Do you have fond memories of a particular place that you visited when you were younger, a place that reminds you of the days when life seemed to be so much simpler, before adult responsibilities kicked in and when you felt as if anything and everything were within your reach?
I have one, and it’s a place that never fails to give me goosebumps just thinking about it. When I’m in need of the kind of boost that only an evocative memory can give, I conjure up an image of myself bathed in sunshine, drifting on my back down a cool, clear creek, a bottle of beer raised above the water in one hand, waving to the camera with the other.
I had just bid a fond farewell to teenagedom, and was spending a carefree month in the states with a good friend. We had no itinerary, and just went wherever we felt was worthy of a visit, doing whatever we pleased when we got there. We’d ended up in a youth hostel in Flagstaff, Arizona, using the town as a base to visit the Grand Canyon and the surrounding area, and had heard much from our fellow backpackers about a nearby place called Sedona, in the ‘Red Rock’ region of the state. As soon as we saw the images of huge, bright red stone buttes and monoliths with a brilliant blue sky as their backdrop and the cool, clear waters of the creeks beneath them, we were sold.
We opted for a guided tour, with what turned out to be a thoroughly likeable and inspiring guide. He united us as a group, not by going through the whole ‘tell us your name and a bit about yourself’ teeth pulling kind of exercise, but through his passionate knowledge of the region. He made us feel as if we were discovering an exciting and spiritual place that would remain in our hearts forever. This all sounds a bit romantic and gushy I know, but if the time in your life is right and you’re in a beautiful place with beautiful people, before you know it, you’re feeling invincible, just like we were that day in Sedona.
Our guided tour involved hiking at a medium degree of difficulty, scrambling up rocks in the scorching heat to reach pinnacles with which to stand and look down upon the stunning landscape below, and walking at a more leisurely pace in the shadow of the rocks while we chatted about the surrounding wildlife and plants. Sedona, I later learned, has an extensive network of hiking trails, all with varying degrees of difficulty, giving walkers of all shapes, sizes and levels of fitness an opportunity to discover the region on foot, always a favourite with me (any activity that’s free gets my vote)! Some of the trails lead up to the top of rock formations and will reward you, the huffing, puffing hiker, with some breathtaking views as you approach the pinnacle. Other trails take you alongside winding creeks, allowing you to look up and around in awe of the massive red rock structures.
After our hike, we had time to immerse ourselves in the cool, flowing waters of a creek, with the added luxury of a bottle of beer or two with which to sit, sup and admire the scenery.
For anybody with a love of outdoor pursuits, Sedona is a great location, and I know that fishing, horseriding and biking are immensely popular there.
Had we stayed in Arizona for a few more days, I’m sure we would have paid a visit to one or all of the red-rock regions state parks, one of which features a naturally eroded water slide surrounded by massive red-rock walls.
In case you hadn’t guessed it by now, I loved this place and never have I been anywhere quite like it since. Something happened in my soul that day in Sedona and when I spent the following day visiting the Grand Canyon, I learnt that it isn’t just the famous wonders of the world that can blow you away with their beauty, and in fact the canyon paled in significance to me after my amazing time in Sedona.
I’m sure that if I ever have the good fortune to go back there, I just might end up sobbing on my knees in the creek, although no longer being the flexible teenager with boundless energy that I was back then, I just might end up staying right there!