I recently made it to Wyoming. The first destination was Grand Teton National Park. The second was Yellowstone.

Part of me wanted to see what they hype is all about. After all, America’s National Parks have some of the most beautiful landscapes on earth. One could spend the rest of his life exploring Western America, and have his mind blown the whole time.

This is not exaggeration.

Now, the Grand Tetons are awesome. They’re huge. The tallest peak is called Grand Teton, and rises to an elevation of 13,770′. It’s prominence – the height of a mountain from its base (roughly 6.770′) to its peak (again, 13,770′) – is 7,000′. That’s big! The Tetons rise from pine and grass studded park landscapes still cool in summer, and display snow and glaciers strewn among its granite crags that, if God is so willing, will certainly bring me back for more extensive hiking and exploration.

Then there’s Yellowstone. This was the first American national park. It’s arguably the first national park ever. It has the highest concentration of geysers on Earth, with Old Faithful being the most famous. It has deer, elk, bison, bears and wolves on display. And of course it has the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone which is one the finest things on earth I’ve seen. Four days here camping, driving, hiking and photographing are fine memories.

Then there was Cody, Wyoming. Had a great time in this remote city. It perfectly embodies the West. It inspired another blog post, which you can read here.

But none of the above brings happiness like Sedona.

Sedona’s built at the base of the Colorado Plateau. This is the world’s second largest plateau – after Tibet’s. It’s characterized by crazily contoured red rocks composing canyons, spires, plateaus and mountains that infect your mind with wonder as to how in God’s creation the landscape came to look as it does. You see best the awe-inspiring landscapes of the Plateau at Sedona, Grand Canyon, Zion, Bryce Canyon, Monument Valley, Antelope Canyon, Arches, Canyonlands, Dinosaur National Monument, and countless other localities.

However, it is familiarity with Sedona’s landscapes that invites ever increasing wonder and thus pleasure that other landscapes cannot bring. After all, a mountain from the highway is just that. You see it, but don’t wonder about it. You don’t wonder about the unique and beautiful views from its tops and canyons. The mountain’s gone from your mind as soon as you stop seeing it.

Not so for Sedona. Though it’s sensory overload for those who first see it, seeing the landscape day after day allows your eyes to notice details of colors and curves that turn out to be gigantic canyons hiding just beyond your view from the road.

But that’s not all. On highpoints above the city, where ponderosa pines waft vanilla smell, and the temperatures are cool and breezy on hot summer days, you look down upon some of the prettiest of the Plateau’s crazy rocks. Plus, a river runs through it. Well, actually a creek. Along Oak Creek there are still many swimming holes I’ve not seen that are cool, deep and almost turquoise under the afternoon sun. All this only make me consider this area a paradise.

This is not exaggeration. A couple of days ago I hiked up some obscure trail called the AB Young. It goes up the west wall of Oak Creek Canyon. The views upward were familiar.

However, the top is magic. To the north I discerned the rim of the West Fork Canyon. Views of the West Fork Canyon from its top are awesome too. But I’ve only done that once before. Those views can be hard to access. But right before me was a walk through vanilla pines, less than a mile long, that would lead me to an overlook of the mouth of the canyon that maybe 5 people will see in ten years. People just don’t walk to places like this.

But there it was before me! And it’s easy to get to!

Took this photo in April. This is from the south rim of the West Fork Canyon miles up from its mouth. The view from the rim I’m talking about in the paragraph above is right at its mouth.

Did I go? No. It was already 1PM, and I wanted to see the fire-watch tower first, and didn’t want to rush night by adding hours to my journey.

But I’ll make that trek. I will walk to the edge, and take another photo that I hope will be more mesmerizing than the solo one above. The prospect of doing this whenever I want brings joy. The prospect of more expeditions, by foot or vehicle, around the West Fork, and up the Western Canyons, and beyond, bring more joy. This joyous anticipation is identical to the joy during mornings at Yellowstone, or Yosemite, or wherever.

I’ll not ramble on. My ultimate point is that I couldn’t wait to get back to Sedona from Wyoming. I couldn’t wait to be back in the Red Rocks. I feel almost guilty that I don’t thank God enough I live in a place like this. It is becoming that place of wonder and miracles I hoped it would become when I moved here almost 6 years ago.

I wouldn’t wish to imply that life here doesn’t have its ups and downs. Of course it does. Anyone who portrays such a life through social media is full of it. And I fully realize there may come a time to move. And that move would probably be 100% voluntary as I realize landscapes are not the essence of a happy life. There is much more. And there is much I am missing out on.

But still, the prospect of leaving makes me sad. God knows this – and I don’t think about it much.

So, for the time that I’m here, I will make the most of life, and be grateful.