Monday, April 25, 2011
AZ: Sedona Vortex
Words by Greg
Photos by Greg and Trina
The final installment of our AZ trip recap:
A dome of stars arched over the dome of our tent. A late moon. A crisp morning sunrise. We pack up our last camp of the trip and head from wilder places into the whirl of civilization.
We both have an uneasy relationship with civilization. We're part of it. We know that. But we manage to feel as if we're not connected with it, or at least not responsible for it. As if we wouldn't mind if civilization were to careen onward and leave us behind, bobbing in its dirty wake, waiting for the water to clear and the waves to calm.
So instead of heading pell mell into the strange civilization of Sedona, we stop short, linger near the fringe. We leave the truck in a parking lot where hordes of other tourists lumber from huge buses to gawp at the towers of red rock, cheap cameras snapping away at the parked cars, the surrounding fence, themselves posed in front of what may be, in the distant background, a glorious mountain of stone. We grab our bikes and ride away onto a weaving red snake of a trail that stalks the highway, then slithers away toward the naked red stone.
The trail fulfills our mountain bike desires, with sections of fast swooping curves and packed dirt, shallow stairs of terraced rock, twisted climbs, smooth stone, tight squeezes, small drops, and short, punchy hills. The bright blue of the sky explodes with white clouds and sunshine. The wildness of the ride belies the fact that we're never far from the weary stuff of the city of Sedona, which bleeds into the valleys and oozes onto mountains, overlaying the burst of red rock and soil from the deeper earth with money and arrogance, with "second" homes and commercial inanity.
We turn our eyes instead, toward the juniper and pinyon trees, to the soaring red cliffs, to the narrow band of trail that leads us onward. And turn blind eyes to the scourge of civilization. The same blind eyes that prefer not to see that the truck we arrived in, the roads we arrived on, the food we eat and the bikes we ride all tether us to the civilization we claim to deny.
The very trail, slipping as is does stealthily between the cracks of the more obvious machinery of humanity, is a product of that same machine. If there were no one here to ride, there would be no trail. Or if a trail, a humble and rough one, molded by the hooves of deer, perhaps, not the rollicking roller coaster upon which we now plunge and soar.
The sunshine is warm, but a blue breeze stalks the ridge tops, pulling chill from our sweat. The breeze must also bear dust or pollen from a distant place, for Trina is having a spectacular allergy attack. She is snorting and hacking and repeatedly riding up to me shouting "See? See?" angling her face toward me. I am supposed to look at her in shock and horror at the vast river of snot that is running down her upper lip, dripping free, and coating the trail in a thick layer of mucus and slime. But to me it never looks like much more than a thin bead of moisture below her nose and I repeatedly fail to be impressed, which causes her much disappointment.
Zeek is in the truck enjoying a day of rest. Sprocket might as well not be with us, as he so closely matches the color of the red dirt that we can hardly see him. We ride stone shelves past people lost in meditation or the contemplation of UFOs. We bump up and down rocky staircases. We skim near a swift little river. And swoop and holler along the trail.
Lunch is served trailside overlooking the lifestyles of the rich and famous, backed by desert trees and shrubs, and carpeted -- very thinly -- with a few early spring flowers. The bright day begins to dim behind high, fast-moving clouds. We turn back and enjoy the reverse of our morning ride, now grunting where we had swooped down, and swooping where we had climbed in the morning, still managing to grin despite the miles in our legs.
Back at the truck, we take Zeek for a quick taste of the trail, then load up and head out, fleeing the mayhem that creates a whirling vortex around Sedona. We head toward home, not leaving civilization behind, to be sure. But perhaps slipping stealthliy over long miles through the cracks between the noise and bright glare of our civilization. Heading homeward to where we do our best to find a quiet space where we can keep to our own warm glow.