short walk, ostensibly to help the pizza get digested better. 🙂
THREE BIRTHDAY GIFTS
Remember what I said in the Intro to this trip – that I had received birthday gifts from both the spirit and the earthly realms, three of which were delivered during this trip in Sedona?
Well, you saw one already – my Kyanite neckless. The second came from Elizabeth after our hike. The third arrived in late evening as we were trying to watch a movie in our hotel room. That gift was from the spirit realm. It arrived in two parts. And it has a very substantial monetary value.
But because its full value will be only realized over the next 60 days or so, I don’t want to jinx it by revealing what it was now. All I can say for now is that the time the gift arrived was also very auspicious, especially for someone for whom the Masters #11 has been a shining guide all his life.
What time was that?
11:11 PM (or 8:11 AM June 3 in Europe where I was actually born).
About a week or so before my 70th birthday – June 3, 2015 – I told Elizabeth not to plan any surprise parties this year. Instead, I wanted us to drive up to the high country of Arizona, and spend some time doing what neither of us has ever done before – visiting the beautiful northern canyons of our great state of Arizona, and maybe also drive into Utah for more of the same.
I added that I wanted to have a birthday dinner at a rustic pioneer-style western restaurant. Nothing fancy, just simple cowboy food.
Two days later, on June 2, we took off on our northern canyon adventure.
As I was working on the latest travelogue – about my actual birthday spent on the North Rim of the Grand Canyon – several revelations popped up. One of them was about the significance and the prevalence of No. 3 throughout the trip. Even the final distance traveled – 1,233 miles – is a TRIPLE 3 numerologically!
The second revelation was about the three (here we go again!) sacred animals that showed up in physical form – Deer, Condor and Raven – in order of appearance.
A TRIP OF NUMBER 3’s:
Overall, it was a 4-day, 3-nights, 1,233-mile 70th birthday trip through 3 states. It encompassed 3 great canyons, dozens of “minor” ones, 3 hikes, 3 birthday gifts from the spirit realm, 4 spirit messengers (Deer, Condor, Raven, Bison), and great birthday dinner in a rustic setting of an Arizona pioneer-style restaurant in Marble Canyon. And oodles, and oodles of fun (see the map).
So what’s all this about the No. 3 popping all over this trip?
Well, my birthday is the 3rd day of the month. And the No. 3 also resonates with energies of the Ascended Masters. It indicates that the Ascended Masters are around us, assisting when asked. The Ascended Masters help us focus on the Divine spark within ourselves and others, and assist us with manifesting our desires. They help us to find peace, clarity and love within. And inspire us to create in harmony with the Divine in alignment with the forces of the universe.
“Number 3 resonates with the energies of optimism and joy, inspiration and creativity, speech and communication, good taste, imagination and intelligence, sociability and society, friendliness, kindness and compassion. Number 3 also relates to art, humor, energy, growth, expansion and the principles of increase, spontaneity, broad-minded thinking, synthesis, triad, heaven-human-earth, past-present-future, thought-word-action, demonstrates love through creative imagination, comprehensive, fulfillment, encouragement, assistance, talent and skills, culture, wit, a love of fun and pleasure, freedom-seeking, adventure, exuberance, brilliance, free-form, being brave, non-confrontational, free-form, rhythm, passion, surprise, sensitivity, self-expression, affability, enthusiasm, youthfulness, enlivenment, psychic ability, manifesting and manifestation.” (see Meaning of Numbers).
SPECIAL BIRTHDAY GIFTS FROM SPIRIT REALM
Most of the time, we had no or poor cell phone connection. Which is why we had to wait to get back home to post some pictures and report on what happened during the trip.
One of the things that happened was that kept getting birthday gifts, both from the spirit as well as earthly realms. In Sedona, I got three of them. At the Bryce Canyon I got the fourth. And that’s in addition to those I received at that surprise dinner party, and the one I got at home from HERR MOZART.
You will learn about what the gifts were as you peruse the upcoming travelogues. Meanwhile, I will just say one big “THANK YOU” to my spirit guides, masters and teachers who have arranged for all this.
THREE SACRED ANIMALS THAT SHOWED UP IN PHYSICAL FORM
A 1,233-MILE TOUR OF 3 MAJOR AND DOZENS OF “MINOR” CANYONS IN NORTHERN ARIZONA, SOUTHERN UTAH
We started with a hike in Sedona on June 2, with our good friend and trusted trail guide – Karen.
The following day, my actual birthday – June 3 – we drove up to Lee’s Ferry, where we crossed the Colorado river as the old settlers used to do. We then checked into our room at the Marble Canyon Lodge. Then we continued on to the North Rim of the Grand Canyon, where we spent most of the afternoon.
Upon our return to the Marble Canyon, we had dinner at just the kind of a rustic place I imagined – at the Lee’s Ferry Lodge.
The following day, June 4, we drove on to Bryce and Zion canyons, both National Parks like the Grand Canyon. We ended up spending the night in St George, Utah. We returned home on June 5.
Here are one or two-word adjectives that seem to fit the three major canyons we visited:
Bryce – Spectacular, Awe-inspiring
Zion – Majestic, Massive
Grand – well Grand, of course, what else… only “Grander” at the North Rim, in my opinion (Elizabeth disagrees)
Elizabeth and I both agreed that Bryce was the top (best) experience on this trip. Zion came second. For Elizabeth, the No. 3 was our rustic birthday dinner at the Lee’s Ferry Lodge. For me, the No. 3 was the visit to the North Rim of the Grand Canyon.