It was Saturday night, and we were exhausted from a full day of driving. As darkness fell over the deserts of Arizona, we kept good faith in the GPS. By the time we reached the outskirts of Sedona, night had fallen completely and the only reference we had to our location was the little drawing of the road on the GPS and the dark, sandy path ahead of us. Although it was 10:30 at night, the roads still seemed unusually empty to me. It was eerie the way our car’s headlights paved the unknown road in front of us, without highway lights or other cars driving by to confirm signs of life ahead. According to the GPS, we were only 20 minutes from the hotel, yet I had not seen any other cars on the road with us. Plus, being a moonless night, we had no reference of cliffs, mountains, valleys, or even flat land around us. I looked out the passenger window oblivious to the natural surroundings. For all I knew, we were driving across the Grand Canyon.
Suspicious of the vast emptiness ahead, I pulled Google up on my phone’s Internet browser and searched “Sedona news”. I’m not superstitious or anything, but sometimes trusting your gut is actually good advice. Search result key phrases such as “wildfire”, “20,000 acres”, and “45 percent contained” flooded my phone screen. But the phrase that rang out most alarmingly went something along the lines of, “evacuation lifted for Oak Creek Canyon residents, it is advised that residents remain indoors and avoid breathing unfiltered air”.
Date and time: Today, 8:30pm.
Location of hotel: Oak Creek Canyon.
Well, here we go! The evacuation was lifted only hours ago, we were 15 minutes from the hotel, and all we wanted was a bed. Any bed.
Of course now my imagination is running wild. Is that why I can’t see anything – because we’re driving through one giant smoke cloud? How big is 20,000 acres anyway? It sounds pretty big. Can I see the fire if I look into the distance? No of course not, I can’t see ANYTHING. Is that why the roads are so empty? Is this a bad idea? Should I call the hotel to make sure they’re still open?
Sedona woke me up the next morning in more ways than one. It was of course just another early morning on our adventure across the United States, just another fun day ahead in a new place. As we headed toward the exit of the hotel to begin our day I wondered if we would realistically be able to do anything in Sedona. I began to worry that Sedona was a mistake and that we should have added an extra night to our hotel at the Grand Canyon instead. What if it businesses were closed, or we wouldn’t be able to see any of the rock formations because of the smoke?
I stepped outside at 7:00 a.m. into the crisp, cool desert morning. My converse sneakers scuffed on the gravel parking lot and I blinked the sleep out of my eyes. And when I looked up in that blink of an eye, the most magnificent, awe-inspiring rock formations painted shades of orange and pink and red loomed against the periwinkle-colored morning sky. I couldn’t think. I couldn’t speak. The boys continued walking to the car ahead as all I could do was stand dumbfounded, gazing at what was truly the most spectacular natural wonder I had ever seen in my life thus far.
Sedona left me breathless. I just couldn’t believe that THIS is what we were driving through in the dead of night. Just driving on with visions of hotel beds in our heads, with NO CLUE that this was what we were speeding past. I was breathless in that moment knowing what I did not know just hours ago. Staring out the window into the black night, unknowingly staring past these radiant rock formations.
I love how I woke up to Sedona. I will always remember the feeling of my first sight of Arizona’s true beauty. Sedona was my first glance into the wild beauty of the west. And she is still a reminder that not all beauty is so quickly found. You never know what you might be missing if your eyes are closed, or if the night is too dark. Sometimes you really have to look, and sometimes you have to look more than once or you may miss something spectacular.
~Beauty is all around you. Don’t let a little bit of darkness dampen the luster of your life.~