I Ditched PA for Another Arizona Adventure

With February behind us, sunny and 65 meant no snow and mud skiing in the mountains of Southwestern PA. With warm temps and no snow, I made my way back for another Arizona adventure. And I must say, Christina Skis absolutely LOVES Arizona.

I had a conference in Scottsdale, and when there’s a work thing, there’s an adventure attached, because there’s no way I can fly home from across the country on a Friday. I need to go see the world on Saturday. You should try it sometime, if you should be so lucky.

Friday – Check Into Home Base: Sedona
The last time I was in Sedona, I arrived via I-17 to 179, the Red Rock Scenic Byway, and completely fell in love. The views were incredible, the pull-offs and trails were abundant, and I was hooked. To change it up this time, I drove in via 89A, straight into Uptown Sedona. This route does not showcase the jaw-dropping surroundings but as always, Sedona is beautiful. If you’re coming from the south, I recommend a drive in via 179 in the afternoon and be prepared to have your breath taken away. Check out this map for a better viewing of what I mean: Vortex Map of Sedona

Speaking of “vortexes,” Sedona is a vibrant holistic town, with people who believe in the spiritual energy of the earth, and that this place holds rare points where this is focused. You will believe it too, once you get there.

Sedona, Arizona, Sunset

Saturday – Drive to Your Adventure Destination: Page, AZ
It’s the Instagrammer’s trifecta: I drove 3 hours to see Antelope Canyon, Horseshoe Bend and Lake Powell. I honestly regret taking more time off to drive further north into Utah’s National Parks, so please make note to not pass that up. Two more hours on the road, and I would have been there.

The drive north past Sedona into Flagstaff and continuing through 89N to Page is truly a delight. I went through red rocks to snow covered switchbacks to badlands to canyons and everything in between. It’s about an hour or less to Flagstaff and two more through to Page. Note – there’s no cactuses up this way.

I took a tour of Upper Antelope Canyon at 11:30 am. There are about 5 tour companies and they are all priced at about $60. The guide was great, gave the group tips for taking images on our cellphones, showed me some camera settings and even took pictures of us. During the right season the sunlight will burst through the cracks of the canyon displaying brilliant colors and interesting focal points. But even in the very beginning of the busy season, the place was crowded with tourists and it felt like a frenzy – walk in, take all the pictures you can and don’t stop snapping. The lower canyon was recommended to me as it’s less crowded and cheaper, about $25. Photography tours are also an option if you want the best times and a longer stay in the canyon.

Arizona Photography           Desert, Canyon, Arizona

I met a friendly solo tour-goer who recommended I take the quick drive to Lake Powell, about five minutes up the road. This lake in the middle of the desert is definitely a sight to see. Think, “if Mars had a lake.” Boat tours are available on the lake to Rainbow Bridge, which is a National Monument and one of the highest natural bridges in the US. Noted for next time.

Nature Photography AZ

There’s also a waterfall near here, Grand Falls, with written directions on Trip Advisor. During recent rain, the dust gets pushed through and the falls actually flow brown. But being a solo traveler and on native land, I didn’t know what to expect so I did not go.

Afterward, I parked at Horseshoe Bend and took the short trail to the canyon. It was pretty crowded with tourists and photographers, but I managed to army crawl my way to the edge for some absolutely beautiful views. I learned this at the Grand Canyon – I’m totally afraid of heights… or maybe just standing at the edge of a cliff (hence the army crawl). Worth it.

Landscape Photographt

I hit the road around 4 pm, determined to get back to Sedona before sunset to try and get some real shots with my camera, even though I was asking for a lot with it being February and trying to beat home to sunset. Unfortunately the drive back wasn’t as fast as the drive there, but I did manage to take a look at the Chapel of the Holy Cross by Frank Lloyd Wright before the sun went down, so I will chalk that one up as a win.

Red Rocks, Sedona, Church

Sunday – Bright and Early Goodbye: Phoenix
The two-hour drive south from Sedona is no less beautiful than the drive north. At this time of year, there’s more green than expected on the way to PHX and the landscape is dotted with those big, classic Seguaro cactuses.

It was a fast trip, packed with a lot of driving and schedules, and although I wouldn’t consider it a vacation, it was a once in a lifetime opportunity for experience and growth. Arizona is one amazing state, and I am sure this won’t be the last time I visit it.

 

 

A Twenty-Something’s Quest for Adventure Friends

It’s the 17th of January, a week when all the resolutioners begin to drop like flies at the gym. I, on the other hand, had dreams of blowing the blog up this year. Unfortunately I am still on the slow track of one post a month, if that… Weekly post goals didn’t even make it into January.

I’ve set small goals for myself to achieve through out the year, though. Get better at photography. Hike more. Get in shape. Meet more likeminded people. At least I am hiking, 1 day in, or attempting to get on the mountain with 4 days in on the snow… measly numbers, but at least it’s something. But I’ve been at it alone.

Well, there’s not much snow here, actually. I am a little bit bothered by this as all I really want to do is have a great ski day, with friends. I also began instructing at a small mountain where not much in the way of growing friendships could go. My fellow instructors are all still in high school or just fresh into college, no money or drive to join PSIA for at least a level 1 certification. I fear that the age difference this time around is just too far. I should’ve gone with a larger mountain with more potential for adult acquaintances, who liked what I liked, to build friendships out of. There’s always next year.

I remember a few years back when I was skiing 2 days a week with a nice little crew no matter the conditions. And even two seasons ago I would throw caution to the wind and take days off work to go ski with a friend or two. That doesn’t happen anymore. I miss it. But relationships have moved on, and others have moved into relationships. The few friends I do have left are wrapped up in significant others, or married and beginning the home-life or consumed with children – that’s where our life-goals stop aligning. Yes, we can still catch up over coffee but your main “picture frame” is surrounding your child while my “picture frame” still has a map with a lot of destinations to push pins into. Neither one of us is wrong, our lives and great friendship just do not align at the current moment.

Maybe that is why I have lost friends as time passes by. We all get consumed with work, I’ve moved away and stopped visiting home so much while I build a life on my own here, in the middle of nowhere, where my only acquaintances are chiseled out of emails and phone extensions, emerging from a career and quick texts. I’ve built what I could, holding on to what I could. And then my best friend moved across the globe this year, so it’s hitting me hard.

I had feelings of this type of loneliness in adventure before but I sopped them up with a fluffy Aussie puppy to take care of and hike with. Now, I am trying to take steps to make friends this year as an adult. I joined Venture Outdoors, which provide local excursions in the Pittsburgh area. I am a bit far out from most trips but willing to drive, of course. There are some local ski clinics that I will definitely blow some money on. I will probably take a photography class or two. Have my eye set on some trips from Have Fun, Do Good and Outessa. As for my current friends that I am slowly losing touch with, I need to text or call people directly, as a Facebook status or Twitter post of “Who wants to go?” will never be reciprocated. Millennials.

Sometimes I think, do I do it to myself? Other times, I think, why do I have to reach out? Do I protect myself because the people who I am close to now aren’t really on my level, I hide my plans and just do things myself for fear of being ridiculed? How is this embarrassing? I think it is rather grand. But no one else has asked me to go on hikes or trips with them. It’s always me planning, and if I don’t tell them that I am coming home I will never get to see them. Maybe it’s my fault.

But then again I can’t go blaming the situation, or others and have a pity-party for myself. I have to put a smile on and invite people into this life I want to live. This is what happens when we are adults. I just wish more people were more excited to share it with me.

Unplugged. A Soliloquy.

I find it almost amusing that this is my topic of choice as I type this on my iPhone when I should be sleeping. We have no wifi access in the house so why not use my data plan? My life revolves around digital as I manage that aspect of a marketing department, my attempt at a personal social brand, my dog’s Instagram… I take pictures with a DLSR camera that I am still learning to use. I find recipes for dinner on Pinterest, pay an app for an at-home gym program that I typically avoid using and go to Dr. Google for the answers to all my ailments and daily musings. Unplugged – not in the least.

Yet I need to write things down in a list or on a calendar or else I’ll forget them. Everyday there’s a little bit of me that tries to hold on to the past, before cellphones became attached to our bodies and we shared notebooks between classes with our best of friends to write to each other (#nostalgia). There are times when I have to look away from the computer, move to the corner of my office and stretch or stare out the window at the trees because my eyes are so strained. And there are moments when I am outside where the beauty of the moment can’t be caught on a cellphone or any Nikon.

My eyes, ears, skin, all my senses wander, wrapped up in a moment of awe realizing that I am seeing something that will never be able to be caught on camera – real three dimensional images with real depth and color that never come out right on the computer. Because there’s no wind on your face or the sound of water moving or the dead silence of looking over your first cliff of the Grand Canyon while there’s thousands of tourists around you. There’s no gut wrenching twist at the pit of your stomach when you drive into your first real mountain range where the earth surrounds you over ten thousand feet higher than the tallest mountain in your home state.

The feeling of experiencing something for the first time, with friends, by yourself, a moment of pure love or joy is what good photographers are constantly trying to capture. But you can really feel it without something blocking your face. It only makes sense, right?

I have a mission for myself and my wellbeing to unplug every now and again. I urge you to do the same. Don’t take your camera on a waterfall hike, turn your phone on silent and shove it in the bottom of you pack or (OMG) leave it in the car if you’re anywhere with friends, and leave that damn selfie stick at home if you’re going to a National Park. Make your eyes be the sole lens you will look though on your entire journey. Practice being present in the moment and really take the view in. Really feel it. It’ll be the most beautiful picture you will ever see.

 

(I’m serious about the selfie sticks.)