Sunday, February 26, 2012

Buddha Beach - Sedona, followed by Montezuma's Castle

Given yesterday's 7-mile hike (9 mile if you count my side trip up the Vista trail at Boynton Canyon), we took it easier today.  We landed at the Crescent Moon Recreation Area.  When we pulled up to the gate, and learned that it was $9 for entry and $1 for a map, and my Federal Parks Access Pass didn't get me in free, I knew this was an exclusive place.

It turns out, only a few locals, us, and some guy from Goldman Sachs who had come to pray for the financial system at the energy vortex at Buddha Beach were there first thing in the morning.

Just kidding, there were a number of people meditating at Buddha Beach - a beautiful slab of red sandstone set next to bubbling Oak Creek with Cathedral Rock towering above.  Here's how it looks with no one around - this picture taken at dusk when everyone else had left.

Now, during the day, there were quite a few folks either laying on the rocks, sitting in the lotus position chanting, or otherwise meditating in harmony with the energy vortex.  Unfortunately for them, we had brought our own Energy Vortex...and our Energy Vortex was ready to grind some rails, skip some stones, and splash and scream in the freezing water.

He did meditate a little after taking a fall.

It was a fun day, more so because we don't live here, are staying well away from town, and leave tomorrow morning!

After wearing out Crescent Moon Recreation Area, we headed out of town for Montezuma Castle National Park.  Montezuma Castle is the best-preserved American Indian cliff dwelling, dated at approximately 1,000 years old.  The Sinagua people who built and lived in these cliff dwellings knew how to pick a great location.

These ruins are so unique in our experience, that I had to put the picture above with our son in it first to establish reality.  Here's a close-up.

Since we had been talking about what the Sinagua farmed and hunted, it was only appropriate that I saw a bunch of wild Javelina crossing the road in front of me later in the day.  I managed to get one clear shot of the last one as he scampered into the bush.

Finally, I ended up back at Crescent Moon Recreation Area for the sunset.  Here are a few shots of Cathedral Rock as the day faded.

Sedona has the Best Hot Dog in the USA - A New Champion in the Hot Dog Title Fight!

While Yelping our way across Sedona, we stumbled into Simon's - and we have a new "Best Hot Dog in the USA"!

OK, OK, I know there are cynics among you out there who are going to notice that Simon's is attached to the Oak Creek Brewing Company, purveyor of fine ales, a fantastic IPA, and crafted beers.  You're going to say that this biased my decision, or that we'd been drinking when we voted, or some such slanderous accusation.  Not so!  As I was driving, I had one very small IPA.  The only other voter was my son, and at age 9, he wasn't impaired.  It was, however, a lively debate.

First, we considered the bun.  Here, Simon's wins hands down.  Simon's buns are as soft as a pillow, yet still crusty enough to hold the generously-sized sausage and helping of delicious toppings.

Next,we considered the dog itself.  While the Roanoke Wiener Stand's dog is more traditional, which would sway the vote their way in an Orthodox competition, we are not orthodox by any means.  Willie's Weenie Wagon, the other contender, has a great dog, but it is simply less tasty than the Roanoke Wiener Stand and Simon's.  Simon's hot dog was sized more like an English Banger, and it was steaming hot even on a cold Sedona evening, and bursting with juicy goodness.  In the dog category, again, Simon's won the judging.

Finally, there was the topping.  Here we split the vote.  My son prefers the Roanoke Wiener Stand dog with mustard, onions, and chili.  Their chili is some of the best hot dog chili in the world.  It is the standard by which all meat hot dog chilis are measured.  Again, to the Orthodox, the Roanoke Wiener Stand chili is the Ark of the Covenant of chili.  However, I had Simon's Wunderhund, with a creamy mustard-based onion, and pickle "salsa" topping that is so fresh, unique, and delicious, and such a perfect complement to Simon's dogs, and topped with a sprinkling of crunchy bacon bits.  For the first time ever, I questioned my devotion to the Roanoke Wiener Stand.  I, clearly, have a new favorite hot dog.

Finally, while it played no part in the voting, I have to say that Philippe himself (the proprietor of Simon's) is one of the nicest people that we have ever met.  He takes tremendous pride in his food quality and service.

My son's Cowboy Dog (if he had just added raw onions to the top, the deliberations on the Best Hot Dog would have been over in seconds):

My Wunderhund:

So, if you want a Guaranteed Positive Attitude Adjustment, forget the energy vortex and make a pilgrimage to Simon's for the Best Hot Dog in the USA!

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Sedona - Boynton Canyon Walk

We headed out today to do a hike through the Red Rocks of Sedona.  Recognizing our propensity to get lost, we fueled up with a big breakfast at Randall's in Cottonwood, AZ to start the day.  I had the country fried steak topped with verde sauce and cheese, a couple of eggs, and a healthy buckwheat pancake on the side to flush the cholesterol through  my system.

Our son opted to try something new - corned beef hash, eggs, and a pancake on the side.  We entertained him with stories of how the only meal his uncle and aunt ate as kids was corned beef hash, as that was the only thing that his grandfather could cook.  He didn't really like his meal, and has a new found empathy for the struggles my older siblings went through as children.

The wife chose a Denver omelette, 86-ing the green chilies and adding tomatoes.

With enough food in our gullets to last for several days of wandering in the Red Rocks Secret Mountain Wilderness, we began our attempt to walk off the calories at the parking for the Boynton Canyon trailhead.

Of course, given the size of the breakfast, our first scenic overlook was the pit toilets.

The start of the trail, and the majority of the first three miles, is flat and easy walking.

It is clearly signposted.

We saw deer, birds, and a bees nest, but alas no spiders, scorpions, or snakes.

The views along the Boynton Canyon trail are predominantly to the right/north side of the trail, so the light on the rocks is beautiful during the winter months.

The trail passes above Sedona's Enchantment Resort.

One word of caution...whatever you do, don't stray off the trail to the downhill side and blunder into Enchantment Resort from the rear.  Why, do you ask?  Simply read the sign posted on the trail.

"Armed Patrol on Duty 24 Hours...Video Taping in Progress" - sounds more like the tower used to imprison the princess.  The sign sends the wrong message and makes me wonder about the attitude of management.  I'm not sure I've seen any wild-eyed hippies on the trails or in Sedona that merit video taping and armed patrols.  The tapes might be interesting to watch, though, as I'm sure lots of fascinating things happen in the bushes.

Now back to our hike!  Some of the houses in the canyon are stunning.

Lots of red rocks, and as you get into the canyon, the light from the northern wall reflects to the southern wall, bathing the entire canyon in an orange-red glow.

The view to the right...

...and to the left.

Boynton Canyon is home to one of the New Age "vortexes" (yes, I know it should be vortices, but here in this Special Place, the rules of basic Latin grammar get set aside and they call them "vortexes").  Trees twist in unusual ways, and your inner energy is enhanced and strengthened or balanced, depending on your personality and the characteristics of the vortex.  While we feel ourselves to be pretty in tune with the natural world, having spent so much time walking and camping in it, and having stripped our lives down to pretty much the bare necessities in order to do so, the main vortex we sensed came from the helicopters that kept buzzing overhead during our hike.  This one below was a real daredevil, taking his passengers right up next to the red rock face.

One thing that we did notice was that some of the massive red rocks in Boynton Canyon looked to be your regular sandstone, but some of them also had an inner core of crystals, my guess being rhyolite.

So here's a bit of "crystal power" in the red rocks...but since it seems to have been "discovered" in the last thirty years, and then back filled with a whole history of UFOs and visits by extra-terrestrials and Indian lore, and accompanied by an explosion of retail and real estate development, I'm a bit incredulous.  Those of you who know me know that I've had my hippie days, that I've partied with the Rainbow People in the Ocala National Forest, but when something smacks of hype as much as the New Age machine that markets Sedona to over 5 million visitors a year, I can't help but feel like there is more marketing than metaphysical energy at work here.  As the bumper sticker says, "Happiness is a Journey, not a Destination."  If you've got positive energy inside you, you can harness it regardless of what rock you happen to be standing my opinion.

Back to the hike!  At the very end of the canyon, the trail cuts steeply up the face.

If you keep walking past the "End of Trail" sign, not going higher but instead walking along the rock face away from the end of the canyon, you are rewarded with stunning views in all directions.  Looking back up the canyon...

...and back the way you came.

Of course, no hike through a place as visually and spiritually powerful as Boynton Canyon is complete without the moment of epiphany.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Scottsdale Gun Club

Golf - bah!  When in Scottsdale, there are two things to do: shoot guns and go horseback riding!  The number one attraction has to be the Scottsdale Gun Club.  If you're 12 or over, you can rent a machine gun!  The facilities are great, the staff are friendly, the range masters are helpful, and the club members are welcoming!  I took our son there today, and in addition to renting a number of 9mm handguns to try, he got to shoot a Ruger 22 that "felt like it was molded to fit my body" that another shooter had on the line when we were there.

We had a great time, and 150 rounds later, here are the results.

With the CZ 75 Compact 9mm, which was so light that the kick was a bit hard for a 9 year old to handle, we shot the Smiley Face:

With the Heckler & Koch P2000, he shot two bullseyes from 21 feet (7 yards), and dumped a bunch of rounds onto the paper with 3 FTEs.  I was surprised by the FTEs on the HK, as he has shot an HK 45 a number of times without a failure, but he was nervous in the range environment.  It's a lot different shooting inside a building with a very loud Mauser rifle letting go next to you when compared to shooting outside in "Manland" with no such distractions.

Finally, here's what he did with the Ruger 22 rifle.  Honestly, as the Range Master told me more than once, a 9 year old should stick to .22 caliber guns, as the heavier rounds only encourage bad habits since the weapons are too heavy for a kid his age...but since he came in to fire a machine gun, and didn't qualify, I let him pick what he wanted off of the handgun rack, and it turned out to be the HK and CZ 9mm...maybe we'll stick to .22 tomorrow!

Here's the full monty:

Once we'd finished shooting guns, it was time to ride horses!  We went to Cave Creek Outfitters, and while the ride was not really a "trail ride", but more of a ride through what remains of the desert after Troon North Golf Club has carved it up into overpriced houses with no water or sewer, we still had a great time.  The environment is only half the fun when riding, the battle between son and horse is at least as amusing, if not moreso!

We mounted up, and headed out into the junterlands.

The sun was blazing.

Every plant we passed had numerous thorns and pokey bits that would have stymied my love life had I fallen off of the horse.

These "jumping cactus" below are particulary nasty, with barbed spines that must be cut out.

We endeavored to persevere.

...but I was left wondering why my wife got the big, frisky horse.

Once we turned for home, the horses actually stepped up their pace (at lease mine and our son's did, my wife's horse had to be held back the whole ride).

...despite the quickened pace, the land mines still appeared with disconcerting frequency.

Our son picked a path through the cacti like a Mongol warrior...

...and both the riders and horses smiled when we came within sight of the stables on the homeward journey.

There's nothing that can't be fixed by a hot tub!