Our first stop of the day was Ranger Station, so I could get my official lifetime pass to the National Parks. It didn’t open until 9, late for us, but that was ok–it gave me time to work on Latin Placement, a task made far more onerous this year by our switch to the new version of Moodle. I won’t bore you with the details but let’s just say I’ve had to write apologetic emails to first year students because I can’t see their scores as well as scores of emails to ITS.
Even so we were early and sat outside, near the bronze wild pigs. Calli took one look at the wild pig sculptures and got a bit unhinged. Backed away. Barked. Generally amused the other early arrivals with her antics.
Smokey the Bear, on the other hand, passed whatever sculptural test dogs run on things, and she struck a stoic pose.
The first guy I asked about my Senior Citizen Pass made my day by saying “you have to be old enough before you can get that pass.” When he discovered I was indeed old enough, I had to go to a different agent, who complied and gave me what seemed like very good, but were in fact very bad, directions to a hike that had a stream but where I would also find parking. Lest the photos entice you to buy land in Sedona, let me tell you: it’s crowded with more cars than places to put them for the trails. Note I did not say “with not enough parking.” How much parking is enough? How much do you want to alter the natural beauty of the landscape with more parking spaces? Yes, there were trails I might have liked to hike on and by the time I got my pass (I was told) it would be too late. But if you want to hike those trails, get up early and get a space.
Eventually I found the spot she told me about, in the shadow (metaphorically, because shade of any kind is at a real premium here) of Cathedral Rock. I took off blithely on what looked to me like a trail. We climbed up, and up, and up. It really did look like a trail. But after awhile, I realized it was an Assos. And I without Annie Merrill to get me found again. So I turned around, much to Calli’s relief.
In 2013 Annie and I went for a hike in Assos Turkey. We wanted to climb to a cliff we could see. I think. Or maybe we just wanted to hike. Annie is a mighty hiker and trail finder. It is my job to repeat the mantra “Are you sure you know what you are doing?” We went through sheepfields and bogs and over rocks and on goat paths that wanted to be trails when they grew up. She led. I repeated the mantra. Eventually, and I do mean eventually, we crested a cliff with spectacular views. It was breathtakingly unforgettable.
Not, however, quite as unforgettable as the descent. I was pretty terrified. I was sure we were totally lost in rural coastal Turkey. The shepherd who saw us perched on rocks whence there seemed no descent thought we were …well, I have no idea what he thought, as his face registered so many shades of disbelief, not one of which suggested amusement or annoyance. Just complete disbelief. We gestured. He gestured. Eventually, we found our muddy way to something that resembled a road. And got back.
But Annie has a sense of DIRECTION. I do not. So I turned around. The trail, it turns out, is on the other side of the road. It is marked. But not as well as one might hope. About 10 minutes in I ran into Hermes of the Forest. A tall, amiable man of about my age with an official name tag on one side of his chest (Greg? maybe?) and another official-looking tag on the other that said “Friends of the Forest.”
Hermes: Hi! Do you know what you are doing?
Me: Nope! Not a clue! I tried the trail behind the parking, but it doesn’t seem to be a trail. I’m looking for the trail with the stream.
Hermes: It’s not. It’s a ‘social trail’–people use it but it is not marked or charted and not official. You are on Baldwin Trail. If you keep going you will come to a fence and the Oak Creek Trail will be right in front of you. [continue with lots of great information as given by someone who knows exactly what they are about to someone who hasn’t a clue: that is, not as illustrative as you think it will be at the time]
Me: Thank you so much! Well, if there is still a blue Subaru in the parking lot tonight, call the posse.
Hermes: Does anyone know you are out here?
Me: Yup. You do.
Hermes: I will check the parking lot when I leave.
Me: Thank you! Have a wonderful day!
Calli and I wandered off, and I regretted not asking him if he had read the Odyssey. Sent by the forest gods he was. Turns out the creek is at the END of the trail and we were at the beginning.
The trail was gorgeous
and not hard for humans.Hard for dogs wearing coats. We spent a good deal of time in the shade of scrub.
Fortunately, I had brought a lot of water. For most of the time I was completely alone with Calli.
At one point we ran into a couple from Switzerland who were looking for a different trail and we stood around trying to figure out where we were. Then the husband said something to his wife (who, I think, was the one who knew English). “But! You are speaking Italian!” Turns out they were from Avellino, Italy, near Naples but now live in Switzerland. They were really surprised that I knew Avellino. We walked together for a bit, but Calli insisted on hanging out under another bush.
While still sitting under the bush…..
…Calli panting, Jeanne trying to absorb the beauty all around us, A shirtless long hair guy who looked like he belonged on the cover of a romance novel came running up (literally) with three dogs, and Calli was thrilled to see that canines might survive the torture we were going through. The canines were thrilled to smell the dog treats in my bag. He assured me that Oak Creek was close. Close is a relative term. And then Apollo of the Forest took off with Artemis’ hounds right behind him.
We did finally get there. Calli was happy.
We had found Oak Creek but never did find the Oak Creek Trail…and I had no idea how to get back to the car. We did find another part of the creek that is popular as a swimming hole, and Calli immediately commandeered a towel from some unsuspecting bathers (who, blessedly, thought it was funny).
I was pretty happy too:
Finding the car was a bit tricky. But the walk back was great:
I was thrilled to finally see my car…
…and immediately start planning my perfect afternoon. Back to Whole Foods for a huge salad to go and drinks. Back to the hotel. A long bath. A book and Calli doing this:
I had started to work on this piece when Calli finally roused herself and demanded a walk.
This resort abuts a neighborhood. I decided to explore. Two giant poodles objected, loudly. Well, one objected (Sophia Loren) one just watched (Robert Redford). I know their names because their owner, Patsy, came out to quiet them. The next thing I knew I was in her home with her husband, brother, and sister-in-law drinking good red wine and laughing as if with old friends. And if that weren’t treat enough, their home is the original ranch house of the whole area. And, well, just jaw-dropping. Just beyond wonderful.
If the day starts with Hermes (with a would-be Apollo exercising his sister Artemis’ dogs thrown in for good measure), how could it not have ended in Odysseus’ palace with (instead of a bed built round a tree) a kitchen with two beautiful trees as orthostats?
Odysseus had only Argos, but he could have used a few birds…in addition to the two standard poodles, Sophie and Redford, Patsy and Warren have three (?) birds and four cats. This is Millie, who hopped right on my shoulder and did not want to leave.
One walk, four new friends (more if you count Millie!). I will be smiling all the way to West Hollywood (it’s an 8 hour drive so maybe not all the way…)