My mantra for my 25th year thus far has been 'love what you love.'
Step one was figuring out what I love. Not too hard. Step two was allowing myself to love it; making changes in my life that reflected what I love. Really hard. I've had to move away from the sense of security that my mind so strongly desires. But, there is no greater sense of stability than remembering that at any moment you have the power to change your situation. That little voice of intuition is no longer drowned out and shut down by my logical brain. (There is still a conversation there, but it's much more equal than previous days.)
So, one thing I know I love is the desert. And another thing is driving long distances by myself. Hence, road trip. I've come to know myself as someone who craves periods of solitude, quiet, and space – there is something so calming for me about being able to see for miles, to move across a vast landscape. The day I spent driving from Berkeley to Sedona, AZ was glorious. I took my time, stopped and marveled, took photos, took mental photos, closed my eyes and breathed deep breaths. I listened only to either my favorite music or the sounds of driving. 15 hours went by fast and I arrived feeling energized, nourished, excited, and full.
I spent my two days wandering. Sedona is a place that attracts many kinds of people but also a certain kind. I think everyone who travels there is seeking to marvel. Whether at the supernatural or the natural, it's impossible to deny that this place calls to be marveled at. It can be experienced fully just by being there, and I found two days was enough to do so (though more time would surely have been appreciated). The reddest of rocks and cool green desert flora is my favorite color palette, and I dedicated my time to spending as much time as possible out in it. Although you could fill your time browsing crystal shops, snoozing in sound healing gong baths, and circumambulating a Buddhist stupa (yes I did all these things too), I would return to Sedona for the hiking. I had a fantastic Airbnb host that shared all her favorite hiking spots that are less inundated with tourists. Here are my favorites:
As the location of one of Sedona's famed energy vortexes, this hike was more crowded than others. But even so, upon reaching the top of the Vista Trail I and my fellow Sedona-pilgrims were rewarded with gorgeous views of the canyon. A bonus treat was the lovely music to meditate to from a man playing a pan flute. (There's Sedona for ya.) Sitting under a twisted Cyprus Tree (the way these trees twist while they grow is said to determine where the energy vortexes are strongest), with the cool gusts of wind, I was sure glad to experience this aspect of Sedona that many come for. While the Bell Rock and Cathedral Rock vortexes may be better known, Boynton Canyon didn't disappoint.
Starting from the Thunder Mountain trailhead in NW Sedona, there are two loop trails, Thunder Mountain and Chimney Rock, that I did as a figure out. There's also a steep little offshoot on the Summit Trail which makes for a wonderful sunrise vista. I also had this all to myself, as well as most of the trails for the following few hours as I figure-eighted around. Also off from the Thunder Mountain loop is the Amitabha Stupa and Peace Park. Prayer flags with personal messages are draped from tree to tree, and a central stupa with a red-rock seated Buddha seemed to fit in the landscape perfectly.
3. Doe Mountain
A little ways out of town, I just about had this trail to myself at sunset. It's a quick hike mostly comprised of switchbacks with a little scampering required. Though it's only just over a mile to the top of Doe Mountain, I spent a good hour wandering around the mesa and taking in the 360° views of Sedona and beyond. It was truly incredible to watch the light change and the sun dip down the true horizon.
There are obviously dozens more hikes in this corner of the desert, and certainly many I would go back to try, but these hikes gave me the time I needed to be in space, marvel at beauty, and remind myself how good it feels to love what I love.