Last Day in Sedona

November 12, 2011 | Category: Arizona, Deserts, Hiking, Sunrises

Rental car in front of Bell Rock at sunrise

Rental car in front of Bell Rock at sunrise

For our last day in Sedona, I wanted to get up early and shoot a sunrise. Since our hotel, Bell Rock Inn, was literally a minute or two drive away from Bell Rock, this was the natural choice. ๐Ÿ™‚ Shooting the sunrise here was a great start for the last day in this beautiful location…

I got to Bell Rock well in advance of sunrise so that I could do a bit of scouting and find the best location to shoot from.

When I got there, I noticed that Bell Rock wasn’t the only big rock sticking up in the area. There was also another big rock structure to the east of it. Since the sun also comes up from the east, I whipped out my phone to see exactly where the sun would be coming up from, and if the rocks to the east would block the light of the sun.

TPE screenshot of sunrise at Bell Rock

"The Photographer's Epemeris" app screenshot of sunrise at Bell Rock

Bell Rock is at the center of the X.

To the right is the lighter colored blob, the big rock to the east that I was wondering whether or not would block the sunrise light.

The yellow line leading up to Bell Rock is the path of the sun’s light at sunrise. (The other lines represent sunset, moonrise, and moonset.)

Looking at this screenshot, I was able to see that the sunrise light would be unobstructed this morning. Woohoo!! ๐Ÿ™‚

So after parking my car and hiking towards Bell Rock from the south (the blue dot in the above screen shot is me), I started scoping out the area and taking some sample shots.

Trail leading straight to Bell Rock pre-sunrise

Trail leading straight to Bell Rock pre-sunrise

I experimented with a different compositions. Some with the trail leading right into Bell Rock. Others with the trail swooping off to the side.

The trail continuing on towards Bell Rock

The trail continuing on towards Bell Rock

As the sun would be rising from my right, the moon was quickly setting to my left, behind another array of red rocks.

Moonset just before sunrise near Bell Rock

Moonset just before sunrise near Bell Rock

I was hoping that I could get a wide, sweeping panorama with the sun rising on one side, the moon setting on the other, and the rocks aglow all around me.

The way the lighting and timing and weather worked out this morning, the clouds would thicken and cover up the moon as it set, but it would dip down behind the rocks in the west a few minutes before the sun peeked up from the east. Oh well. ๐Ÿ™‚

After doing some scouting and getting the best vantagepoint I could find for nice trails in the foreground, desert plantlife scenery in the middle, and as much of the rocks as I could get fitting through the trees and all, I got my camera gear in place to shoot some panos.

While shooting panos with my main camera, I also pulled out my phone camera for some quick snappy snappies to post on facebook.

Bell Rock at sunrise

Bell Rock at sunrise

As the light progressed and the sun continued to rise, I got to shoot a number of different panos.

I think this is one of the places where you really have to be there to really get a feel for it, to turn your head from side to side and see everything standing up before you, to watch the light as it changes as the sun rise… but hopefully a panoramic photo will work. ๐Ÿ™‚

Bell Rock sunrise pano

Bell Rock sunrise pano

After successfully shooting several panoramas (in between people hiking through and walking their dogs down the trail), I packed up and headed back to my car.

Rental car in front of Bell Rock at sunrise

Rental car in front of Bell Rock at sunrise

From the parking lot I was overjoyed to find a picture perfect photo op of my rental car in front of Bell Rock. (I love my car in scenic location pics!) ๐Ÿ˜€

After heading back, packing up, and checking out, Anna and I hopped in the car and headed out to go meet Matt and Julie at a stupa they knew about. What’s a stupa? I’m not quite sure but it’s time to go find out! ๐Ÿ™‚

Amitabha Stupa

So in Sedona you’ve got this stupa, which seems to be a place where Buddhists go to pay their respects to Buddha and perform their rituals. It’s this big tower with a worn trail that runs around it where people have walked laps around the stupa.

Walking around the stupa

Walking around the stupa

Curious to learn more about what this was, I found this stand with some information about the stupa, as well as a nice photo of it from behind. Great idea! I like it and am gonna copy it! ๐Ÿ™‚

Buddha statue behind the stupa

Buddha statue behind the stupa

(Sometimes it definitely helps to see other people’s shots for ideas, especially when they’ve spent quite a bit of time there…) ๐Ÿ™‚

Anyways, after doing the photo thing, I set down my gear and spent some time quietly meditating. I also decided to go try out walking around the stupa and found it to be really enjoyable. It’s like your mind would go quiet as you would focus on the repetitive task. Out of your head and into the moment. Cool. ๐Ÿ™‚

This guy walked countless laps around the stupa

This guy walked countless laps around the stupa

There was this one guy who, well, you can read the caption above. ๐Ÿ™‚ He had these rosary-like beads in his hand, which I guess would help him keep track of how many laps he’d done this far. He just kept walking and walking, doing countless laps around the stupa.

Wrapping Up and Heading Out

After finishing up here, we all headed out together to go visit some stores together before heading out.

Anna wanted to find some bird feathers which she wound up finding.

Julie wanted to get an agaveย didgeridooย from literally a guy who makes them, and she wound up doing exactly that, which was an interesting story unto itself!

While we were at a shop looking for didgeridoos, at one point I approached some Native American knives on display. I picked one up and somehow instantly knew endless details about these knives: how to use them in combat, how to hold them, how durable they are, different materials used over time to craft the knives including wood, stone, bone, metal, etc… and yet I’ve had no training with Native American weaponry or any serious training with knives in the first place. (Just a few basic ways to defend yourself against a knife from karate years ago when I was young, sure,ย but nothing like this…)

Just after all this information flooded into my awareness, Julie walked up behind me and casually said, and I paraphrase, “In this lifetime you’re not meant fight and kill with your knife. This time you’re here to use your sword of love to penetrate into the depths of other’s hearts.”

“Whoa,” I thought.

“That reading was free,” she jokingly added. ๐Ÿ˜€

(Since then I’ve purchased a military grade knife off of Amazon. It’s a huge step up from the smaller and lighter backpacking knives I carry. I don’t know why but I feel like I have experience with this knife, a familiarity with it. At the same time, I have this unexplainable disinterest when holding the blade and using it, similarย to a child who’s just tired of playing with his old toy.)

Past life stuff and me evolving, perhaps?

(I accidentally wrote that as evoloving… and I like that.) ๐Ÿ™‚

Gassing up our car to hit the road, I was taken aback by finding these sitting by the cash register…

Scorpion suckers

Scorpion suckers

Yes! Those are real scorpions inside those suckers!! Crazy…

From here on out, it was pretty chill. Took Anna to a Cracker Barrel in Phoenix since she’d never been (southern comfort food!!), gassed up the car, and off we headed back to Seattle.

What a great trip! Full of plenty of unexpected events, but that’s how these things always seem to go. ๐Ÿ™‚

Until next time!


  1. Arvind
    on December 8th, 2011

    Hi Ariel,

    I love your site. Everything about it is superb – a mix of spirituality, love, travel & superb scenery.

  2. Ariel
    on December 9th, 2011

    Thank you Arvind. I love it too. ๐Ÿ™‚

  3. Binnoy
    on December 9th, 2011

    Dear Ariel,
    I assume this is the only portal left with me to reach out to you but also have hints that you are not that much into spirituality any longer and i can understand that.
    However i had a last question(hopefully the last one).
    I agree with you when you say that after a stage….every tool becomes a hindrance.
    Now i have been practising surrender lately. My doubt was that is the practise of surrender another tool to be left behind. Or is surrender a natural state of being that comes when there is no practise at all. On the other hand sometimes i feel that now life is all about being ……just being. I really am caught up between these two process……one says stop seeking and surrender and the other says just be. Are both of these or any one of these tools in themselves or are these the remenant when all tools are given up.
    I dont know whether its apt to question spirituality on this blog. However i have right now no one else to ask this question which had been haunting me for all this while.
    However something tells me that this will be one of the last answers that i may need on this path. Hope you dont mind.
    With love always

  4. Ariel
    on December 9th, 2011

    Hey Binnoy,

    Great to hear from you!! ๐Ÿ™‚

    That’s such a great question… it really comes down to whether or not you have any expectation of results if you surrender.

    The ego’s version of surrender is, “Okay, I know this is the spiritual thing to do. It makes sense to me that I need to let go of attachments. If I fully surrender, I’m gonna get enlightenment and happiness and oneness and union with the divine and whatever else I feel I want. So I’m going to surrender because it’s going to get me what I want.” This is a conditional surrender, with expectations.

    There is a deeper version of surrender that may arise when you realize nothing else works. Everything else has only ended in failure 100% of the time. Seeking only leads to more seeking. When you see this, when this is recognized, there is this natural stopping. Where you’re not looking for anything. You’re not trying to accomplish anything. You’re not trying to gain anything or lose anything. No ideas about what’s going to happen. Just simple, quiet, presence. Openness. Being. Resting in this moment. You can call it surrender too, but the big difference is that it’s not surrender done as a tool to get you somewhere. It’s just a natural relaxation and openness into this moment. A genuine stopping.

    A subtle difference, perhaps, but it makes all the difference in the world… ๐Ÿ™‚

  5. Binnoy
    on December 9th, 2011

    Thanks Arial
    Just the answer what i required.
    With love always

  6. Golly
    on January 5th, 2012

    Hi Arial !
    I know this is a stupid question. But how do i surrender? I am kind of little cluelesss about this. When I try to surrender, all I do is mind made concept of surrender and not the true surrender.
    Also , I am clueless about when to surrender. Sometimes I feel things won’t get better unless i take personal responsibility for my problems and solve it and sometimes i feel i must surrender for everything. Could you enlighten me on this.

  7. Golly
    on January 5th, 2012

    I am not very capable of expressing what i feel clearly . so the above post may seem no so intelligible. Sorry about that.

  8. Golly
    on January 5th, 2012

    I am not very capable of expressing what i feel clearly . so the above post may seem not so intelligible. Sorry about that.

  9. Ariel
    on January 5th, 2012

    There’s a big difference between effort-based surrender, which can make you feel like you’re doing a bad job or a good job but many find never actually gets them to where they want to be, to a relaxing that can be found when you discover that none of this is even your job! When you think you have to do everything, you try to do it right. Meditate, surrender, whatever. When you realize it’s not even your job to try and control everything or do it right, there is this natural relinquishment of effort, and this is called surrender. It’s just what happens when you totally fail at what was never your job to begin with. ๐Ÿ˜‰ One way or another, everyone’ll figure it out…

  10. golly
    on January 6th, 2012

    Thank you Ariel! It makes a lot of sense of now. I kind of now feel lightness in what i am doing and as if a burden i have been carrying has been dropped :).

    Btw just wanted to say this – i aam usually bombarded with images and stereotypes of enlightened people being poor ,hermit type , living a ascetic type of lifestyle. Its nice to see someone like you who is enjoying this world and you seem like a regular person to me which is kind of inspiring.

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