Dallas and I figured that while we were already in the Southwest, we should find a way to explore the surrounding area before our dog-watching duties began again. So we rented a car and drove down to Flagstaff, where I have a cousin, Jeanine, and Dallas and I have a friend, James.
Over the past two years, I have been traveling around my own country like I never have before, and I am still astounded by how vastly different it can be depending on where you go, and how dramatically beautiful it is. It’s amazing that you can see such an array of climate zones, landscapes and people all while remaining within the United States. These experiences that I’ve had make it a little easier to appreciate being an American, even though I am still itching to get out and explore the rest of the world. From the food and hospitality of the South, to where the mountains meet the ocean in Alaska, and everything in between, I am more in love with this country than I ever have been. Our recent trip to the desert in Arizona further exceeded my expectations, and continued to awe me in every way.
The enormous red rocks rising straight up, illuminated by the sun, give off a presence that is impossible to capture on camera. Yet, the scenery was constantly making me want to stop and take a million pictures everywhere I turned. It is so stunning, I could not take my eyes off of the landscape. This presented a challenge when Dallas and I went trail running in Sedona. We spent a few hours on a ‘run’ that couldn’t have been more than 6 miles, pausing to take in our surroundings and attempting to photograph everything without falling into the canyon. It was equally difficult to drive down to Sedona from Flagstaff without stopping or slowing down to feast our eyes upon the vivid land.
The day before we went to Sedona, we drove from Durango to Flagstaff, stopping at the Four Corners National Monument along the way. My eyes could barely handle all of the visual stimulation then, and it was nothing compared to Sedona. Once in Flagstaff, Dallas and I met up with James (who Dallas had originally met on his first bike tour in California and who had stayed with us in Portland when touring with his mom, Jo). James brought us to Diablo for burgers, and then we walked over to Flagstaff Bicycle Revolution to meet my cousin, Jeanine, and her husband, Stuart. Flag Bike Rev is a local bike shop, and they were having their holiday party.
After leaving the party, we were kindly welcomed by Jame’s friend, Lauren, to stay at her house. Two of their other friends were in town from Silver City, New Mexico, and Dallas had stayed with one of them while he was passing through two years ago. We had good conversation with James and friends, and I really enjoyed listening to Lauren and Mike sing and play the guitar (Dallas even joined in on guitar towards the end). It’s really comforting to know that there are such good people all over the country, and we can relate to many of the same things, like music, the environment, and bicycling. I think that this would be my group of friends had I lived in Flagstaff or Silver City. It also makes me miss my friends back in Rhode Island, and I look forward to seeing them again.
Anyway, after all of us went out for an early breakfast of chiliquiles at Martan’s, Dallas and I headed off to Sedona. I could probably spend a few months in Sedona before I got tired of exploring all of the trails it has to offer. I did want to visit Arcosanti before heading back to Flagstaff, so we only got to spend a few hours in Sedona.
Arcosanti is an experimental town, designed by architect Paolo Soleri, who just passed away earlier this year at the ripe age of 93. Soleri was born and studied architecture in Torino, Italy before coming to the US and working under Frank Lloyd Wright. He started constructing Arcosanti in the 1970’s, based on his idea of Arcology (architecture + ecology). It is still somewhat a work in progress, but is a very cool idea with the goal of being environmentally sustainable and lean with regards to urban sprawl. I first learned about Arcosanti while working on my master’s at Brown and researching places that are not autocentric (revolving around the automobile). I am slightly embarrassed that we had to drive there, but I am glad that I got to see it.
On the way back to Flagstaff, it started snowing, and the next morning there were several inches of snow covering everything. I love the way the snow clings to all the tree branches, turning them white. We enjoyed coffee and breakfast with James and friends at Macy’s, and then said goodbye before driving to the Grand Canyon. We drove over a mountain pass on the way, and once on the other side, there was no more snow on the ground.
I felt like we were the luckiest couple of people on earth when the clouds began to break while we were at the Grand Canyon National Park, and I was reminded of when the same thing happened while we were visiting Denali National Park in Alaska. I can’t believe this enormous canyon has been sitting here all this time, and I had never even seen it once until now. It’s incredible how different everything can look depending on the season, the lighting, and the weather. There are so many different types of beauty, but I think my favorite is these striking natural landscapes.
Dallas and I began hiking down into the canyon from the South Rim’s Kaibob trail, but we only had enough time to go about 1.5 miles before having to turn back up. We watched the clouds shift as the sun set behind the south wall of the canyon, casting various colors and changing moods on the whole picture, all the while maintaining its majestic aura. The long drive back to Durango was dark and silent, but the moon rising behind the clouds was also pretty magnificent.