The jaded road ahead radiated with heat from the Arizona sun. The land around the asphalt was dusty and cracked. It was speckled with pale green shrubs and was wrapped by forgotten barbwire fences. The sky was bright and wide and the auburn land stretched into the horizon. And then suddenly- like giants walking over our heads- towering rock formations loomed over our van, hiding us from the desert blaze. My mind swam with romantic escapades of the past- of cowboys riding into incarnadine sunsets, of Native Americans and their love for the nature around them. Settlers and wagons wheeled through my brain, as did the sounds of horses’ thundering hooves. Arizona was a novel come to life. It wasn’t just a place; it was an adventure.
â–º QUARTER FINALIST 2012 TEEN TRAVEL WRITING SCHOLARSHIP
Our wagon- ahem, minivan- carried me, my parents, my brother Kimo, and our cousins James and Aaron. We drove to Sedona and journeyed into the Martian landscape of red rocks and dirt. We hiked through the cacti-lined path until we reached Bell Rock, a large formation shaped, indeed, like a bell. After navigating through twists, grasping at rocks, and helping each other through steep terrain, we made it to the top of Bell Rock. The view was otherworldly. Breathless both from awe and fatigue, we gazed at the world before us. We were on top of it as we looked down on the trees, the land, the other formations in the distance. And then we heard something- the ethereal sound of some sort of wind instrument, music in the distance. I surveyed the view and realized there was someone on a neighboring rock, standing still and conjuring flowing notes that echoed across the landscape. It was as if all of life was calm for a moment, as if we all went back to ancient times, before traffic and noise. We took in the pause in time before starting the climb down.
We left Sedona filled with awe and new stories to tell. But like an infomercial, Arizona beckoned, "But wait! There's more!" So we prepared for perhaps the most famous part of the state, the most breathtaking… the most grand. As soon as I saw the edges of the canyon- layers of the Earth's past- and the teal Colorado River winding below the ridges like a jewel-toned ribbon that fell to the Earth's floor, I knew why so many people from all over the world come just to glimpse the Grand Canyon. I carefully made my way onto a projection of the cliff. Contrary to every movie's advice, I looked down and gasped at the dizzying height of my location. I leveled my view and looked around at the canyon. I raised my arms to my side, and I felt the wind rush past. Scared, though still far from the edge, I backed away, afraid I would tumble and fall. I realized that though the beauty of the canyon could be captured in pictures, though we walk by its ridges, though daredevils scale its walls, we are but miniscule compared to its strength. It was a monument of nature to be respected, like everything of the Earth, and in return, its majesty would be preserved for more travelers to see. After such a realization, I dearly hoped, that maybe after many years, when I find my way again through the towering ruby rocks of Sedona and the humbling ridges of the Grand Canyon, I would find the land to be like the first time I visited: enchanting, pristine, and beloved by all who witness its wonder.
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