Arizona: Home of the Nutter Butters

No, I’m not talking about the candy bar — not that kind of Nutter Butter.  Just the crazies who live there in the middle of the desert.  Maybe it’s the heat.  Maybe it’s the close proximity to the Vortexes in Sedona.  Who knows?  All I know is that the air is a little different there.  And watching the local news reminds me of how the local news is on the movies– very dramatic, very high-stakes.  No fluff here– no room for it.

For instance, the Jody Arias trial was taking place out there.  Closing arguments taking place.  People were coming to Phoenix from neighboring communities for a chance to win the lottery for a shot to sit in the courtroom.  Need I say more?

I mean, when rattlesnake sightings are up (true story), why would you risk leaving your house, walking past all those desert bushes to your car and driving to the courthouse?  What if your car broke down because a rattlesnake was wrapped around the engine?

So I think the safest course of action would be to just go for a jog on a well-worn path with many other joggers (a win-win as they will serve to scare off the rattlesnakes and lower your chances of being attacked simply because there are more, probably tastier options for the rattlesnake to feast upon).

Some beautiful cacti - aka rattlesnake Christmas trees
Some beautiful cacti – aka rattlesnake Christmas trees
Taking a jog with this as the background - love
Taking a jog with this as the background – taking your life in your own hands (but awesome)

So anyway, I take a jog along this beautiful desert path and then get back to the hotel and hear on the news that a jogger was attacked today — but not by whom I expected — she was attacked by a hive of bees.  She was just jogging by and they were hiding in a tree, waiting on her.  They got in her hair and she had to be rushed to the hospital.  The news anchors warned that the bees can AND WILL track someone for a quarter of a mile.  Um, what?

What planet is this, Arizona?  It’s not Earth!

We don’t have rattlesnakes and bees back where I’m from (OK, we do, but they aren’t on the local news every day).  Creepy.  I will have to add some bee and snake repellent to my cart when I purchase my bear spray from Amazon.

But truly, even when you have to deal with pesky things like a work-related conference, it’s so nice to get away to a semi-arid location to truly kick off the summer.  I got such an opportunity last week when I went to the Arizona Biltmore.

Gorgeous entrance to the Biltmore
Gorgeous entrance to the Biltmore
The landscaping was immaculate
The landscaping was immaculate

I had no idea until I arrived at the hotel that it was anything more than a hotel.  But after making my way through the property to my villa, I figured out there was something a little different about this place.  Frank Lloyd Wright was the architect for it.  Yes, that Frank Lloyd Wright of Falling Water.  Apparently he spent his later years in the wilds of Arizona (he probably fell victim to an errant animal attack — maybe even one not on the news, like a coyote).

The Presidents at the Biltmore
The Presidents at the Biltmore

All of the Presidents of the United States since Hoover have stayed at the Biltmore (George W. not pictured, but he was on the next wall).  That’s pretty much how you know it’s a solid place:

A little Hawaiian flair
A little Hawaiian flair

Views like this are a dime a dozen on this property.  Hello, Arizona, goodbye Arizona.  Was it worth it to brave the wilderness of the desert?

Maybe….

Probably.

Arizona is gorgeous.  Until we meet again.

xoxo

The Sedona Healers

After visiting the majesty that is the Grand Canyon, we spent the night in Flagstaff, Arizona.  Flagstaff is about an hour’s drive from the Grand Canyon, up, up, up, to about 8,000 feet above sea level.

The main tourist attraction there is the ski resort.  The mountains are tall and snow-capped and look just like you would imagine the Rockies.  Even in town, there was snow everywhere on the ground, though there wasn’t a hint of it in the air.  It seemed like the type of snow that had been there for a while.

We had one of the most delicious meals of the trip at Pasto.  I had the goat cheese ravioli with candied beets:

The most decadent, delicate pasta I think I've ever tasted.
The most decadent, delicate pasta I think I’ve ever tasted.  Pretty sure it was all made by hand that day.  So fresh, so yum.

Unfortunately, we didn’t spend much time hanging around Flagstaff because we were in a hurry to get to Sedona and make our way down Oak Creek Canyon.

A roughly 30-mile drive to Sedona from Flagstaff goes by very quickly.  This is billed as one of the best drives in the Southwest because of what you see happening in the geology around you.  And unlike the canyons of California, this road is well-traveled.

Still some snow clinging to the grass, but you could almost see it melting as you came down the canyon
Still some snow clinging to the grass, but you could almost see it melting as you came down the canyon

The rocks start turning red as you get further into the inferno that is Central Arizona:

Red rocks right outside Sedona city limits
Red rocks right outside Sedona city limits

Outside of Sedona, there are miles and miles of desert with these distinctive Red Rocks.  I came to find out during the trip there that it is a haven for many types of people: artists (dozens of art galleries), desert hikers, fitness gurus, and middle-aged (+) people with money.  Maybe it was the time of year that we visited (mid-March), but I saw very few families there.  Most of the tourists were wearing linens and heads of silver hair.

I also came to realize that Sedona is a major mecca for people looking for spiritual guidance, relief, etc., in the desert.  And/or some sort of physical healing.

All around Sedona, there were little shops set up where you could have your aura read or photographed, or where you could have hot rocks placed on your chakra, or something like that.

But the big draw, it seems, is the Vortexes.  (yes, vortexes, not vortices)

Image via lovesedona.com
Image via lovesedona.com

There are a few of them placed around the outside of the city.  You don’t have to actually stand directly on the vortex to feel the energy, they say, but if you do, you will be spiritually uplifted.  Supposedly the confluence of the great energy in Sedona exists because there are so many people there who are on the New Age path of becoming all they can spiritually.

Well, it must be working at least a little because you can’t buy a house there for a middle-class wage.  (Our bed and breakfast in Sedona was by far the most plush and luxurious of our trip — we stayed at Boots & Saddles, where we oddly enough met another couple traveling from West Virginia.)  So on our treks around town, we went to a few places around Sedona that were near the vortexes, but I don’t know that I felt any different.

Cathedral Rock, home to one of the vortexes
Cathedral Rock, home to one of the vortexes

Maybe some people are affected by the heat, which makes them feel a different energy.  I call that a hallucination.

This is the very spiritual creek... or at least I think it is
This is the very spiritual creek, according to the mythos… or at least I think it is

I don’t mean to make light of something that so many people spend so much time, energy, and money to try to find here in the desert.  I guess what I’m saying is that I’m not tuned into that wavelength.  Accordingly, while I love-love-loved the scenery, I don’t know that it meant as much to me as it does to some people.  But that doesn’t mean I can’t appreciate it:

Church of the Holy Cross, built into the side of the rocks outside Sedona
Chapel of the Holy Cross, built into the side of the rocks outside Sedona
The View from the Chapel: Breathtaking
The View from the Chapel: Breathtaking

I guess I just find it a little strange that an entire town’s flourishing tourism industry is built around a sort of spirituality in the desert.  Does that make me strange that I think that? 

Well, whatever the reason that people flock there, I would love to return with some proper hiking gear and really dig into the trails around Sedona because there are dozens of them.  Until we meet again, Sedona.

 

In the meantime, I’m thinking of trying to replicate that goat cheese ravioli from Pasto in Flagstaff.  Have you ever made your own pasta at home?

The Truly Grand Canyon

Everyone I know who has visited the Grand Canyon has a firm opinion about it– from, “It’s the most magnificent thing on planet Earth,” to, “It’s just a hole.”  Well, I saw it for myself last week, and let me tell you, even at the end of winter with a good bit of snow left around the shaded edges, it’s more than a hole.  It is breathtaking.

Husband overlooking the majestic erosino
Husband overlooking the majestic erosion

In the winter, you can only visit the South Rim.  The Northern Rim and the Western Rim are both closed until later in March or early April.  Some of the roads are impassable with ice and snow up until that time.  In the summer, you can even raft down part of the Colorado River inside the Canyon.  Now that would be fun!

There’s not as much to do in the winter, so I would love to go back in summer, when you can actually hike down into the canyon, or walk over the plexiglass part of the canyon and look straight down (waaaay down).  But I think I caught the Canyon bug anyway:

Really excited, in case you can't tell
Really excited, in case you can’t tell

There wasn’t much keeping you from going over the edge if you were so inclined.  Some areas had these nifty fences.  Some areas had some rocks about 10 feet from the edge, which were supposed to serve as the You Shall Not Pass Rocks.  One of the most dramatic moments was when we saw a guy take his two small (SMALL!) children past the barriers out to the edge.  Everyone was collectively holding their breath:

Those tiny dots are children.  Nothing holding them up but their own wobbly legs and the guy in the red shirt.
Those tiny dots are children. Nothing holding them up but their own wobbly legs and the guy in the red shirt.

They made it back OK, but it was scary there for a few.  My philosophy is if you want to be an idiot and risk your own life, that’s one thing, but don’t drag your kids (or somebody else’s kids) into it.

The erosion was evident everywhere, even where you stood:

Massive holes from the wind and water erosion
Massive holes on the tops of the Canyon from the wind and water erosion

All I know is I can’t wait to go back and explore it more.  There is so much to learn about there, from the geological, ecological, and social history perspectives.  Plus, it’s pretty:

The beautiful rainbow of colors as you look into the mouth of the Canyon
The beautiful rainbow of colors as you look into the mouth of the Canyon

Sayonara, Grand Canyon!  Hope to see you soon!

 

Have you ever visited the Grand Canyon?  What did you think?