Days 232-239 – Taliesin & Zero Days

The weather forecast doesn’t look good for the week- rare rain and clouds – so we head off to Scottsdale to visit Taliesin West, one of Frank Lloyd Wright’ homes. We both like FLW’s architecture, especially the way he also designed interiors so that the chairs, tables and lighting fixtures were all harmonious with the building’s architecture. I have never known how to pronounce the word “Taliesin” and practice after our guide tells us it’s “tally-ess-inn” and is from a Welch word.

We enjoy our tour, do some shopping in Scottsdale (sneakers and golf shoes for Walt), have a nice late lunch and head back up to Sedona.

We spend the rest of the week going to the gym and the driving range, working on getting our taxes together. Just as the weather clears late in the week, we realize our refrigerator is not really cooling much. A quick text to our landlord brings immediate help in the form of Steve the repairman. We spend several hours while he takes apart the fridge and lets us know he needs to order a part that will be in tomorrow afternoon sometime.

We spend the next day going to the gym but anxious about straying too far in case Steve shows up with our part. We have bought a couple of cheap coolers and bags of ice, with everything stashed in the garage because it’s still pretty cool outside.

Our part doesn’t arrive until late in the day, so Steve comes over the next morning. After another several hours, he determines that he needs yet another part but because it’s the weekend, we have to wait for Monday for the order to go, which means the part won’t be here until Tuesday.

No matter. We spend our evenings watching the Olympics.

Days 228-231 – Hike, Work Out, Repeat


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Airport Loop

I owe Walt a vortex where I’m not cranky so we head for the Airport Loop. The vortex is just off the parking lot so we head out for our hike first. It’s just 4 ½ miles and not a lot of elevation gain but I’m surprised to find that the airport is not located on low, flat ground but is perched on top of a mesa. We start off hiking the east side of the mesa, below the airport, with great views of Bell and Cathedral rocks.

As we get to the far end of the airport (we can see the airport fence now above us), we are going up in elevation, then down, then back up before turning out to Tabletop Point for our first look at Pyramid Rock. Just as with Submarine Rock, there was no doubting which formation was Pyramid Rock once we saw it.

We drink in the views, take a few selfies, and head back down the trail. We’re now on the west side of the airport and we can see planes landing. It’s not a big commercial airport, so the planes are just little 2- and 4-seater types.

After about 90 minutes, we’re back at our car, dumping our packs before we head up to the vortex.

It’s a beautiful red-rock formation. There’s a few people (but no flute player) and the sun is shining. I plop down in the sunshine, pull my hat over my eyes and assume my favorite “happy baby” yoga pose to stretch out my back and toast a bit.

On our way down to the car, I ask Walt if he felt the “energy” of the vortex. “I felt a nice breeze,” he replies.

“I did too. And the sun was very nice. But it was better two days ago on the mesa, where it was just us.”

A “zero” day

We’ve settled into a nice pattern of hiking 3 days a week (weekdays) and going to the gym and (sometimes) playing golf on the off days so that’s what we do today, just head to the gym, smack (and lose) some golf balls on a nice sunny course with red-rock views.

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Devil’s Bridge

I had read about Devil’s Bridge, a natural rock arch formation that hikers can not only walk up to but also walk on. Unfortunately, I had thought that we wouldn’t be able to hike there because the trailhead is down a very rough forest service road that our convertible cannot manage. When I was re-reading the directions in my guidebook, I saw that there is an alternative parking area that sits just before the paved road ends. It’s going to be about a 6-mile out-and-back hike, which is fine.

When we arrive at the trailhead, the road nearby is filled with cars; apparently there are a lot more people interested in walking on Devil’s Bridge than there are high-clearance cars. We’ve arrived at a good time, when the early-bird hikers are leaving so we manage to get a good parking spot in the lot. We set off, being cautious of the mountain bikers who pass us on the trail. We always get off the trail for them.

The hike is easy, through red rocks and junipers with gorgeous views of the canyons and mountains all around us. Although there were dozens of cars, there aren’t a lot of people on this trail, which is the longest way to get to the bridge. Most people just hike the forest service road, which is shorter but also dustier. We’re enjoying ourselves; the views are beautiful.

When we finally hit the nearest parking area for Devil’s Bridge, we are just about a mile from it and now there are plenty of people. I’m amused to see a little white, fluffy dog whose entire bottom half is tinged rusty pink from the red-rock dust. We pass people and dogs of all sorts and I’m starting to get nervous. I hadn’t thought how busy this might be. Too late now.

We start climbing a little bit and make good time until we get to a steep pitch. There are stairs more or less carved out of the rocks but there’s no handrails and it’s intimidating, especially for non-hikers on their way back down. We stop and wait while a very slow foursome mostly sits and scoots their way past us.

There’s a whole bunch of people waiting to come down but I call up to the next couple waiting in line, asking if they would mind waiting while we come up. They ignore us and while the guy makes it down pretty easily, the woman with him is a bit slow.

“I guess not,” I remark out loud as the guy steps next to us.

“There’s a lot of people waiting to come down,” the guy says.

“We know that,” says Walt (much to my surprise, he’s usually the quiet one in these situations), “that’s why we wanted to come up and get past all of you, so you can come down.”

“I’ll wait,” says the next woman on top waiting to come down. We thank her and scramble up the rocks in about 12 seconds.

“You’re quick,” says one waiting guy as I stride past him.


Once past that section, it takes us no time to get up to the bridge, where we are in the shade and it is blissfully cool. We wait till some girls leave, then Walt motions me out to the bridge so he can take my picture before we trade places. The bridge is pretty wide on the one end but then narrows to less than 6 feet, which seems wide until you realize that we are standing about 50 feet up in the air. A fall would be extremely painful.

We head back down, navigating the rock staircase with ease (having hiking poles and knowing how to use them makes it so simple) and stop off at a couple more vista points for pictures and a snack before heading back out the same way we came in.

It’s one of those hikes that I’m glad we did but one we’d only do again if we had friends we wanted to take there. Way too crowded for me.

Days 225-227 – Flagstaff, Golf and Our Best Hike

It’s the weekend, which means no hiking for us. Just too crowded in most places.

Instead we head up to Flagstaff for a day trip. It’s a gorgeous drive up on a fast, winding road with an elevation gain of 3,000 feet, which makes it a bit chillier than Sedona but it’s sunny and still warm.

We find an REI so we can re-stock a few items, then a used bookstore so I can re-stock (I tend to read non-fiction history of science/exploration and could barely find any non-fiction in the two Sedona used book stores, never mind my specific genre). Starlight Books provides me with several books – one on feathers, one on 18th century exploration, etc. – and I’m thrilled. We find a jeweler to get Walt’s watch fixed; he lost a pin on the trail and needs a new battery. Then I Google “best lunch Flagstaff” and we wind up at Lumberyard Brewing Co. for a really tasty lunch.

We’re too stuffed for dessert but that doesn’t stop me from stopping at a bakery I’d noticed for a few treats “for later.” We locked them in the trunk so they’d actually make it all the way home.

All in all, a great “zero” day.


Golfing the short course

We’ve looked at a couple of golf courses nearby but the first one we’re trying is an executive course. Par 3s are really more my speed (I hit horribly) and Walt’s content with an easy short course. We especially like that they’re willing to just let us play as a twosome instead of pairing us up into a foursome. I’m very intimidated by playing with other people even on my best day and we haven’t played about 6 weeks so today is not going to be a good golf day.

The course is very nice and we each have some good hits although my putting leaves much to be desired.

Doesn’t matter. It’s hard to complain in 67-degree sunshine while walking a pretty golf course.

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Brins Mesa Trail

In our quest to keep hitting new areas to hike around Sedona, we’ve come to Uptown Sedona and veered west. The Brins Mesa Trail goes about 8 miles up and over the mesa and then down the other side.

However our guidebook says we can go up the mesa, veer right on a side trail and come up to a high point with great views.

The views are pretty nice just from the top of the mesa, looking out over Sedona and the mountains and red rocks but we continue, first to an outcropping where we take pictures and then back on the trail to the knoll overlook.

While hiking across the mesa, we can’t tell exactly where our knoll is. We can see mountains but we can’t see any sign of a trail to get to the top and they look a lot higher than the extra 300 feet of elevation that our book says we’re doing. But we know we’re on a trail so we keep going.

Soon we run into a group of people coming down from the (still unseen) knoll. One of the hikers asks if we’re going to the top and when we say “yes” he tells us that the view is great, which is exactly what we want to hear. (BTW, we never ask people “how much further” it is; it’s so subjective and it doesn’t matter anyway, we’re going.)

It’s actually just a little bit further until the path narrows with scratchy shrubs on either side and we can tell we’re headed upward. Then we come to some rocks and start up them. They are gorgeous red rocks that have been sculpted beautifully by the wind. Some are like steps, others remind me of red-rock versions of the big fungi with rippled edges that grow out of trees back East.

We get up to what I think is the high spot and Walt takes my picture but then as I’m waiting for him to ascend, I turn and see that the rocks keep going up a bit behind me. There’s no marked trail but the wind-sculpted rocks make it easy to pick a path all the way until I’m clearly at the highest point we’re going to get to today. Another dozen feet back and the rocks end abruptly in a sheer cliff.

The huge mountains that we have been looking at are on the other side of this little canyon, still looming over us.

Walt comes up and there’s no one but the two of us. We take pictures, explore (safely) the drop-offs, sit and eat a snack and just enjoy the views. We pull out the map to try to figure out exactly what we’re looking at. We can tell Cathedral Rock in the southern distance and I think Dry Creek Canyon to our north.

We can’t help ourselves from commenting over and over how spectacular the scenery is.

Eventually we see another couple heading our way and decide to let them have the same solitude we’ve so enjoyed and start heading down.

It’s an easy hike to the bottom.

To cap off our best hike yet, we stop at Oak Creek Espresso and Bakery, whose sign says also announces it carries “gelato.” It’s actually a homemade ice cream and it’s a yummy post-hike treat.

Days just don’t get better than this.

Days 221-224 – The Hikes Just Get Better

So as we’re searching our guidebook and maps to find new hikes, we’re trying to explore a new area each time. Courthouse Butte, our first, was just to the southeast of Sedona. Then we went west of Sedona. Broken Arrow was still southeast of Sedona but north of Courthouse. Turkey Creek was southwest. So now we’re headed slightly northeast.

Sterling Pass to Vultee Arch

There’s an easier (and shorter) way to hike to Vultee Arch but a: that’s no fun and b: we need a high-clearance vehicle to travel several miles on an unpaved, very rough forest service road to get to the trailhead. We don’t have such a vehicle and aren’t going to risk damaging our very low-slung convertible. We’ve taken it – cautiously – on dirt roads but not rocky ones.

So, we park along Rte. 89A in a slight turnout and hike a little ways up the road to the trailhead. There’s a sign for Sterling Pass so we know we’re good. Today’s hike is 5.2 miles round trip, plus 2,000 feet of elevation gain, which is more than double the elevation gain of any hike we’ve done so far in Sedona.

The hike starts out in the shade of a canyon, which is nice because we immediately start going up. It’s not a difficult up, just slow and steady. We are clearly going deeper into the canyon, but since the trail meanders back and forth, we can’t figure out where Sterling Pass is. We keep going, of course, and I have my eyes on some big red rocks to the left as a possible pass but when we get to them, the trail swoops back to the right. We stop anyway to peer through the rocks to the other side but it’s still the same canyon. Apparently this rock juts like a peninsula into the canyon. So we keep going. It’s getting steeper and the “switchbacks” in the trail remind me more of a spiral staircase, they’re so tight that we go just a half dozen feet in one direction before turning back – and up – in the other.

Finally we hit the pass, a nice large flat spot where we take a little break before heading down the other side. These switchbacks are nice and long but it’s clear that we are descending nearly as low into this canyon as we started. About midway down, I comment to Walt that it’s going to be “a long way back up to the pass.”

Walt calmly replies: “Now you think of it.”

For whatever reason, I didn’t think we would descend this far from the pass in order to see the arch. But it’s too late now and it’s not like we haven’t hiked longer and harder days.

We finally bottom out and head up the canyon a good half mile before we see the sign marking the turnoff to Vultee Arch. Another quarter of a mile and we pop out on a big, red, gently sloping rock in the sunshine. We can see Vultee Arch off across the valley. I sit and take off my pack, enjoying the beauty of the sunshine in the canyon and the fact that there’s no one else around. Just us.

Walt hikes up a bit farther to a plaque that commemorates Gerard and Sylvia Vultee, who lost their lives in an aircraft crash on January 29, 1938 about a mile away up on a mesa.

It’s gorgeous but we don’t linger too long before heading back up the canyon to the pass. It goes better than we thought and soon we’re headed down the other side of the pass. The further we descend the more I look back at the pass and rocks behind us. It was a very nice little uphill climb.

So far this is my favorite hike in Sedona. Mostly it’s felt like we were just taking nice long walks but today actually felt like my idea of a “hike.”


Long Loop to Cathedral Rock

After a day off, we head off in a different area. Cathedral Rock is huge, well-known formation in Sedona. Many people hike up it from a very nearby trailhead but, again, where’s the fun in that?

I find a loop hike that starts about 3 miles away. We’ll hike in a long loop with Cathedral Rock at about midpoint. The hike is pretty easy, just gentle ups and downs, until we get to Cathedral Rock. We head up the “slickrock” – Merriam Webster defines it as “smooth wind-polished rock” – but it’s actually really nice to walk on since it’s not “polished” like a smooth, shiny stone you might buy in a store or see set in jewelry. Particularly with the good soles of our boots, we have no problem scrambling up the crevices.

It’s mid-week but there’s still a lot of people heading up and down the rocks, including people who look very uncomfortable. Mostly they’re nervous about being on rocks but we come up to one guy who’s standing with his back to the rock. When I ask if he’s heading up, he says this is it for him. He’s clearly afraid of heights. Too bad because the views just get better the further up we go.

Again, I hadn’t really paid attention to this part of the hike, so I wasn’t sure how far up rock we’d be allowed to hike. Every time we arrive at a small outcropping or viewpoint, I expect that to be the end of the line. Finally Walt points to a flat spot between two huge “spires” of the formation and says that’s our destination. Later I read that it’s 650 feet of elevation from the nearby parking lot to the trail’s end at the saddle.

It doesn’t matter to me; I’m enjoying the rocks and view. Plus, the farther we go, the fewer people there are.

After about 20 minutes, we reach the saddle and are stunned that we get a panoramic view off the far side. It’s just gorgeous. We eat a snack, take some pictures and then head back down the rocks. I can’t resist sliding on my bottom on a few of them; they’re just like a slide. (I’m now really hoping the weather warms up enough before we leave Sedona for us to go slide on some in the streams of Slick Rock Park.)

It’s an easy hike 3 miles back to the car and another nice hike.

Day 220 – Our 4th Anniversary


It’s our anniversary and the first one we’ve been able to celebrate on the actual anniversary date because I’ve always had a work function that took me out of town the same week.

We decide to celebrate in style by sleeping in and getting massages. We’ve found a Sedona hotel that will do a couples massage and has locker rooms with Jacuzzis and saunas so we can milk the experience. I haven’t had a massage since we were in Las Vegas last summer and Walt hasn’t had one since the day we got married.

As the massage therapists are working knots out of us, I can hear Walt thinking “why haven’t I done this in four years?”

Post-hike spa days have been a treat for me since I hiked the West Coast Trail in Vancouver nearly 10 years ago and my sister-in-law and I had massages while my brother went off to wander the city and drink beer. After my 3-day Yosemite hike one summer, I spent virtually the whole day at a spa, hitting the sauna pre- and post-massage, using the Jacuzzi, reading magazines in the “relaxation room,” plus the massage. Afterward, I went to the hotel’s outdoor patio and had a glass wine and read a book. Post-hike in Vail one year, I had a late-day massage and went back to my room to find the evening turndown service included a warm chocolate chip cookie and a bottle of water. I consumed both and hopped into bed, as content as I could be.

IMG_3980After milking the facilities as much as possible in Sedona, Walt and I meet up in the lobby, freshly showered and dressed in nice clothes for a dinner out at Mariposa Latin Grill.

The restaurant has great views of the red rocks through its huge glass windows. Although it’s a little chilly to eat outside, we will definitely have to come back when the weather warms up for cocktails on the huge patio.

The food is excellent: mussels in a lip-smacking chorizo-tomato broth; a kale salad with dates, pumpkin seeds and fresh parmesan; rib-eye for Walt; grouper for me; lobster-mashed potatoes (yum!) and roasted brussels sprouts with acorn squash. We finish with a complimentary slice of vanilla cake, complete with a candle and the server’s best wishes for our anniversary.

What a lovely way to celebrate our fantastic four years of marriage.


Days 215-219 – Hiking Amid the Red Rocks

IMG_3951Broken Arrow Trail

For our third hike, we’ve picked a loop (more or less) hike that will take us to two of Sedona’s more famous rocks: Chicken Point and Submarine Rock. The trails here are all pretty well marked, with good signs at the trailheads and intersections. There are often maps posted below the signs, even at the junctions, which is very nice.

We’re on the Broken Arrow Trail – named for the 1950 movie starring Jimmy Stewart that was filmed nearby. There’s supposedly the remnants of a cabin built during the filming but my trail description doesn’t say where and we don’t give a second thought to looking for it.

Our first point of interest is the Devil’s Dining Room, a fenced-off sinkhole that really does seem like it extends deeply into the earth. We peer in briefly before heading onward.

As we walk, we’re trying to pick out Submarine Rock. I see people up on a rock to our right that could be deemed “submarine-shaped” but the trail veers left before we get to it.

We come across a wash (dry creek bed) and Walt heads slightly to the right of the trail, headed for a low, big rock with people on top. It, too, could be called “submarine-shaped” but, again, the trail cairns shift us off left. We come across another wash with a sign pointing to Submarine Rock and keep going. Finally, we hit a huge rock and we can hear – but not see – that there are a lot of people on top. Since we’ve read that the rock is part of the Pink Jeep Tours (for those who don’t want to hike out to interesting formations, there are lots of off-road jeep tours), we figure we’re probably, finally in the right spot. From where we’re standing, the formation looks nothing like a submarine but we easily hike up the slickrock. At the top, we realize the rock is way much bigger than we’d thought, with a dozen or more people and a park ranger all on top and room for about a thousand more people.

It looks like we’re standing on the long back end of a submarine that has just surfaced in the water. The long, bullet-shaped rock even has a sloped rock toward the far end that could be a conning tower.

Lesson learned: if we see a rock that could be what we’re looking for, we’re probably not in the right spot because when we hit the right rock, there is no doubt that we’re in the right spot.

We climb up to the “conning tower” for a few pictures. It’s a little trickier to get here, although not very by our standards, so it’s just us and one other couple looking out with a 360-degree view of the landscape.

We enjoy the rock before hopping off by the pink Jeeps and following the road out to Chicken Point – so named because people used to drive up here in their Jeeps and dare each other on how close they could get before they chicken out (or so my guidebook says). Vehicles aren’t allowed up on the rock anymore, so we sit in the sun, have a snack and enjoy the views before heading back out to our car.


Turkey Creek Trail

After a zero day (grocery shopping, wandering around Sedona’s shops, searching in vain for a used bookstore with non-fiction books), we head off again for another hike. It’s the weekend so we choose a hike that is rated as not very popular. We’ve quickly realized that the parking areas at trailheads get very full, especially on weekends.

Turkey Creek is our longest hike yet, some 4 miles out, skirting lots of red-rock formations, crossing a neat grassy area and then heading up some hills to the shoulder of House Mountain. We enjoy the hike but are a little disappointed that there’s no trail to the top of the mountain. We hike up a bit farther anyway, to see what we can see and get a pretty nice view north to Sedona and the Secret Mountains.

We turn around and head back to our car. We can’t be disappointed with a sunny day of hiking in 60-degree weather.

Days 210-214 – First Sedona Hikes

The weather is glorious, especially compared to all the unusually icy, chilly places we’ve just come through. The nights are dipping below freezing but we wake up every morning to another endless blue sky and temperatures that rise into the 50s. It doesn’t feel warm enough, to us, to golf but it is perfect hiking weather.

We already have a hiking guidebook and a trail map but we’ve read that we need a parking pass in order to park at many of the trailheads. Of course it’s the weekend of the federal government shutdown, so we’re not sure if going to the nearby ranger station will do us any good. Instead we stop at an outfitter’s shop where the friendly guy behind the counter not only can sell us a parking pass ($5/day; $15/week; $20/year – a system that seems designed to ensure the tourists do the bulk of the paying) but also gives us some great advice.

First he tells us that there are a lot of “social trails” jutting off the main trails. Social trails are trails where locals have made their own way, whether to avoid the slow-moving tourists or to make a shortcut or get better views, we’re not sure. Derrick tells us that the way to avoid social trails and ensure that we’re staying on the main trail is to ignore any “turn” of the trail that doesn’t have a stone cairn marking it. “All junctions are clearly marked with a cairn, so if I’m in doubt, I just go with my forward momentum. The main trail will never make a sharp turn without a cairn.”

We will almost immediately benefit from this advice, as our first trail, the Courthouse Butte Loop Trail, is in an extremely popular area (as are most Sedona-area hiking trails) and there are little paths all over the place.

Derrick’s second piece of advice also comes in handy on our very first hike. He tells us that while we will cross a dry wash – essentially a dry creek bed that floods into a stream during rainstorms – the trail will never be found going up a dry wash. When they’re full of water, no one would think a dry wash is a trail, but we see immediately upon coming up to our first dry wash how an unsuspecting hiker could be lured into thinking the large, flat stones (eroded smooth by torrential water) are the trail.

Courthouse Butte Loop

We start our Arizona hiking on this easy 4.2-mile loop with only 500 feet of elevation gain for several reasons: our packs didn’t fit in the car and Lauren is shipping them to us next week so all we have are snacks in our pockets and a bottle of water each; we haven’t hiked in over a month; the elevation in Sedona is about 1,500 feet higher than Asheville so we want to be sure we’re acclimated. Plus, we don’t know what the trails and trail markers are like; if we’re going to get lost then I’d prefer it if we were on a relatively short hike.

I have, of course, brought along the map and directions for the hike, which turns out to be a good thing because while the directions tell us we’re on the Courthouse Butte trail for most of the way, the signs actually say Bell Rock Pathway Trail for the first half of the hike. Even though we don’t have any “scenic vista” points during this hike, we find the hike very scenic. For the whole first half, we are walking around Bell Rock, a huge red-rock formation, then we’re circling the far side of Courthouse Butte with a view off to the mountains east of us. Stunning.

The friendly dogs we run into on the trail are also a highlight of the hike (for me, anyway). Since the trailhead is located right off a residential neighborhood and is an easy walk, lots of people just do this for their daily dog walk. We meet a really friendly poodle/terrier mix and a cautious 12-week-old miniature Australian shepherd, who was right to be cautious ’cause she was so darn cute that if I’d gotten a hand on her, I’m sure I would have squeezed the stuffings out her. It’s well known that I love cats but I also cannot resist puppies!

Boynton Canyon Loop

We’ve taken a day off to find and join a gym and explore our nearby golfing options but now we’re back on the trail. Walt is intrigued by the vortices (although the locals call them vortexes) around Sedona. He was not pleased when I told him that there was one on Bell Rock but it wasn’t on my small hike map and I hadn’t paid attention to how to get to it. I’m sure if we’d just walked up the side path to the “vista” – the National Forest Service doesn’t seem to recognize vortexes as real and refers to trails to them as vistas (which I hadn’t realized when we did our first hike). Anyway, Walt really wants to go to a vortex. Neither one of us believes in these “energy fields” but we’re here so we might as well check them out.

We hike about 3 miles up Boynton Canyon, which gets narrower as we go, until we hit a sign that says “don’t go past this point” and find ourselves sitting on some beautiful red rocks near the end of the canyon. There’s another couple also sitting on the rocks but otherwise all is quiet and peaceful.

Our hike back out is uneventful. The vortex I promised Walt is near the mouth of the canyon so we get almost to the car before turning up a side “vista” trail. Just before we get that far, I hear a flute playing. Apparently a local guy regularly climbs to one of the vortex rocks to play the flute. The flute is pretty and I don’t mind until, just before he starts to play a new song, the flute-player shouts, “This next song is for releasing. Release everything you don’t need or want.”


This is not why I come to the woods.

It’s bad enough that since the vortex is near both the trailhead and walking distance to a major resort, there are a whole lot of people headed up the trail, stopping in the trail, talking, taking pictures, etc.

We go up to the vortexes (turns out there’s a male vortex rock and a female vortex rock) to find our flute player has come down from his perch on top of the male vortex rock (the shorter of the two) and is cheerfully telling people about the power of the vortexes and the energy. Walt wants to climb up the male vortex rock and heads up nearly to the top. I wait more toward the bottom, bemused at the two women who can barely find their way around the base but who are talking about how to climb to the top. There are no signs warning anyone about climbing but I have to wonder how many people fall during a single year?

I finally coax Walt off the rock and we head back to the car, leaving the crowds and flute player behind.

Do I believe in the healing, soothing power of nature? Of course, that’s part of the reason why I hike. Do I think I need some man playing a flute and shouting at me from the top of a rock to know this? No, I do not.

Walt is amused at the effect all of this has had on me. He’s used to me cranky at the beginning of hikes and mellowing as we go. This is the first time, I think, that I’ve left a trail more out of balance than I was when I started.