Arizona has the most amazing landscape of any place I’ve lived. Most people shrug it off as “just desert,” but it is so much more. This past week, I showed family some of the sites I love in the North of the state. One of the things I learned is that Arizona has more Ponderosa Pine than Maine. Ponderosa Pine is majestically tall (over 200 feet) with a rough bark. When the tree is mature (more than 30 years) the bark develops reddish plates that smell like butterscotch. Yep, I sniffed. It’s true.
One of the sites that impressed me was Horseshoe Bend–the place where the Colorado River (the one that carved the Grand Canyon) makes a 270-degree turn around a piece of stubborn limestone. The location is unfenced and without a guard rail. It makes for great photos. You stand at the lip of a rock overhang, and look 1,000 feet down at the river.
You have to hike there–about a mile through scrub brush. And once you have hiked there and fallen in love with the view, you have to hike back. No jeeps or ATV allowed. You just have to hoof it.
After I’d scrambled over layered rock to see this site from all angles, I turned around to face the road back. Daunting.
There are two thoughts that crossed my mind. First, the view back is often just as amazing at the road ahead. Don’t forget to look back from where you came.
Second, the view was worth the work. Going back was slow, a slog through what felt like beach sand. No sense rushing. Be smart and drink small sips of water along the way. Just like real life–take the tough going slow and rest along the way. Makes it all worth while.
—Quinn McDonald is a hiker, writer and certified creativity coach who had a lot of fun in Northern Arizona.