Worth the View

ponderosa1Arizona 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.

horseshoebendYou 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.

The path starts at the left, and winds its way up to the tiny gazebo at the top, center. After that, there is one more hill and then a steep drop to the parking lot.

The path starts at the left, and winds its way up to the tiny gazebo at the top, center. After that climb, there is one more short hill and then a steep drop to the parking lot.

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.


12 thoughts on “Worth the View

  1. I grew up in Northern Arizona and have returned after decades in the California corporate-world to live, to hike, and to dabble in art and photography. The starkness and lushness of N. AZ feeds my soul.

  2. Spruce gum certainly doesn’t taste like butterscotch. There’s a great project for gene splicing. 🙂 I love rocks and trees. On our cross country trip, 1500 pictures half a dozen with people in them, the rest rocks and trees. I had a rose bush with old fashioned roses that smelled like raspberries. It died and I haven’t been able to find out what kind it was to replace it.

  3. Jeez, I wouldn’t mind the hike to see that Horseshoe Bend! Or the experience of turning around and seeing the view back. The effect must be stunning.

    And a tree that smells of butterscotch! Wouldn’t want to be in a forest of mature Ponderosa pines with my sweet tooth aching. 😀 Incidentally, I remember reading about a tree (Australian, if I remember correctly) that tastes a bit like strawberries. I couldn’t find anything about it online, so I’m not absolutely sure about it. My mental library of countless silly trivia might be making up stuff. The smell of Ponderosa pine has been filed to that archive too.

    • Well, in truth, you do have to have your nose touching the bark to smell the butterscotch. I love the idea of strawberries, too. My mind, too, is filled with “useless” trivia that serves as lining for my mental nest and acts as insulation against the tougher aspects of life.

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