Ah, Sedona!

Snoopy Rock

This is beautiful red rock country, mountainous, with elevations ranging 4,800 and above. This is also a mecca for hikers, rock climbers, mountain bikers, and outdoor enthusiasts of all kinds. The communities of this area…Sedona, Oak Creek, and Jerome, are all a bit different, as you would expect, and each capitalizes on the sun, Native American art, pioneer spirit, the magnificent scenery, and shopping, shopping, shopping!

Sunday afternoon we went to a state park just out of town called “Slide Rock,” and joined others who were out for a cool and natural version of a water park. Slide Rock has natural rock formations in a shallow creek that allow you to slide through the water, just like you would at a water park. Only this slide has surroundings of beautiful red rock cliffs and rock formations all around it. It’s a popular kid destination, and a lot of families were there for the day with coolers, water floats, and assorted members of multi-generations gathered to enjoy a sunny Arizona afternoon.

Stephanie, Matt & Riley at Slide Rock

Sedona has a plethora of spiritual and psychic centers, and there are “vortex” points where there is a concentration of energy. You can seek counsel or guidance if that’s your interest, and with the variety of places offering these services in town, you shouldn’t have to stand in line too long.

There are “Pink Jeep” tours that take you on different sight-seeing rounds, looking at the rock formations that have inspired names like “Snoopy Rock” or “Coffee-Pot” or “Castle Rock.” You can rent bikes if you don’t have your own, go on horseback rides, or do it the old-fashioned way and hike the canyons.

Yesterday we stopped at the Chamber of Commerce to pick up some info on bike trails, and a gully-washer rain, the likes of which I hadn’t seen before, came down while we were inside. So we waited it out, watching as huge drops of rain and hail beat down, and literally created a white-out so that the magnificent views were obliterated. Let me tell you, Ketchikan rain has nothing on a true Arizona monsoon storm! Fortunately we weren’t prisoners too long. These storms are short and sweet, and keep the temps in a manageable range of low 90s…not bad for August in the high desert.

Tomorrow we’re going on a bike ride. We’ve hauled bikes all over this country, and I’m sorry to say don’t use them as much as we should. But in such a setting as this, it seems essential to get out and see nature in a more personal way.

Ah, vacation…the time of slow pace, discovery, adventure…the sweet life!

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First days of summer

It’s almost July, and I still hear the heat kick on some nights. I still wear a light sweater or windbreaker jacket every morning. But real summer heat is on the horizon. The summer season here is July and August. If we’re really lucky it might stretch into September.

This is the brief season when I wear summer sandals, strappy little heels, tank tops, sleeveless dresses, when my hairstyle becomes a ponytail and my house heats up with the afternoon sun. This is the time of year when I remember that my car has air conditioning, and I wish my house did. This is when I make up reasons to go to Wal-Mart to enjoy the cool indoor climate. This is the full-price season for cruises in Alaska, because you’re more likely to have a postcard day for your stay in port than a rainy day.

I think about summer traditions in other places I’ve lived: Rockies baseball games, summer gardening season when the earth produces home grown tomatoes that are warm from the sun when you pick them; farmers’ markets; rambling drives “in the country” just because; kids playing in the sprinkler, and trips to summer camp. I think about road trips and vacations to the beach.

Hhmmm. Alaska is more about coastline than beach, although there are a few beachy areas here in Ketchikan, and you can get in the water…probably not for too long. But summer fishing is always popular, and there are great hikes around Ketchikan. You can camp in backcountry Forest Service cabins, and if you’re lucky you might see black bear. Summer is the season when it rains less, and people whose homes are on a rain collection system for water may have to have their tanks filled by truck. Seems hard to believe, but you can actually run out of water here, in the rain forest.

Summer is the season the ferries are full, and if you plan to take a vehicle on a ferry, and haven’t reserved space for your car, it’s probably already too late. Walk-on passengers usually don’t have space issues, but vehicles are another matter in summertime.

Summer is about the commercial fishing industry, and the addition of crews who come up to man the boats and to work in the processing plants. (Workers who clean the fish and remove the un-edible parts work on the “slime line” and all wear the iconic footwear of Southeast Alaska, Extra-Tuff boots.)

Summer is about tourists. And in Ketchikan that means the jewelry stores open downtown…don’t ask my why cruises and jewelry stores are such a popular combination. It means the return of summer workers to support the tourism industry, the influx of summer construction crews, road crews, shipyard crews. Even the Forest Service brings in summer workers. That’s when they are busy out in the field monitoring wildlife and forest and water conditions. Alaska Airlines adds flights to the daily schedule. Even the hospital sees an uptick in volume (never thought about it, but quite regularly, cruise passengers who come through are admitted for all sorts of illnesses that occur after boarding, and Ketchikan is the first port on the way up the Inside Passage).

Summer is the season you’re more likely to have visitors. It’s the time for town activities like the Fourth of July parade, the Blueberry Festival, the Salmon and Halibut Fishing Derbies. Summer brings the looong days and short nights. On Wednesday evenings sailboats dot the waters I see from my windows.

There’s a quote I like from Henry James:

Summer afternoon – Summer afternoon… the two most beautiful words in the English language.

We’re not quite there yet, but soon…soon, the magic of the summer will be here again.

photo from here