Lessons from a mountaintop

Recently I was in the Southwest and was blessed with the opportunity to spend a day in Sedona, Arizona. If you’ve never been, I can attest that it looks even more amazing in person, than photos could ever portray. In fact, I have always thought it was more beautiful than the Grand Canyon, in part because you can get up close and personal a lot more easily.

I used to live in Arizona (for 18 years!) and have been to Sedona many times. But this time it was different. I wasn’t a “tour guide” for family, or meeting a friend to catch up – this time I was going to explore the town by myself, and it was something I was really looking forward to. 

Though I am no longer an Arizona resident, I was delighted as I drove into town, viewing the familiar sights of “The Y”, Bell Rock, Capital Butte, and Cathedral Rock. I had decided to try a different trail, and see a different mountain – in this case, Bell Rock. After consulting the ever-helpful Google Maps the previous evening, I found a trail head that would work perfectly. Reviews said it was an easy walk (something I desperately needed after many days of walking around a huge convention center and the Las Vegas Strip) and it had high ratings.

As I pulled up to the trail, I noticed there was very little parking. And unfortunately for me, it was completely full. There was a lot of activity, with people readying their mountain bikes, corralling their kids, and studying the posted trail map. I was extremely disappointed since nobody seemed to be leaving anytime soon. Once I got over myself I decided to drive another 10 minutes to a different trail that I had been to before, one which I knew had a lot of parking. Imagine my immense frustration when I learned that that lot, too, was completely full.

I really had my heart set on doing this trail, and even asked my Angels for assistance in finding a spot. They didn’t help, though later I realized why.

So I remembered during a previous visit I had done a little exploring on the other lesser-traveled side of town, West Sedona. I wasn’t keen on walking that trail because from what I remembered it was just a gradual hill, with a straight path. Not much to look at that I couldn’t see from the road. Plus the thought of walking uphill for 30 minutes was not appealing in the least. Laugh’s on me, as you will see…

But I made my way over there anyway, again with Google’s assistance, and noticed I was being guided a different way than before – this time through a neighborhood. Always game to check out an area’s homes, especially those on a mountainside, I was delighted as I drove through the crooked neighborhood streets. Then I spotted a sign for a trail head. Not the one I was looking for, but I was willing to do something different and realized I was there because of Divine Guidance.

As I pulled into the parking area, it was clear that this was definitely a hidden gem. My rented truck was only one of four vehicles in the spacious lot, so there was no “touristy” vibe here at all. The trail was quite obviously used primarily by the locals living nearby. So I took a few gulps of my water bottle, locked up the truck, and headed over to take a snapshot of the trail map.

The trail was rated on Google as “moderate”, which I felt I could handle. The map indicated it was about 2-1/2 miles, which is totally do-able for me (on flat ground, anyway). And there was a cut-through between the two mountains (called “Chimney Rock” and “Thunder Mountain”) that I could take to shorten it to about 1-1/2 miles in case I decided along the way that I was over it. I was excited about this trek and headed off on the trail.

Little did I realize, “moderate” to some, was “moderately difficult” to me. The trail seemed to be built more for mountain bikes than hikers, though I did come across both. There were plenty of hills and dips, rocks, gravel, twists, and turns. The path was mostly narrow, so I had to quickly step aside onto the cactus-filled brush whenever I heard a group of bikers approaching.

But as I hiked, I told myself to just take my time, that I’m not in any hurry. I had all day after all! I spent the next 30 minutes or so enjoying, really appreciating the natural beauty of my surroundings. Gorgeous red rock formations dotted with greenery, fragrant desert plants just coming into bloom, and a big, blue sky, perfectly clouded to shade me from the damaging desert sun. As much as I was enjoying myself, I became tired, and decided that I would take the shortcut when I came upon it, which wasn’t too much later.

So I saw the sign, marked “Chimney Pass”, and decided to take it, turning left, and onto the path of some “stairs” that were formed out of the rock as an assistance to climbing up the pass. Still unfazed, I patiently, and slowly, made my way up the steps to a clearing where there was a path…. and more steps. Which I again climbed, to another short path… and more steps. I think you get the idea.

At this point I realized that Chimney Pass, like any other “pass” I had ever encountered driving through the Arizona mountains, was a shortcut made of steep climbs and dips, and twists and turns, and required more work than I had imagined it would. Well, crap.


But again, I caught myself and realized there was a reason I was there. Trying to keep a positive attitude, I decided once again that I had all day and could just take my time. Which I did. I also enjoyed an immense feeling of peace. It was incredibly quiet – no mountain bikes are allowed up here, and there were no hikers at the time, either.

It occurred to me as I was laboring up the trail that this was a great reminder that when we decide to take shortcuts in life, they might seem like a good idea, but in reality, they can be more work than doing things the ‘regular’ way. And often, they don’t necessarily save us time, either!

In fact, I posted a little video on my Facebook page from the trail – here it is if you want to view it:

I did eventually make it to the top, and then back down and around the side. In doing so, I saw some of the most beautiful scenes from nature (many of which I have posted here). 

I did have a brief panic that I could get attacked by a rattlesnake or killer bees, or even a mountain lion (all within the realm of possibility in Arizona wilderness) but I kept asking my Angels to protect me, especially Archangel Michael. In doing so, I felt at ease and knew that I was completely under their protection.

Thankfully, I finally ended up back at the trail head. After I indulged in about a liter of water, I checked my Google Fit app (what did we ever do before Google???), and saw that my trek took 90 minutes, but only covered 2.11 miles. On paper it sounds like it was pretty easy, but I don’t think the app took into account that a good portion of that was spent dodging mountain bikers and navigating steps that seemed to lead directly to the sky. Regardless of what any app says, I was DAMN PROUD of myself for having done this. And done it alone. Well, I couldn’t have without my Spirit Team behind me, but I felt them cheering for me too.

So next time I go to Sedona, I think I will definitely do that trail again, though maybe I’ll actually bring someone with me, or at least stick to the ‘easy’ part.

Peace and blessings,