Coconino, Yavapai, Gila and Tonto are names of the counties and National Forests I have been riding through this past week in northern Arizona. The very words have a romantic, exciting quality to them that is more than justified by the lands they label. They have all been amazingly beautiful, with the area around Sedona being one of the most spectacular.
It’s on a par with Yosemite for the grandiosity and splendor of its mountains. The redness of the rock, juxtaposed with the many shades of green plants, blue sky, and white clouds, is startling. Now I know why it has so many ardent admirers.
I camped just outside of Sedona between two of these monolithic structures
hoping to experience the famous energy for which Sedona is famous. Perhaps I didn’t find quite the right spot, for I can’t say that I felt that I was in a special vortex of energy.
Nevertheless I was enchanted with this most beautiful place.
Before leaving Flagstaff I took a lovely walk along one of its many urban trails. I came across this group of blue grass musicians practicing their art in a city park, singing and taking turns as the featured instrumentalist.
It made me think of and miss my Contra Dance friends and musicians back in Monterey. I couldn’t help but sway and jiggle to the music. It was delightful!
In Flagstaff they have a wonderful system of recreational paths that go through and around the city, bringing city and country together in a most agreeable way.
These young boys
reminded me of my older brother Frank Emerson who, as a youth, would find any and all natural water features in our small town of Los Gatos, California, where polly wogs and fish could possibly be found. I delighted in tagging along with him and his buddies, though the feeling was not always mutual. His passion for fishing has never abated.
I was even able to ride my bike on the trails and Google Maps led me out of the city on one of them.
Google Maps, as I have said, is great for finding the best bike paths and trails, but it’s not so useful for knowing the terrain that’s in store for the unsuspecting cyclist. In all fairness, I am traveling in mountainous territory and going up and down hills, sometimes very big hills, is unavoidable. But I need to find a better app for navigating and planning my route if I’m going to be able to keep up with this particular mode of transportation.
After leaving Sedona I passed through cowboy country.
This ranch had a particularly artistic gate:
I camped that night at a campground near Camp Verde next to a flowing stream and it rained pretty well that afternoon. (Fortunately there was no flooding.) I met a sweet and kind family in the site across from mine; it’s always good to meet people when traveling alone.
In fact, I am realizing more and more how vital human connection is for me. When I don’t have any face to face contact for a day, or, worse, when I have it but don’t really connect with others, I feel depressed. It’s up to me to reach out and risk rejection, lest I suffer the consequences. When I do make a connection, my spirit soars.
Today I learned at the Rim Country Museum in Payson
that Arizona was the last territory in the “lower 48” to become a state, largely because of the lawlessness of some of its citizens. There was a war over rangeland, known as the Pleasant Valley War, or the Graham-Tewksbury War, that continued unabated for close to ten years, in the late 1800s. Murders, lynchings and the like were not subject to legal process; indeed sheriffs and deputy sheriffs were just as involved in the disputes as anyone else. It wasn’t until 1912 that the United States allowed the territory to join the union.
This corner of the country is home to the North American Monsoon and summer is the season for these daily thunderstorms. You have perhaps heard about the tragic loss of nine family members in a flash flood here just a week ago. It’s the family and friends that don’t die that bear the heaviest burden in a case like this. It’s impossible to imagine being the survivors and/or relatives of so many deceased! It happened just up the road from where I’m staying now, in Payson. I crossed the very river in question a couple of days ago (the East Verde) and noticed that the water was dark red and clouded with rock dust.
I camped on high ground in the Coconino National Forest that night.
Despite some amazing downpours and dramatic thunderstorms, I have yet to get really wet. I did check into a motel two days ago just before a heavy downpour and was very glad that I did.
As I was pushing my bike up a long, steep mountain the other day a car stopped to offer some assistance. The couple gave me three small bottles of cold water and some fresh fruit, which I gratefully accepted. I wasn’t sure when, exactly, I would get to the next town; it might not be until the next day, so the extra weight seemed like a necessary addition to my load.
The woman asked me why I was doing such a thing as this–pushing a loaded bike up such a large mountain. I felt a bit confused about that myself and was hard pressed to come up with an honest and true answer. After they left me I began to think about trading my bicycle in for some sort of motorcycle or electric bike. It wouldn’t solve the problem of staying dry but it sure would make the hills less intense. But what about my Earth pilgrimage? What about my desire to slow down the pace and take in the world from a more natural perspective? Traveling at a snail’s pace allows me to really see the beauty around me and I’m much more inclined to stop and take photographs. I don’t have to stop at gas stations to fill up my tank, and that makes me truly happy.
As I make my way, slowly, on the inclines, I often pray and ask God for the direction I am seeking. “Dear God, please remove my fear, my pride and any self-delusion and show me what you would have me be, and do.” I take a deep breath and I surrender to the moment, to what is, and I remember that the present moment is all there really is. And in that moment, I am at peace. I marvel at the beauty of God’s creation and I delight in it. I have been filled up with beauty in this past week and I cherish it. There is still so much beauty in the world!
I am experiencing some health challenges that I need to address. One is restless legs syndrome; after an especially taxing day it becomes worse and sleep eludes me. I have read on the internet that a deficiency in iron can be the culprit, which makes sense in my case. I have essentially been a vegetarian for years. I have eaten beef twice in the last two days in an attempt to help the situation. I also got an iron supplement. I’m losing weight I can’t afford to lose. I may enlist the help of a doctor and/or nutritionist if I can find one.
One of my friends who is following my journey recently sent me this prayer:
Irish Prayer for Travelers—“I choose to trust in you, and give you my fears and anxieties. May I find peace as I travel. Take my heart on a journey of trust and hope as I look out over the beautiful world you have created. Calm me and cover me.”
Little did my friend know how appropriate and how needed was this prayer. Or did he know? God knew, and God does use good people to help others. Thank you, friend. Thank you, God.