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Sunday, March 1, 2015

Hedonism 101: Why Else Are We Here?

Post Prescott, with its cooling trend forecast, Bobbie and I dropped down in elevation to the glorious red rock country encircling Village of Oak Creek… always an irresistible postcard. We ended up staying a week, walking, hiking, and peddling through odoriferous stands of pinion and cedar—our hearts pulsating with aerobic joy. I know there are some higher consciousness types who like to marginalize "scenery," think it's a frivolous distraction to the real point of life and a general waste of gasoline. Thankfully, people are like jellybeans. They come in assorted colors and have divergent tastes (ideas).

For better or worse, some people perceive the world more on an emotional, as opposed to intellectual, level. It doesn't mean we are dumb or crybabies or gay, just that, for some reason, we are wired to filter the world's input first through "hearts," then the brain… instead of the other way around or with only the brain. We tend to be "colorful" and creative, bent more toward the Arts instead of Sciences. Yep, that's me. But oh to be a Michelangelo or Leonardo, sculptors, painters, architects, poets, and engineers, all wrapped into one body—paint the Sistine Chapel by day; kick royal ass in the village square chess tournament by night. :))   

Certain landscapes, through my eyes, have the ability to inspire movement and art, which, in turn, brings happiness and pleasure. Misplaced love? Maybe, but how about I romance my "stones" and you yours. Some of the brightest thinkers and philosophers, Aristotle included, believed happiness to be among the prime purposes of life. Why endure the bleak and trudge the sludge when we are built to favor beauty and skip like a child? 

Skip, hike, or bike, whatever means of locomotion through painted deserts one chooses, there seems to be a positive sensual correlation going on: The more senses engaged, the higher the quality of experience, the more joy felt. I like it when all my senses are simultaneously revved.

I've been coming to this beautiful place of joy and rejuvenation since I was a wee child, long before it was "discovered" by Hollywood types and throngs of retired Phoenicians. Dad would often drive the family up here from our mobile home sweatbox down in the Valley of the Sun, just so we could escape triple digit heat and rest our eyes on something pretty and different. I feel a calming effect when exploring this kind of landscape, with its juniper treed red soil and rock, intoxicating sweet pine scent—the exhilarating whack and soft caress of a trailside cedar limb against bare skin—and a mountain bike is about as near perfect means of transport as there is.

Unlike walking and hiking, mountain biking trails around Oak Creek requires additional focus. There's no time to worry about your boss or deadlines when a trail is rushing down your throat. The brain is far too occupied, making thousands of split second decisions regarding proper route, thorny cactus, loose rock, steep ledges, blind corners. One is fully engaged, circuits jammed, all five senses feeding "input" faster than it can be processed… sight, sound, smell, hearing, with the occasional light touch of brake. Financial woes, terrorists at large, or any other negative headline de jour, evaporates like sweat in dry air. It's psychotherapy on wheels and it's free... if one doest count the arm and leg it cost to buy the bike.

Bobbie gave her full suspension Trek a good workout over some pretty rough terrain… stuff that would have given her problems on her old hard tail. Lay off the brakes and relax, darling… let that suspension do its job

Sometimes I think braking in the "bumps" causes more crashes than just letting it rip. It's a hard inclination to overcome, braking… takes some "balls," if you will. But my gal's pretty brave for a geezerette :). Now if I could just get her to stop wearing that 20 pound pack on her back. 

Over the years, we managed to find several convenient boondock sites just minutes from VOC, nice rolling pinion pine country with views and cool breezes. This time back, however, we found that the Forest Service had gated off our favorite spot *&% @#@&%#  anyway. We had to move down the road another mile... 

I suppose we better get used to gates. As more and more people choose the RV lifestyle, not just retirees, but younger and middle age working people, too… some with kids, trying to beat the rent/mortgage racket and get back on their feet… well, regulation is what Govie loves to do. A couple camped down from us lives in a utility trailer not much bigger than Boonie's… and go off in their pickup to work in town everyday.

Time to go for a ride… Put on your helmet.


  1. It's a shame some of the roads are shut down to boondocking. Sadly I believe it's mostly a result of folks abusing the privilege and heavily over-staying limits. I totally get that rejuvenation feeling. I'm sure that's what Sedona Vortexes are all about...just great, energy-filling nature spots. They're everywhere once you open up to them.

  2. This post makes me grateful that, like you, my optic nerve runs through my heart on its way to my brain. ;-) How sad to live one's life without being moved to tears by a panorama like that one! (It also makes me regret not buying that mountain bike all over again!)

  3. Nothing like a FS bike hooking up on single track!
    We're still running the "burro" paths over here at Imperial Dam LTVA. (20# packs - us too - extra H2O, it's been hot down here!) John and Mary

  4. What a nice read Mark...I so get it! Thank goodness quite often as it is easy for me to see, smell, feel, and hear the beauty in just about everything outdoors. I cant wait... if Joe gets another good report we will be heading that way in April!

    Breathtaking photos.

  5. Great post! I feel just like you do about scenic landscapes and know I really am a child of Nature. I will be in Sedona tomorrow and Oak Creek area with a small hiking group from our park in Tucson. Four days of hiking through the red rock will be awesome! Not bad for a group of "old retired people".

  6. Talent beyond your years...barely. Nice prose and photos as usual. Now, where's my helmet.

  7. 20 pound pack, hell its 30 for sure. I tried to pick it up once. But Bobbie explained the weight telling me she carries a space blanket. Apparently it comes with space rocks as well.

    Wish we were there. I want to ride my bike more.

    I look at those trails and think about that whole brain bleed thing. I wondered whats the big deal I wear a helmet and haven't had a problem before. Then in a book I was recently reading I discovered that by the age of 70 the average persons brain has shrunk to the point that there is a 1" gap between it and the skull. Thus leaving lots of banging around room in there. But you only live once, right.


    1. You know, I hit my head harder than ever before getting into Goldie's driver's seat the other day. Just saying, you don't necessarily have to be on a mountain bike to bleed out. I think some spray foam insulation would take up that gap. Now drilling the hole. Hmmmm. I'll get back to ya.

  8. Beautiful pictures and an upliting outlook. Can't beat the combination. My wife Terri and I have a truck camper and we are leaving for the Tuscon area from our home in SoCal tomorrow. Hope to spend about 10-12 days just exploring and looking around. We are headed that way by way of Quartzite, then up to Mesa area, where we hope to find and drive the Apache Trail. Then it's on to Tuscon to explore that area, and Tombstone. So where is Oak Creek? Maybe we could include it on this trip? Thanks again for a great post and a great blog. John Tully.

  9. You will love the Apache Trail. Oakcreek is about in the center of the state north of Phoenix south of Flagstaff east of Prescott don't want to give it away to accurately 😀


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