Ain’t Life Grand?

It’s all starting to run together now :). Wednesday morning, we saw the sunrise from the Chapel of the Holy Cross. It was pretty chilly and what you don’t see in these pictures are Laura and I bundled up underneath about six layers of clothes and blankets.

Sunrise inside of the Chapel

Sunrise outside of the Chapel

Later that morning we trekked up Bell Rock as planned. It would’ve been amazing to be able to go up the last bit with some rock climbing equipment (and a guide), but the view we got was incredible. It ended up being all of us minus Paul who got a new hip for Christmas. He’s already about two months ahead of schedule recovery-wise, he’s “supposed” to still be using a walker, but instead he’s basically independent of even a cane. It’s a huge achievement to be where he is and doing what he’s doing but climbing up rocks is still a couple months away, so sadly, we had to go without him. If it were me, I’d probably have lazied around, felt sorry for myself and read a book. But, Paul walked a trail near Bell Rock and we were able to spot him from a distance at various points in our climb.

The Sun peeking around Bell Rock on our way up

Laura and Betty from our perch atop of Bell

Insert your own “I’m on top of the world!” caption here

Kristi Leigh and Eric harnessing their Chi on Bell

The view from Bell Rock

After some fantastic sandwiches from a Natural Foods store in town (Sedona is extremely veggie-friendly) we hiked a nice little trail called Soldier’s Pass. The story behind this photo is that it nearly didn’t happen. We asked someone else on the trail to take a picture of us, and after getting the camera back from him, we discovered that he hadn’t snapped the picture. Actually, he hadn’t snapped either of them since he took two “just to be sure”. So, we had to repose and ask them to snap it again with Paul politely suggesting, “maybe your wife could take it.” Classic.

And now the main event. Thursday morning, we skipped sunrises all together and made the two-hour drive north to yet another large hole in the ground, the mother of all holes in the ground: the Grand Canyon. When we entered the park and started getting close, I made sure not to look out the window. The reason is that when we got to the first good lookout point and stopped the car, Laura and Betty led me to the railing with my eyes closed. “Alright, open ‘em.” What appeared before me filled my entire range of vision and it was unlike anything I’ve ever seen and it was so much bigger than I was prepared for! Teddy Roosevelt said that the Grand Canyon is “the one great site all Americans should see.” Here, here, Ted. Here, here.

The first day at the Canyon we spent some time walking along the rim and hitting a couple of the lodges and shops. That night, after freezing our buns off watching the sun set on a three million year old Canyon that averages ten miles in width, we went to an hour long program about Geology that one of the Park Rangers presented. It was great because she was so in to it! This woman loved her some Grand Canyon! Or, as she liked to call it, “The Grandest Canyon”, or “a Geological Masterpiece.” There were some incredibly interesting facts that she shared that allowed us to further appreciate what we were seeing and if any of you ever go, seriously, do the educational bit as well because it makes it the experience much richer.

But now, we’re back to the present and this morning the four kids and Betty embarked on a six-mile round-trip down in to the Canyon itself. Six miles in and of itself…yeah, it ain’t much. But you go and add 2,100 feet of elevation change and you’ve got yourself a haul.

Setting out on the trail

Our destination was a lookout point within the Canyon called “Skeleton Point.” We didn’t bother to ask exactly why it’s called that before we took off, but I just told myself that maybe there was a trilobite fossil somewhere nearby and that settled my stomach. The trail was called Kaibab and it offered breath-taking views at every single turn.

It took us about two-and-a-half hours to get down with a lot of stopping to take it all in.

Skeleton Point

When we made it to Skeleton Point we enjoyed the view for a while and then turned around and jogged back up to the top. And by jogged I mean nearly suffered multiple heart attacks. Seriously, there was talk of splitting the cost on one of those Search and Rescue Helicopter rides.

Before leaving the park for good, we drove along the rim and took in a couple more views. On the way out, we saw this guy on the side of the road looking like he owned the place.

Now we’re back in Sedona and I’m looking to take a bath in Icy Hot. Tomorrow night we’ll celebrate the New Year, get a handful of hours worth of sleep and then get on the road that leads to Texas.

Happy New Year!

Arizona Update

Monday, 9:00 a.m.

This morning, I woke up early and went with Laura’s mom and dad to see the sunrise at Bell Rock. Sitting on a rock among cactus, watching the sun take its first peek of a place reminded me of just how few of these I take the time to be present for. On the one hand, it makes sense. It’s because we are in such beautiful surroundings and only for a short time that we would make it a point to see what it looks like at sunrise. We live in suburban Dallas and there’s nothing especially magical or worthwhile about waking up early enough to see the sun come up over a development of single-family starter homes. But really, how would I know? I’ve never watched it happen.

Tuesday, 8:50 p.m.

The rest of the day yesterday was spent visiting some of the stores and art galleries in Sedona. There’ve gotta be about eight hundred and forty-one art galleries here and it makes me love this town to see them all flourishing. Or at least, it makes me love the people this town attracts.

Today was another morning, another sunrise. This time it was just Paul and I and we went to a different lookout point than yesterday. The view was outstanding and despite a couple of people disrespecting the serenity of the moment (it sounded like they were enjoying a drunken round of Texas Hold ‘Em!) it was well worth giving up the couple hours of sleep. Also, I brought my discman and waited for the sun with these guys swimming in my ears.

Afterwards, we rounded up the rest of the crew and headed for a big hole in the ground about an hour away. Fifty thousand years ago a meteor half the size of a football field and going eleven miles per second crashed in to the desert of what we now call Arizona. What remains is a crater as deep as the Washington Monument is tall. The floor of the crater is large enough to fit twenty football fields and the surrounding bowl could hold two million fans. Unfortunately, none of them would be able to tell what was going on in any of the games because the players would be flippin’ tiny. And don’t even get me started on the traffic.

From one hole in the ground to another, our next destination was Walnut Canyon National Monument. This canyon is the site of cliff dwellings once used by the Sinagua (“without water”) about 800 years ago. These people were amazing! Besides being incredibly resourceful and successfully farming in a part of the country that gets less than a foot of rain per year, they did it while commuting to and from work on a cliff. We walked a trail that took us right to some of the ruins and it was incredibly humbling. You have no choice but to admire the determination of the people that had lived there. It made me wonder about their connection to God. How faithful must your prayer-life be when nearly every minute of every day is spent on ensuring your survival?

We returned “home” and rounded out the day by watching a documentary about the Hubble telescope that our brother-in-law, Eric, got for Christmas. My mind. Is officially. Blown. When we were at Walnut Canyon, we learned that sixty million years ago it was at the bottom of an ocean. “Wow, sixty million years!”, we thought. Man, sixty million years is a drop in the bucket when you’re talking about the age of the sun (about 4 billion years). Or the age of the Milky Way (over 10 billion years). Or the age of the UNIVERSE (about 14 billion years)! And it doesn’t matter how many times I hear that there are more stars in the Universe than there are grains of sand on all the beaches in the world, it still freaks me out. More stars in the Universe…than grains of sand…on all the beaches…in the whole world. If your head’s not ringing right now, you need to go to a beach and grab a handful of sand. So, yeah. That and a dozen other things in the video are going to keep me awake tonight.

Tomorrow morning, we’re going to watch the sunrise from the Chapel of the Holy Cross, and from there, Eric and I (and probably Laura and Kristi) are going to climb Bell Rock. Well, climb as high as we can without equipment. I’ll try to get a picture of the view up tomorrow night.

Thursday we drive to the Grand Canyon to stay at Kachina Lodge. I’ve never been and the last time Laura was there was 6th grade. Just the other day someone told us, “the Grand Canyon is one of the few things in life that no matter how much you build it up, it doesn’t disappoint.” We’ll find out in a few days.

Take care, we’ll see you soon.

Sunday Sunset

Part of the way up Bell Rock

Chapel of the Holy Cross

Meteor Crater Rim

I’m Dreaming…of a Red Rock Christmas

From one extreme to the other…last Christmas we were skiing on snow covered mountains in Colorado and this year we’re in red rock country in Sedona, Arizona. It’s definitely on the other end of the spectrum in terms of climate and geography but it is every bit as breath-taking. – This web site has a little video you can watch to see some of the scenery we saw today. We did a couple of short hikes with more planned tomorrow.

One of the highlights of tomorrow’s activities will be the Chapel of the Holy Cross.

I’m not sure when I’ll get another update in…but until then, Merry Christmas & Happy New Year!

Observations Made While At the Mall

School was closed last Thursday because of the ice, so Laura and I went to the mall to get some Christmas shopping taken care of. I’m not the biggest fan of the mall in specific and shopping in general to begin with; and when you mix in a barrage of “25% Off Your Materialized Christmas!” signs at every turn, then it’s pretty much a certainty that I’m going to leave with my knickers in a pinch.

I’m only twenty-five years old and optimistic overall, but I already know exactly what I’m going to be like when I’m at my eldest and of a grumpy disposition. I know this because that’s the man I turn in to after about a half hour in the mall: nothing suits me and everything is a sign of the ever-approaching Apocalypse. Teens with shirts that say, “Blame My Parents“. All these girls with their jeans tucked in to snow boots. In Texas! And where does Victoria’s Secret get off with their window displays? No link for a reason! This is a family show.

As certain as gravity, the rising sun and NFL players getting busted for drugs, every generation of Americans deride the one that follows it as a collection of wastefully indulgent slackers with little hope for anything but ruin. With their long hair, Satanic rock and roll music and the marijuana. But even if that sentiment has been true for decades, does that make it less urgent regarding the MTV Generation? If every generation says the next has “gone too far” just as the previous said about them, is there a point where it stops being a curmudgeonly resistence to change and becomes prophetic? Was that point 1954? 1992? Will it be 2013?


Several other blogs that I admire have mentioned this amazing post at Real Live Preacher (another blog I admire).

It only takes a couple of minutes to read, but its effects have been with me for days now. “If We Could Do Church”.

a snippet…

“What if these people decided to cast off any preconceived, cultural ideas about what church ought to be and instead tried to whittle Christianity down to its essentials? Instead of allowing church to become ever more complex, what if they sought to make church ever more simple, simple enough to be written on a thumbnail or even on a heart?”

Have You Seen This Commercial?

I saw it for the first time a few weeks ago, it’s the one where GM or Pontiac – or maybe they’re the same thing, I don’t know – is “striking a deal with America“. It starts out with a smooth-talking voice-over guy going, “What can GM do for you?” Then it cuts to, you know, Bob down the street watering his lawn or something and he says, “Heh. How about free gas?”

Voice-over guy, “You got it! Free gas for a year.”

Cuts back to Aunt Jane loading up the minivan, “How about no interest payments?”

“Right now at GM dealerships, qualified applicants can get no interest loans for two years. And you can believe me because my voice is soooo smoooooth. Yeahhh.”

And then it cuts to another “average” American wearing the Old Navy “uniform” and she goes, “How about a 100,000 mile limited warranty?”

Then voice-over guy says something about how, “Heck yeah. GM’s got your back on that one. You want a limited warranty? We can hook you up, maaaan.” I can almost hear GM’s collective consciousness thinking in unison, “Whewww! We sure are glad America didn’t want the unlimited warranty. That would have screwed up the whole commercial!”

I don’t know, maybe it’s not that funny, but I laugh out loud everytime. When I see it come on, I actually get excited and sit on the edge of my seat just waiting for Susie America to step up to the plate for all of us and demand that GM give us a warranty with restrictions that the manufacturers are comfortable with.

Get ’em Sue.