A Few days in Phoenix, Less than 24 hours in Sedona

After last summer’s big road trip, I mentioned to my sister Leslie that the annual NPS Louie and I had purchased didn’t expire until the end of this summer. She suggested we come out to Phoenix to visit, and take a few days to see the Grand Canyon. She was very generous to offer us their older car to borrow and a bunch of camping gear.

Louie had never been to the Grand Canyon. I had been but not since I was a small child (11 or so). The Grand Canyon is about 3 1/2 hours from Phoenix, which makes for a short drive though not really a day trip. Leslie, who is evidently a wonderful travel agent/itinerary builder, suggested we spend some time in Sedona on our way north, so ultimately I planned our time to have 1 night in Sedona, 2 nights at the Grand Canyon, and then home.

I like to look at the Trip Advisor Forums for advice on traveling, though Louie and I like to hike more than most members of the forums there. I’d found much of their advice last year to be excellent, with the exception of their great love of the Black Hills (it was fine, but we could have spent one night there and been happy rather than two). However, in the Sedona forums, there is at least one member who insists that you must spend 4-5 nights in Sedona in order to make it worth visiting. To me this is ridiculous. Sure, a week in Paris beats a day in Paris, but both are worth it. Maybe not the day if you fly in and out from the US for one day, but it’s a trip from another fairly nearby location, a little time is better than no time!

(I’m overwhelmed by my good fortune in being able to travel sometime, and right now I’m overwhelmed by all the beauty we saw and want to convey it to you.)

Okay, so…first we spent a few days in Phoenix hanging with my little niece Athena, and my sister and brother-in-law.


We rode the carousel and the train at McCormick-Stillman Railroad Park in Scottsdale.


There was a lovely shaded playground.


We took selfies.


And we went to the zoo.


And then on Wednesday of the week, it was time for Louie and I to load up their Honda Civic (with stick shift) and head for Sedona. We piled in our clothes, cooler with food and drinks, tent, sleeping bags, sleeping pads, camp chairs, hiking boots and poles, stove, and more (maybe) and headed to Sedona. The drive was around 2 hours.

One big potential issue for our night in Sedona. The forecast was for rain and storms!

Sedona is known as Red Rocks Country. Once we made the turn off the interstate we started seeing evidence of this. It was so much unlike Missouri!

Our first stop was at the Sedona Visitors Center. We needed the restrooms, water, and lunch. I talked to a really helpful ranger at the desk as well. I hadn’t planned too many particular hikes for Sedona. For whatever reason, I’d found it difficult to get maps or find exact things to do so I’d figured we’d wing it…I love planning things, but as I’ve told you before, Louie enjoys winging them and being more in the moment, so I figured he’d help out with this part Winking smile The ranger asked how long we were there and when we told him, well, this afternoon and tomorrow morning, he didn’t yell at us that we hadn’t allocated enough time (we wanted to be in the Grand Canyon by mid-afternoon the next day) but instead made a few really helpful suggestions.


We first visited the Bell Rock area, which was just north of the visitor’s center. The sky didn’t look too menacing yet so we took a short hike up and around.


My mom is probably worried about all the red dirt. Back in South Carolina where I grew up she hates the red dirt that we would track into the house. It stains, and she would shout “Red Dirt Alert!” to make us stop in our tracks and remove our shoes.


Hiking: fashion? Those wire trash cans filled with rocks were to mark the trail. There were lots of signs warning us to stay on the trail, which was great until we’d get to a place that was only rock and didn’t seem to have any trail markers at all. It was fun to explore though!


Louie was smart and wore an orange shirt in order to blend in.IMG_5243

Here you can see the bad weather is starting to move in. We knew we weren’t terribly far from shelter though.


I took this of Louie when he went up a big higher than I felt comfortable doing so. Some of the rock climbing made me fear of heights kick in. Or perhaps my fear of rock climbing.


When we got back to the car, it started raining, and storming, and kept up for a bit. We decided to go to the store to pick up a few things we’d remembered that we’d forgotten (ha, good writing there!). The storms had blown threw by the time we were done (Sedona is full of shops and restaurants and places to stay, not remote at all) and we went to drive around something called Red Rocks Loop, that the ranger had recommended. It was definitely still a little rainy but not bad. We didn’t really feel like hiking though…we are tough, sure Winking smile but rain hiking is more work. The loop wasn’t that exciting, so we finished and then went to our campground.

I’d booked a night in a campground north of town called Manzanita Campground, run by the Forest Service.


Our first time by the campground we missed the turn entirely, but found it the second time. There’s a steep one lane driveway down to the campground and the sites are along Oak Creek. Other than the rain and the fact that the only facilities are vault toilets, I loved it.


We set out for a short hike before dinner-I’d seen there was a trailhead right across from the campground and we though we’d check it out, just for a few minutes. The rain had stopped, but it was still really wet.


The hike went through an area that had had a fire recently. Later Peter was telling us about it, but now I can’t remember. It was recent, and it luckily didn’t spread too much further than the small area.

(This article I found seems to be about it. We were camping in the Oak Creek Canyon area.)

I wanted to get back to camp before it was too dark, so we only hiked for about 45 minutes. It was neat and we were sorry we couldn’t go further.

It was a cold night. I believe it ended up being close to 40 degrees overnight, hard to believe it was May and Arizona! (Not everywhere in Arizona is hot like Phoenix, but that’s easy to forget). In any case, we made Trader Joe’s Vegetarian Chili with some sides and enjoyed a beer by the campfire. Sort of. The fire was hard to start due to the dampness (we managed, we are used to rain here in Missouri, despite the camp host almost refusing to sell us wood) but the real problem was that the firepits were about 3 feet tall and blocked all the heat. Oh well.

I didn’t sleep that well-first night camping, cold…it was a bad combination. We got up and loaded up the car and headed further north. We decided to hike the West Fork of Oak Creek Canyon.

The ranger had recommended this hike, yes, that’s how we roll (also Leslie and Peter did, but they recommended several hikes that we didn’t get to do either). He’d said he loved it because it was unlike anything else in Sedona. At first that sounded appealing, but then we started to worry, what if it was like Missouri instead? It was lush and green, but luckily it wasn’t really like Missouri.


The trail goes along the Oak Creek the whole way. It crosses the creek 13 times along the way (and then again on the way back). The creek crossings were quite a lot of fun!



It seemed they meant you’d have to walk down the creek for 2 3/4 miles! Maybe in some seasons it would be lower, but that just didn’t sound terribly fun to me.


After finishing the hike we had a quick picnic lunch before heading north (again) towards the Grand Canyon National Park. And that’s where I’ll end today’s blog post, with the two of us in a car, drinking sparkling water, and driving north, looking forward to the next portion of our adventure.


I’m back. I was in Phoenix and went to the Grand Canyon and Sedona and I’ll tell you all about it soon.

Before that though. Sad yet not unexpected news. When I last posted I was telling you all how our cat, Chloe, the one with Cushing’s Disease, had been having a really hard time. She did get a little better, and started eating again, lots and lots, and we felt better leaving her for the week.

But right after we returned, right after we landed, we found out that she’d somehow gotten a new wound. Her skin had torn on her side (this is a very rare side effect of her disease) and Louie’s brother Julian, who was watching her while we were gone, had taken her in to the vet at Webster Groves Animal Hospital, which is a 24 hour place. We headed there as soon as we could. The vet had never seen a condition like hers before, but didn’t think that she could repair the wound. They had made her comfortable, given her some painkillers for her wound and cleaned her up as best as they could, and Louie made the inevitable, but very wise decision, to have  her put down. We spent some time sitting in a room with her, petting her, and we took off her cone, after we realized there wasn’t anything it was protecting her against anymore.

The people at the Animal Hospital were really nice. We had some paperwork to fill out, but after awhile we decided it was time. The vet gave her a few shots, and then she was gone. We spent more time there with her, and then we had to leave her.

I only knew Chloe for a few years, just as long as I’ve known Louie. He’d had her for many years longer, so this was all harder on him.

She was a sweet kitty, even though she liked to put her claws out a bit more than I liked when cuddling. She went through a lot after getting diabetes, and she peed on a lot of things and ruined some furniture, but she was still very sweet.

The last few months were extremely difficult for us, at times, but worthwhile to give her a little more life. I think that overall, she was still enjoying hanging out and eating, and even went outside again a few weeks ago, and seemed to enjoy that. I think we did what we could for her, even when it was hard, and expensive, and time-consuming, and I hope that it was all for the best. She was tough, she was a fighter, and she mostly seemed to keep a really good attitude.





I figured you’d seen enough photos of her recently, so those are all from before she got sick.

We don’t know when she was born, or even exactly how old she was (estimation 13-14 years) but we know that she died on May 24, 2016, and she was surrounded by people who loved her and who did their best to make her life as nice as possible. She will be missed.

I am no longer a cat owner. I have lived with a cat since Christmas of 2001, and I don’t anymore. It will take some time.

Never a Good Time

There’s never a good time for your cat to become sick (er) but certainly not a few days before you are going on a trip for a week.

Maybe I’ve been noticing the past few days that Chloe (follow that link for some background if you don’t remember) has been deteriorating, but yesterday morning she barely ate, and then by last night she was simply hanging out in her litter box. (This is the one with a puppy pad in it, so arguably she thinks it a bed she gets to pee in.) She was still responsive, but very stumbly and wobbly, and she did eat some treats from Louie’s hand. We were worried that we’d been giving her too much insulin and maybe she hadn’t eaten enough…I don’t know. Since she’s already old and sick even on her best days, we went to bed hoping that maybe things would be better in the morning, but we decided we’d call the vet first thing.

She was perhaps a little better. She seemed to still be in her litter box and had maybe been there much of the night, but she managed to climb up to her food perch. I fed her some wet canned food and she ate that with apparent hunger. Then she returned to her box, where she’s mostly been all morning. She looks at me when I stop by and enjoys being petted on her head.

Louie’s brother is going to be taking care of her next week while we’re gone. We just don’t want him to be stuck with a hard decision or be put in a really tough spot, but yet…you can’t put your cat down before her time just because you’re going on vacation. I was supposed to go to a luncheon/concert this morning for the music association, but I needed to help with this, and by the time we got things settled it was too late. I feel like I’ve missed a lot of things for the animals, but maybe that’s okay. And I feel better knowing that I’m here for the morning, and then I’m teaching, and we are still waiting on a call back from the vet in regards to her insulin dosage. What I know is that she is still responsive, and she’s not my cat, she’s Louie’s. Ultimately he has to do the decision making, and this is a really hard thing.

The internet gives hope and information, and tells me that some people would have put her down long ago, and other people would make her comfortable, and other people would argue that we are only making ourselves comfortable. The best I can tell is that there is no wrong answer right now, but there’s also no right answer. We’ll see what the vet says (and he’ll see her tomorrow—they could have done a drop off appointment today but we didn’t want her to wait around in a strange place) and maybe then we’ll have a better idea if this is something that can be treated. Or not. We don’t want to run a bunch of tests. We’ve already done that. We don’t want to add a regimen of medicines, or make her life more complicated. We just want to make her comfortable. And it is just terrible timing, since we are flying out in about 50 hours…but when it is a good time for your cat to be sick?

A few weeks ago I would have been a little annoyed at her for sitting too close to me on the couch while I typed this. Heck, even a few days ago! This picture is from May 2…


I’m trying not to be too sad. I’ve been sad, off and on, for months. It’s hard to see her suffering. And I worry about what the end will bring. I’d worried it would be her skin…but that’s been okay, and no new issues. Maybe this is it, or maybe it’s just that her diabetes can be handled a little better. I guess time will tell.

Rainy Day

Be sure to check out my giveaway post! You can win a free 5K race entry.

The weekend went by. I’m starting to feel less congested (fingers crossed) and I’m hopeful that by vacation time I’ll be feeling 100 percent. (Totally have no idea, but power of positive thinking?)

We bailed on our long hike plans yesterday but decided to hit up Castlewood State Park instead. We ended up hiking the River Scene Trail, and it was a lovely day for it. I found the hike challenging due to not feeling great, and the uphills were definitely hard. The views were pretty, and there were tons of people out enjoying the day.

The first part of the hike is lots of uphills, beautiful river views off the bluff, and is quite rocky. Then it’s down a huge set of wooden stairs (you can see old rock stairs off to the side where people used to get up the hill from the train station to various clubs and cabins), under the train tracks, and then it’s a lovely walk in the woods along the river. Louie and I constantly joke that hiking in Missouri is just walking in the woods, and I think we get tired of it sometimes! The River Scene Trail is a good one though, and will get your lungs pumping. Heart pumping? Lungs working?


Too many trees! (Is there such a thing?)


Beautiful view of the Meramec River


Louie and his brother Julian.


Look out!!

CDM Mind and Body 5k Giveaway

Are you a local reader (St Louis area) and want a chance to win a free entry to a 5k? What’s better than running for free? Running a race for free! Read to the bottom to see how to win a free entry (it’s really easy to do!)

Event: CDM Presents Mind and Body 5k Run/Walk and Wellness Expo

When: Saturday, May 28, check-in begins at 7 am, race at 8 am

Where: Cardinal Ritter College Prep High School, 701 North Spring Avenue, St Louis MO 63108

cdmmindandbody flyer 2016-2

I think the story of how this event came to be is a good one: 

The event founder, Cynthia Ringo,  is a pastor and a health advocate.  She founded this event four years ago after a life course change and she found herself as a caregiver for her husband who had a stroke and developed vascular dementia as a result of this stroke. She was urged by the doctors and her support circle to make sure that she took care of her health while fulfilling her caregiver responsibilities.  So, along with about 15 other women at the church (Christ Deliverance Ministry), she began a quest on being the healthiest that she can be while inspiring others.  As a result, this group of women lost over 600 pounds collectively, in about 18 months.  This group’s age range spanned from 21 to 65 and included two breast cancer survivors.  The first year the event was held just to support this group and other people in the community who decided to take their health in their own hands.  It has since grown into a city wide event with support from the St. Louis community and businesses alike.

So! If you would like to run this event, I am giving away one free registration for the 5K. The giveaway runs through Friday, May 13 at 5 pm. Simply leave a comment letting me know you are entering, and make sure to include your valid email address. I will choose a winner randomly and notify you shortly afterwards.  Good luck!

P.S. I won’t be able to run this year because of a short trip, so I won’t see you there, but I hope you enter to run and have a great time Smile

And…Sick again

How is it that I have another cold? This year is ridiculous. I’m so over it already. You’d think I didn’t get enough sleep or eat well, but I honestly think I treat myself well and get plenty of sleep, exercise, vitamins and nutrients. I also wash my hands a lot…I’m blaming my students Smile

So instead of being out to dinner at House of India with Louie and his family, I decided it would be best if I stayed home and rested (and stayed near kleenex.)

Last night we had a low key evening—dinner at Bahn Mi So 1 with Louie. We split the bean curd spring rolls (the best!) and I had a tofu curry dish which was delicious. We split the mung bean pudding for dessert, and I would highly recommend you do the same. It might sound weird, but I promise, if you like rice pudding you’ll like it! After dinner we watched a few episodes of The Americans and dreamed about being spies.

I had to get up really early today to head downtown. April and I had signed up to volunteer for the Girls on the Run 5k. We were course marshals, which meant we were in charge of watching a small intersection and not letting anyone through. We only had about 3 people drive up to it—one guy wanted to know how to get to the highway and we tried to help him. Two other women needed to get to a bank for work, and we couldn’t help them. (I did suggest parking and walking, but they insisted they had to park in the garage.)

I’d brought some cowbells for us to cheer on the girls, and I was glad we did! One thing that I was surprised by was how many of the runners wanted a high five. While I will do a high five or a fist bump with friends, it’s not my favorite thing to do with strangers. I kept finding myself get stuck doing a few in a row–I mean, the kids are sweet so you can’t flat out refuse…but you can try to pretend you are too busy ringing your cowbell?! But I’m glad we volunteered. It was good to see the other side of a race and get to help the runners have a good time.


And the Volunteer shirts were PURPLE. Though they look blue to me in this photo…


Manning our station.


Girls on the Run! It’s a good program and we saw kids of all ages (boys too) running, walking, and pushing themselves to do their best. I hope everybody had a good time!

And an early Happy Mother’s Day to my mom (or late, or just on time!) I’m not sure if this cold means that the hike tomorrow will fall through…it goes to show that you can’t plan everything and that some things are just out of your control. Or it goes to show that the universe is conspiring to keep me from doing day long hiking trips when I plan them, since a similar thing happened in April. Like I said, I’m over this. I guess I’m not eating enough oranges or something.

I guess I’m feeling a little bit down. Sigh. This too shall pass.

thoughts about violin, teaching, running, life.