This is part 5 of a series. Check out Part 4 to catch up or for links to Parts 1-3.
My acupuncturist greeted me with a smile, though I knew I was her last client of the day. I sat on the table, wrapped in my grey fuzzy robe as she asked me what I wanted to do. I had never done acupuncture before so I asked if we could do a general relaxation/stress relief treatment.
She told me to lie back and handed me what looked like a pillow case to cover my chest. I'm a bit well endowed so I was worried the little pillow case wouldn't do the job. She didn't seem to mind. I laid there, as still as can be as she walked around my body gently inserting tiny needles into my skin. They didn't hurt! She must have put about 20 or so needles all around. Then she put on relaxing music and left the room.
Almost immediately I got an itch on my nose. I told myself not to scratch it because I couldn't see where the needles were. With my luck, I'd accidentally impale myself with one of the needles in my hand. I stared at the ceiling, willing myself to relax. My throat felt warm. I wondered if it was the chakras and energy moving through my body. Before I knew it, the door opened and the therapist came back into the room. I felt pretty relaxed and curious about the throat energy I was feeling. I mentioned this to her and she seemed to doubt me, as if I was making up stuff to sound intelligent.
She left so I could get dressed. I gave her a tip and headed out the door. The price was a bit more than advertised on the website but at that point I didn't care. Mark was in the lobby and he went over some foot stretching exercises he wanted me to try at home. I wanted to hug him. He was so kind and just a great guy. After paying I walked back out to my car. I had to dig in my backpack for a solid five minutes as I searched for my keys. The acupuncturist walked out to her car, stopped and asked me if I was okay. I laughed and said, "Just trying to fish out the keys, have a good evening." She probably thought I was crazy.
I drove a short distance to my new AirBnB, a huge house tucked behind a small road that overlooked the red rocks. I climbed up the stairs and rang the doorbell. No one answered. I texted my hostess. I told her I'd be there between 4:30 and 4:45, it was 4:45. Nothing. I walked back to the car and pondered what to do. I decided to try the doorbell one more time. This time, it worked! A guy who looked to be a bit younger than me answered the door.
"Sandra?" I asked stupidly, knowing he wasn't Sandra.
"Are you staying with us?" he asked politely.
"Yes, I'm Mary Anna," I replied.
"My mom ran out for a minute. Come on in, I'll show you to your room," he said with a smile. "I'm her son. I'm just here for a few weeks from Spain."
Wow. What a well-traveled gentleman.
He showed me to my room, a nice sized room with a private bathroom a few steps away. Her house was huge and beautiful. She had a deck off of nearly every bedroom. I went back to the car to fetch my stuff and started to unpack. I'd be spending two nights here so it gave me the opportunity to settle down a bit. While unpacking my bag, a woman entered the room and greeted me. Sandra had arrived.
She was very nice, but made a note to tell me to remove my shoes upon entering her home. I felt bad I didn't know to do that, but her son failed to mention that detail. She gave me a quick tour of the place, opened my bedroom window and then left to do her own thing. After unpacking I emerged from my room and asked her if there were any nearby hikes I could take to view the sunset. She said there was a trail right by her house! She gave me directions and I set off in that direction.
It took me some time but I did find the trail. I forgot my hiking boots and hiking stick, so I didn't go all the way to the top. I wanted some leverage. I found a nice spot to take a few pictures with my tripod before heading down to figure out dinner plans. When I arrived back to the house, Sandra was busy cooking with a man I had not met and her son. I felt like I was intruding on family dinner, so I politely excused myself to go out and find my own bite to eat.
That ended up being Wendy's.
When I returned I really wanted to eat on the deck but the man and her son were occupying it at the moment. Sandra told them I wanted to eat out there and that they should move. I assured them to stay where they were. They were smoking some sort of tobacco out of a pipe. So there I was...sitting at the end of the table...eating Wendy's while these two well-traveled gentleman smoked a pipe together. Sandra must have retired to bed. It was quite amusing. This interaction proved to be entertaining as the man, who I later found out was Sandra's husband, went off somewhere leaving me and her son alone. We spent a good hour or so talking about everything from politics to alien and UFO culture in Sedona to his life growing up in Arizona and the years he's spent abroad.
I was a classy broad with my Wendy's. The problem was I couldn't stop coughing. It wasn't the smoke from the pipe, but rather the altitude and my lungs. Every few sentences gave way to an embarrassing and barking cough. I was upset as this was supposed to be a relaxing vacation and despite my best efforts, it was kind of a stressful day.
I finally retired to my room, got a shower and went to bed. When I woke around 7am, I was not surprised to find Sandra and her son were already up and working around the house. I told her I was going on three hikes: West Fork, Cathedral Rock and Bell Rock.
"You won't get to do all of them. West Fork is 7 miles," she said matter of factly.
I love proving people wrong.
My first stop of the day was Sedonuts to get a delicious artisan donut for breakfast. It reminded me of Federal Donuts, a donut chain we have in Philly. The shop workers were unimpressed with that comparison. Next I stopped at a Safeway to get some water. Then I drove 20 minutes to the West Fork trail head. Entry to the park was $10 so I was glad I had cash on me. I laced up my hiking boots, checked my pack and set off for a hiking adventure.
But first, I stopped at the bathrooms. I opened one of the large wooden doors only to be semi-yelled at by a park ranger. "That's closed for cleaning," he said. It wasn't that obvious. I found an empty bathroom that was open and did my business. I have to share...it was like a glorified porta potty! There was hand sanitize (THANK YOU) and toilet paper and a large commode with waste in the bottom of it. The weird thing was when you sat on said commode (on top of layers of toilet paper barrier), a brisk breeze blew up the commode straight onto my nethers. HAHA! It was an odd sensation.
Once that was taken care of, I set off to hike. It was beautiful and peaceful. I hiked along the bottom of the canyon. I had to cross 13 streams! The inner Labrador in me had a blast with the stream crossings. I stopped every so often to take picture or a short rest. I met a few people along the way include a couple with an adorable dog named Clementine. The guy was from Mississippi "Greatest state in the Union" he said proudly as he introduced himself.
The hike is 3.5 miles in and 3.5 miles out. At mile 3, I was feeling pretty tired. I sat down on a large rock and pondered finishing the trail. A guy with his son told me I was very close and it was well worth the hike. I decided to continue on. It felt like forever, but I was stubborn and determined to reach the end of the trail. My knee, despite being secured in a brace, was throbbing. My feet were starting to hurt. I could hear Sandra in my head saying, "See, you won't have time to do all three hikes."
After what seemed like an eternity, I made it to the end. The canyon literally just closes in on itself and there is nothing but a large pond leading to the end. It was really pretty. I took a lot of pictures and even ran into Clementine and his Mississippi dad again. Then it was time to turn back. I had to go another 3.5 miles to get to the car. At first I was pretty motivated but fatigue set it quickly.
My big toe on my right foot was throbbing. My knee was shooting off stabbing pain. I kept needing to drink more water than I did on the way in. My lips felt dry. I was tired and I couldn't stop coughing. Every time I let out a loud cough, I pictured a family with a little kid asking, "Daddy, what was that?" Then I could see the dad saying, "I think it was some kind of bird, son." Actually it was an obese white girl in a pink outfit, coughing like a dying goose. Close enough.
My breaks were getting more frequent. Everything was hurting. I wasn't sure I was going to make it off the trail. However, the only way out is through and my car was at the end. I tried to let my mind wander to take my thoughts off the pain. I thought about my past relationships and almost relationships. I thought about the men who were currently in my life. I let my thoughts play around with those characters as I put one foot in front of the other ever so slowly.
Stay tuned for Part 6...
M.A. is a doting dog mom, writing coach, writer, corporate communications manager, social media guru, comedian and journalist. She hopes to become the female Heisenberg of cold brew coffee.