Greetings! And welcome to my little corner of the world. I will thank you in advance for spending some of your moments here with me as I share with you what turned out to be quite the adventure!
As most of you who have visited my blog before now, I am a Family Nurse Practitioner who travels for a living treating patients and have done for the past few years. Hence; my blog title “Life in a Suitcase”. I prefer to treat the poor and homeless, which has taken me to some of the most interesting and off the beaten path locations. I spent the past 16 months in Northern California in a small town and have recently relocated to Flagstaff Arizona. For now, I will be here until mid November and as always, I have no idea where the wind will blow me next. I go where the need is.
I have been fortunate enough to have my middle son, Joe, stay with me for a few weeks. He is a brilliant photographer and my favorite photo of him is standing in the middle of a gorgeous slot Canyon looking peaceful as he stands in front of his tripod and camera. For any of you who are photography nuts, enjoy seeing beautiful places and things I encourage you to follow him on Instagram “just_joe_w” you will certainly thank me for that one! I guess I have mentioned this to him more than once, since one day he announced he was taking me there. Seriously? Taking me there? Wow…..talk about thrilled!!
Hence; our unexpected, and yet very memorable adventure. I can honestly say this unexpectedly pushed me to my absolute physical limit. The kind of limit where your brain tells your legs to move forward: but they stay gridlocked…..and shaking. Feeling like a combo of rotting wood planks and jello. I still am undecided which.
We took off in the car and drove. I never asked where we were going. Or how far. I just know we kept driving. And driving. And driving. We passed both Horseshoe Bend and Antelope Canyon, two very well known and extremely touristy Arizona spots, and hundreds and hundreds of parked cars. We kept going up the highway. He said “turn left up there at the curve”. I saw nothing. A makeshift dirt road. But nothing else. I’m not sure I recall even seeing a sign. I should have been nervous. This seemed like a wonderland for varmits and snakes and all those Arizona desert things you see on National Geographic and are thankful you are in Jammie’s sitting safely on a couch in a living room. Or scared. Or something. But I was with Joe. So trust trumped everything. I felt as I seemingly was in the middle of nowhere. In the middle of nothing. But Joe was there so I thought “I’m good”.
We were on a Navajo reservation and met a collection of very welcoming and friendly young people who were genuinely happy to have us there. Joe had been here before and he described his previous trip here (where my favorite photo was taken) as a short hike in. Short climb down. Amazing view. Take some photos. Short hike out and done. No worries. I got this!
Things changed since his venture here. Now it was a guided tour. A preservation effort to protect this place. I looked around and didn’t understand “this place”. Dirt. Miles of dirt. Dirt as far as the eyes could see. Sun beating down on my skin already. Why didn’t I bring a hat? Oh well, I brought water. I wasn’t gonna die. Again…. trust trumped everything. Joe seemed excited. We hopped into an old van and drove a couple miles. Bumpy, windy, turns, more bumps, close to four wheeling. Started feeling a little nauseated. Did I eat breakfast? At this point, if I did, it wasn’t enough. Got out with a young man in a hat named Damien. “Follow me”….. and so? We did. Not sure where to. It was me. Joe. Damien. Me the only one without a hat. Walking on the dirt. (My eyes frantically racing to and fro to spot anything long and close to the ground resembling anything even remotely close to a snake) Followed closely behind Joe…….pretty darn close………
What I expected was a short hike in. Short climb down. Amazing view. Take a few pictures. Hike out and done wasn’t even close! The hike was on soft sand. Soft SAND! Have you ever walked in soft sand? For MILES? I could have just worshipped my son after mile #1 for convincing me before we left to “put on your Nikes mom……you don’t want to be wearing those sandals – trust me” (the most comfortable shoes EVER and I have put many a mile on them) I reluctantly replaced my go to hiking sandals and wore my Nikes. Ohhhhhh how thankful I was!
We started climbing down. There were openings. And closings. And very extremely skinny and seemingly steep ladders that the boys tackled without blinking. Then there was me. Do I go forward? Do I turn around? It was awkward but dammit!! Just do it Catherine! Don’t show them that you are scared to death and are perpetually wondering what in the hell have you gotten yourself into…… just take that breath and DO IT.
And so I did. My life mantra came in handy. And often during this experience.
“Just keep doing the next right thing”
And at this point, it was one step in front of the other.
The deeper we got – the more beautiful it became. It was just me, Joe and Damien the tour guide. He shared native stories, details about the Canyon, and was very kind and patient with me. I wasn’t expecting to learn so much. I wasn’t expecting to feel so connected. To the land. To the people I was sharing this day with. Or to the generations of Navajo that had lived in this area for the past centuries. It was very surreal. The views of this place were nothing short of breath taking. To the point of me becoming emotional.
The sun was very hot. But in amidst the Canyon it was cool. The breezes that blew through the sometimes very narrow nature made hallways sounded like quiet music. There were moments when no one spoke. We just listened. And it was more than just listening with your ears. I found myself listening to this amazing place with my entire being.
If I could describe this experience in one word. It would be “Spritual”. There is just something magical and unspoken about being that close to something so pure, so ancient, and so indescribably beautiful.
I will be forever thankful that I say yes more than I say no. That I can go and try things that are perhaps a little more than I should. And that I can appreciate our Great Mother Earth and her beautiful paintings, her hidden secrets, and hear the sounds of her songs.
I almost didn’t make it out of there. The kind of silent fear like “Oh my God, I’m not sure I can do this” I felt like we went up more than down, my legs barely worked, and around every corner just one more “almost there”. I ended up in Joe’s hat. Stopping every few feet at the very end. Having to really reach down and do the “mind over matter” thing. I mean seriously.
When I look back now, I laugh at myself. It was one of those “bucket list” things that pushes you to your limit, and then just a little bit more. A moment when your son says whole heartedly that he’s proud of you., because he had no idea it was going to turn out like this either. And an impromptu day that left you a little bit stronger, a little bit wiser, and a whole lot more thankful.
I will never forget it.
The place is Northern Arizona on the Navajo reservation. Waterholes Canyon. I highly recommend. I saw no varmints or snakes. Definitely wear good walking shoes and be prepared for soft sand. And be prepared to see Mother Earth’s beautiful paintings and serene songs that she will sing to you, if you just stop and listen close enough to hear.
As always, thank you for stopping by and sharing your moments with me. My purpose is my family, but my passion is to travel and find that next adventure. I have many plans in the works clear through next year, and I invite you to join the journey for photos, stories that are sprinkled with a little reality and a whole lot of humor.
As always…….be kind.