The Traveling Native // Sedona, Grand Canyon & Sheep Ranch Living in Arizona

This is the week following a week-long travel excursion from Los Angeles to some of my dream places in Arizona and Utah. After my trip to New Mexico last December and realizing that travel not only provides a chance for some soul rejuvenation, but also is a key element in influencing my creative expression. I decided that my goal each year was to try and travel and immerse in cultures, communities and experiences that would allow me to reconnect and root in the simplicity of life.

For me, traveling to the southwest has always had a mystical charm to it. New Mexico in the winter was unbelievable. Arizona in the summer, although scorching hot, was a moment in time that I will always cherish.

Day 1 // Goodbye Los Angeles, Hello Arizona

Our travels started early Saturday morning at 6 am...purposefully so, because we were hoping to get into a small ghost town in Oatman, AZ by 11 am. Apparently, around 11-11:30 am, slowly but surely, wild burros start walking into town and visitors passing through this small town get an up-close experience with these beautiful creatures.

This town was the perfect place to stop and stretch our legs, while having a moment to take in the culture of this small ghost town on Route 66.

This town is full of charming details...wild burros of course, puns on most (if not on all) tourist-related items for sale, bar and restaurant decorated in dollar bills and a hotel that has had sightings of paranormal activity.

Of course, my favorite was being able to spend some time with a baby burro that I came across. It is always a balance when interacting with animals. On one hand, the intrinsic draw to want to directly interact with an animal is within all of us, but there is always a need to be mindful and respect their space in whatever habitat they are living in. I always appreciate when an animal allows me to make contact with it, but sometimes I have to remember that distance is the best thing I can do.

There was a moment when I was standing back and just watching...watching all the people come check out the donkeys, watching people take photos of themselves with them and at one point, surrounding them unintentionally as more and more visitors gathered to interact with them. I suppose this was my first realization of the day...the balance of being a participant in life and being an observer and knowing when to step back and to allow things to just happen. I think that is the thing I have learned most from traveling, especially in places that has a lot of tourism. It is so easy to want to get that photo, myself included, that it hinders our ability to just enjoy that experience in its full entirety.

Life lesson number one //

Balance is key; as well as, knowing when to step back and letting things happen naturally without interference.

After Oatman, we drove through Sitgreaves Pass and stopped at the top at a little turn-about. The energy and style of the place was similar to Burning man...just random picture frames of art, a memorial site and chalk-writing on rocks on top of this pull off on the top of the mountain.

The rest of the day we spent traveling to Flagstaff, saw some more animals like bear, bison, and wolves over at Bearizona, rested up on some local pizza from Pizzicletta and had some champagne to end the night after such a long drive. What a way to start off our trip...

Day 2 // Sedona Sunrise, Grand Canyon Sunset

We woke up at the break of dawn and drove through the Coconino Mountains to get to Sedona. It was so magical, beautiful and most importantly, quiet. Coming from Los Angeles and being surrounded by noise (auditory, visual, and all the other senses), I value the sound of silence. Yes, silence has a sound. Some of my most favorite moments in life are Sunday mornings at 5 am when I am working on crowns outside and all I can hear is silence and the slow, gradual sound of the birds chirping as the sun begins to rise.

We hiked Cathedral Rock, which has been known as one of the places in Sedona that is known to have a vortex, which pretty much is a space that has a higher level of energy and vibrations. We never made it to the actual spot that had the vortex, but did hike around the mountain and met a local who shared with us his thoughts about visiting the vortex. He said that the vortex is just an idea. Some people feel it, some people don't. Just being out here and taking the time to meditate and connect is powerful enough. And it is true. We are drawn to places, people and things that we want to see and experience, but sometimes just being there is all you really need. It's like that saying, 'It's not about the destination, it's all about the journey'.

We can get focused on arriving that we don't realize that we are already there. Life lesson number two.

After our hike, we went into town, but on a Sunday morning at 8 am, nothing was open outside of the coffee shop. We drove back into the Coconino National Forest, had one of the best breakfasts we have had and ended up stopping in the middle of the mountains and spent the whole afternoon in the Verde River.

There was wild Queen Anne's lace growing all around the river, hummingbirds, butterflies and dragonflies flying all around us and the sound of rushing water for hours on end.

We could have stayed there all day, but ended up needing to get to our next destination for sunset, so we took off on the road and said our goodbyes to Sedona and the Coconino National Forest.

Later in the day, we drove north to The Grand Canyon with intentions to watch the sun set. It was our first time there and in our typical way of traveling, surpassed the crowds at the first parking lot and drove in towards the middle of the park by the Amphitheater and found ourselves at The Trail of Time.

The first glimpse of The Grand Canyon was a moment I will never forget. We spent the remaining time at sunset sitting on a ledge, watching the sun set to our left and watching the birds fly in and out of the canyon to our right. It was more than I could have imagined and was really happy that my husband and I were able to experience this moment for the first time together.

Our night coincided with the full moon (Strawberry Moon), which was to fully set on the summer solstice this year. This hasn't happened since 1967 and won't happen again until 2062 according to experts.

Day 3 // Grand Canyon Sunrise, Sheep Ranch Living

We had our morning watching the sun rise the next day and ran into a small group of mule deer grazing. We sat there watching...just being with them without interference and being observers of their daily life. As we continued to walk along the Grand Canyon, we unintentionally kept running into this small grouping of mule deer, as they moved alongside us to eat.

Oh and I have to tell you about the sun that morning. As we walked into the park and was just about to reach the spot where we could see The Grand Canyon, the sun was shining this gorgeous bright coral red light right over the horizon. It was unbelievable to see such a full sun in such a color that I was in awe of the entire morning. There had been a fire the day before and perhaps that is why the sun was that color. Either way, I will never forget it.

The rest of the morning, we just went exploring throughout each end of the South Rim.

For those who like to travel with a bit of space from the tourist spots, from my experience, The Grand Canyon definitely has a time and places to seek solitude. Just make sure to leave early and look up spots that go beyond your first initial instinct to stop.

That would be my next life lesson to share: You can be part of the same path as others, but you're allowed to make trailblazer decisions.

Traveling is communal...you are constantly interacting with the environment and the people, animals and even yourself along the way. Traveling is also a time to explore in the unknown. It is easy to follow the path everyone else is on, but don't forget to trust your intuition in the process and know that you can create your own path to explore.

After spending the morning at The Grand Canyon we drove out to Page, Arizona to spend the next few days at a Sheep Ranch that had no running water or electricity. We stayed in their Cabin, but there were a few tents, a hogan and prairie wagons for all the travelers going through the town to rent out for the night.

They had horses, sheep, goats, dogs and cats roaming around and we spent sunset feeding the horses our leftover carrots.

Reflecting back on our first night there, I remember lighting candles and watching the full moon rise over the mountains right outside our doors and that being one of the best nights that we have had on the trip. The picture below is literally our view from our doorstep. Their property line was described to us as. " as far as your eyes can take you in all directions". Wow...okay, who says that? Amazing.

In Native American culture, in hogans and general design of homes, the front door always faces east, as a way to greet the rising sun and bring in wealth and fortune. With no electricity, cell service and other comfort amenities that we are generally use to having on a daily basis, we found ourselves just sitting on the porch and talking all night until it was cool enough to sleep. Although I appreciate being able to be connected through technology, it was very clear that connections that ultimately allow you to explore deeper are available right in front of you. In a world that connects us to just about anything in an instant, the quality of connection just seemed different when all I had was whatever was in front of me in that moment.

I guess that would be my last life lesson of this post. Connection is everywhere and in everything, but the quality of that connection resides in our abilities to tune in, with or without distractions.

Of course, it is always harder to tune in with the distractions of various things that happen in our lives, whether it be physical, emotional, or mental distractions that take us away from just being in the moment, I recognize that we have the ability to choose the level of attunement to different moments of our lives. Luckily, it is much easier when the distractions are taken away, so for that, I am always grateful to have spent my time at the Sheep Ranch to get me away from my daily routine and life in Los Angeles.

The memories of watching the sheep dogs protecting the herd of sheep, eating a traditional Native American breakfast with blue corn and fruit, the sound of the black insects in the vibrating in the fields, sitting at the campfire with 2 other travelers laughing over the stories we shared and spending sunset visiting the horses who would stomp their feet to get more apples and carrots is what I will always hold onto.

Oh...and I will always remember these sweet Great Pyrenees dogs. Every time I would stop petting them, they would just paw at my leg and it just melted my heart. The photo above is sweet Elvis, just 16 weeks old and learning the ropes on the farm. When we were there, he was getting his boundaries tested with the Ram, but like all animals and people, he will learn how to hold his own, xo

Arizona Road Trip, Part One

June 18-June 24, 2016

Photos // Carolyn & David Brown

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