A Magical Descent

Time has a way of changing things, including my memory.  The last time I was in Sedona was almost twenty years ago.  I was drawn to the area and convinced my partner at the time that we should take a trip to the southwest during our Christmas holidays.  I remember approaching Sedona from Flagstaff to the north and descending down Oak Creek Canyon.  It was a very steep, narrow and dangerous drive.  We were travelling in a truck and camper at the time.  I swore that if I ever came back to this area again, I would never approach Sedona from that direction – certainly not hauling an RV.   But that’s exactly what I did.

Switchbacks of Oak Creek Canyon drive

As soon as I started the descent, I remembered what my mind forgot–the hair-pin turns, the narrow and steep seemingly bottomless canyon below, towering mountains and looming rock cliffs, and a thick forest of coniferous trees crowding the road not only robbing me of the remaining daylight but also casting blinking shadows across my vision each time the sun peeked through the heavy clouds.  There were sharp broken edges of pavement, an eroded shoulder with hardly any place to pull over, and patches of fresh snow and black ice on the edge of the road.  I realized my mistake.  I felt trapped.  There was no way to turn around as I approached the steepest section of the canyon road.

I white-knuckled the wheel for approximately five miles while I dropped in elevation almost 2,000 feet, a drive that seemed endless.   Even with the Buick’s engine groaning in second and third gear for the entire descent, I still had to continually apply the brakes.  I thought about the weight of all my worldly possessions packed away in the trailer behind me pushing the car over the edge at any moment.  I prayed a lot.  I also thanked God for blessing me with four brand new brakes on the Prowler.  Several times I felt the trailer slide going around a corner while Arizona’s rush hour traffic from Flagstaff kept pushing me to go faster.  Car after car appeared behind me and took chances to pass with no available pavement ahead.  Once I tried to pull over to let a line of cars go by, but I scraped the bottom of the trailer as I dropped sharply off the edge of the pavement into a not-so-visible dirt pothole.  I finally gave up on concerning myself with what was behind me and focused instead on the harrowing drive in front of me.  I had to remind myself to breathe, as blood pumped through the arteries and veins of my neck making it difficult to swallow.   I sighed with relief when the canyon started to open up and I saw the “Sedona City Limit” sign stuck in the side of a cliff.

Then something magical happened.  I looked up over the steering wheel to witness the giant colourful rock formations so characteristic of Sedona’s “Red Rock Country”.  They radiated a warm rich glow from a late afternoon sun that was now shining through the parting dark clouds.  “I’m finally here,” I thought.  “How fitting that the sun start to shine just as I arrive,” I said out loud.  Even though I had seen all of this many years before, I surprised myself with the intensity of my excitement in seeing these magnificent rock structures again.  I felt tingles over my whole body.  I was euphoric.  I wanted to get out of the car to take pictures, but again, there was no place to pull over.  By this time I was still only moving 15 or 20 mph, but the giant red rocks seemed to pass way too quickly on my left.  But as I continued driving, there were more red rocks—and more–around every bend.  But that wasn’t the end of the magical descent.

Magical Phenomenon

As I began to see the first signs of Sedona, I looked above the road ahead and saw a brilliantly coloured rainbow beaming down in the direction of the town.  But this rainbow was different.  It came straight out of the parting clouds without even the slightest bend and was very wide, as if it were right in front of me.  “How magical!  A straight rainbow,” I thought.  Within seconds of seeing this beautiful and surprising anomaly, I finally reached the wide red earthen brick sidewalks of Sedona.  I manoeuvred my trailer carefully around the sharp bends and traffic roundabouts, a stretch of driving that seemed pale in comparison to what I had just driven through in the canyon.  Gawking tourists stepped haphazardly out onto the street on their way to and from the rectangular-shaped adobe restaurants and shops.

As I drove on, I was surprised by the amount of traffic.  I realized how Sedona had grown.  I remembered twenty years prior a small town with one main street and a few shops, mostly within walking distance.  But now the main street is a far-reaching three-lane highway with side streets that zigzag and stretch their way up the canyons and hills that surround the town.  In fact, it is a sprawling bustling city, not the quaint little town that I remembered.

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19 Responses to A Magical Descent

  1. William says:

    Under the rainbow there lies good fortune. I see you have found it. Magical journey indeed.
    Beautiful story.

    P.s.. Wonderful profile pic. Like the hat. You look like a real cowgirl.

    Take care,

    • Shanomi says:

      Thanks William. That rainbow I’ve been told is a real anomaly around here and only a few have seen it – so I feel very fortunate to have that blessing. The hat? I call it my “Sedona hat” because I bought it in Sedona 20 years ago but didn’t have the fortitude to wear it back in Canada because people made fun of it. But it feels right to wear it here, and I’ve had lots of people comment in a good way. Lovely to hear from you. Hope all is well back home.

  2. Margaret says:

    your words are word pictures – very, very, very, impressive

    your Prof’s from all walks of life are really PROUD of you!

  3. Ginny says:

    Glad to hear from you Shanomi, I was wondering if you were on the move as there were no posts for awhile. Always enjoy reading your posts.

    • Shanomi says:

      Hi Ginny…I joined a writer’s group recently and everyone there is encouraging me to focus my writing on a manuscript which is what I’ve been doing. I can’t always promise that the posts on the blog will be a regular occurence, but I still intend to keep that part of my writing up. Send me an email anytime if you get bored waiting to read something from me.:) Thanks for checking in.

  4. Joan Hebb says:

    Thank you for sharing this travelling experience with me – I admire your courage Shanomi.

  5. Karen and Wally Brown says:

    Good Sunday Afternoon Shanomi:

    I realize now that held my breath all the way down into Sedona as I read your blog and navigated the turns with you. I am exhausted!!! As always, we love reading your newest adventure. Having spent days there on several different occasions, it is easy to close our eyes and be right there with you – almost! Missing you terribly. (I made your lemon dessert and oatcakes last week just to have a part of you in my kitchen). Lots of love – Karen and Wally

    • Shanomi says:

      As always, Karen and Wally, it is so great to hear from you. Thank you for the compliment. Your kitchen always smells wonderful with one of your culminary creations, even if it just coffee, but it’s special to know it is one of mine. Miss you too, especially singing in the trio. I’ve been looking for a choir to sing with and will be attending my first practice with one on Tuesday in Cottonwood – a 100-voice choir – so if I no longer have any sound coming out of my lungs and mouth because it’s been a while and the cords are rusty, it won’t matter. There’ll be 99 others to drown me out.:) Take care and many blessings to you both.

  6. Rosalie says:

    Shanomi- Congratulations to you on so many levels. Thanks to Paulette I have been blessed to read of your adventures. You have an incredible gift of describing your experiences in words that puts the reader right beside you on your travels. You are right up there with the very successful writers and poets, for indeed I find your writing poetical. You are certainly a woman of many gifts. Thank you for sharing so beautifully your adventures- for facing your fears and showing us all nothing is impossible.
    Looking forward to your next moment.
    Love and light to you.

    • Shanomi says:

      Dear Rosalie…How absolutely great to hear from you after all these years. And wow – thank you sincerely for those wonderful supportive comments. You’ve made my day. As I’ve told others and mentioned in my posts, I’m following a dream/vision that I’ve had for over 10 years – to create a lifestyle for myself to write. I am now realizing that vision. As for you, you have never been far away in spirit, and your gifts have helped me over the years – so thank you again. My focus right now is working on a manuscript for publication with the support of a small writer’s group near Sedona. Glad to know that you will be following me on the blog. This blog has been helping me get my feet wet. If you choose to click the “Follow this blog” link, you will be sent an email immmediately after I post a new piece, so you don’t haave to keep checking the blog to see if I’ve written anything new. You will automatically be notified. Looking forward to the road ahead for all of us.
      Blessings to you

  7. Paulette says:

    Oh WOW so now , how do you get out of there, the same way only uphill ? if it as vertical going up that is where I also would go crazy, I really do not relish big 90 degree climb I feel like I am going backwards You some brave girl, to do that wilh all that weight behind you. Now Imagine that there are no limits to what you can attempt. Look at all the rewards you get for doing so. Look at all the points that you are gaining in the character chapter of your life. Ha ha after all you have gone thru in your life you KNOW that you are ALWAYS safe, hugs,

    • Shanomi says:

      Hey Paulette…Nice to hear from you. In response to your comment, I’m trapped here forever 🙂 and ever 🙂. No way out. 🙂 Just kiddin’, of course. Now that you asked, I’m planning my escape route for the spring – east to I-17, north to I-40, east again to I-25 and then due north, which in reverse is the route that I should have taken in November – AND 20 years ago. In the meantime, I am enjoying my time trapped “down in the Red Rock valley so low”, which is actually over 4,000 feet high, writing, taking lots of pictures, riding my bicycle every day, eating fresh lettuce out of my Walmart bin garden by my RV door, having lunch most days in my lawn chair out in the warm Arizona sun, meeting lots of interesting people, and eating and sleeping whenever I desire. I’m really anxious to get out of here though and look for a better lifestyle. 🙂 PS I was a “character” before I started this trip; thanks for recognizing that.🙂

  8. Peg says:

    Bless whatever divine intervention brought you safely through that journey. I can only
    imagine your terror and the relief that followed. What a gift the rainbow was, rewarding
    your strength and courage.
    And so your pilrimage continues….

  9. Bob MacLaren says:

    You are on a roll ! Great travelling and keep up the commentary !

  10. sandy lewis says:

    Hi Shanomi! Always look forward to your writings. I think of you and wonder with curiosity about your wonderful ventures. So glad and happy for you.
    Wishes for great fun, happiness and health.
    fondly, sandy

  11. My mother keeps trying to convince me to go to Sedona with her. One day soon I will make it there.

    Courtney Mara

    • Shanomi says:

      Thanks for stopping by, Courtney. You would fall in love not only with Sedona but also the entire countryside. Don’t put off today what you may not have a chance to do tomorrow – time you listened to your mother:)

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