Saturday, May 4, 2013

CATHEDRAL PILGRIMAGE

  Cathedral Rock is located just outside the city limits of Sedona, Arizona, within the boundaries of Coconino National Forest ( www.fs.usda.gov/recarea/coconino/ ) and has a summit at 4,921 feet.  Because it is on forest service land, a federal parking pass is required for this location, and that information is explained in detail on the aforementioned website.  
 Because Cathedral Rock is one of the most popular tourist locations to explore around Sedona, (see www.VisitSedona.com for other popular hikes), there is an automated "vending machine" located at the trail head, where visitors can purchase the required parking pass.  One of the reasons this trail head is so popular, is that the road leading to it is completely paved (as opposed to dirt roads that go to many other area hiking trails), and it even has a paved parking lot!
 A short distance up the trail, you will have the option of continuing on the Cathedral Rock trail, which takes hikers up to the three "saddle points" or gaps between the various sections of cathedral rock. 
 Since there is such an expanse of exposed red sandstone to cross before getting to the appropriate access point to continue one's ascent, trail markers have been erected that assist newcomers.  Such a trail marker is shown in the middle of this photo, and consists of a wire basket, about the size of a 50-gallon barrel, filled with large red rocks.  Our leader told us (with tongue in cheek) that the rocks are in the wire basket to keep them from getting "sucked into a vortex" that some people believe exists in Sedona.  (I did not feel such a vortex, personally).
 Our group enjoyed our ascent on this beautiful day, towards a sky without a single cloud in it.  Another thing our leader told us (again, with tongue in cheek!), was that as long as none of us said a "discouraging word", the skies would not be cloudy all day; he was obviously referencing the famous Western tune, "Home on the Range".
 In this photo, you can see our group strung out over an expanse of level sandstone, that was leading to the Templeton Trail.
 We were able to see other groups of hikers starting their ascents up to the saddle of Cathedral Rocks.  Although this is quite a steep climb, a few "steps" or foot holes have been carved into the side of the rock to make it a bit easier to go up. 
 However, on this day, our Road Scholar group took the Templeton Trail to the right, and started to descend into the deciduous forest that is adjacent to Cathedral Rock.
 The trail gave us a good view of the county's Verde Valley, which is becoming well known for its vineyards and wineries, all of which welcome visitors for tastings.
 I tried to be very careful where I stepped on all the hikes, and as I watched where I stepped on the Templeton Trail, I started noticing the variety of hiking boot prints left by previous walkers.
 I was especially intrigued by someone's hiking boots that left heart-shaped prints in the red sand, and I determined when I got home, I would play around with those heart shapes, and see what I could create.  Hence, this photo that means, "I love Sedona".  However, when one of my fellow hikers saw me taking photographs of the dirt, he was pretty convinced I was suffering from sun stroke, and that I needed to be rehydrated!
 So, I quit taking photos of the dirt, and looked up to see this beautiful scene of yet another of Sedona's landmark rock formations in the distance.
 I want to thank Jeff of New York for offering to take a photo of me with Cathedral Rock in the background.  I was especially glad to get this photo because the metal hiking medalion that I purchased to remind me of Sedona (which I will nail into my wooden hiking stick) has the Cathedral Rock formation on its logo.  The metal hiking stick I was using in Arizona has the advantage of folding up so that it can be put into a backpack when not in use. 
 Templeton Trail follows alongside Oak Creek for quite a distance, and was very scenic. 
 As I was taking photos of the creek, I spotted a single rock cairn, balanced precariously on a rock out in the water.
 Closer examination of the nearby shore line made me realize there were dozens of the rock cairns covering this space.
 I nicknamed the place "Joshua's Beach", remembering the story from Joshua 4:1-24 in the Old Testament.  That is where God told Joshua to lead his men to build a memorial made of stones by the Jordan River, to help them remember how God had miraculously delivered them in their time of need.  The story also specifies that we are to tell future generations that the stones were placed there, to remind us of God's saving nature.
 Speaking of future generations, I am posting this photo to thank my son and his wife for giving me the Canon Powershot camera I used throughout this trip.  The black strap I have around my neck attached to a wrist lanyard on the camera, that was easily removed, when I wanted to hand the camera to someone else to take a photo.  Then, when the camera was reattached to my neck lanyard, I could slip it into my front pocket, to be safely stowed away until the next photo opportunity!  It worked much better than carrying a big, bulky camera, and of course, did not weigh as much!
 The reflections I was seeing in Oak Creek, are a reminder of the reflections of gratitude I have for the Road Scholar leaders and participants that I met on this first-ever Road Scholar trip ( www.roadscholar.org ).
 This photo shows our program leader, Mike Young ( www.UnconformiTees.com ) and his local guide/helper, Peter Baenziger.  Under the auspices of Northern Arizona University, over 90,000 participants have been hosted on adventures throughout the Southwest since 1983.  For more information on the programs  operated by Northern Arizona University, visit  www.nau.edu/roadscholar or phone 800-411-3086.  They will help you plan an expedition that will give you "Miles of Smiles"!  Tricia
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