Before we set out on our hike among the red rocks of Sedona, we checked out the exhibit in the visitor's center that showed the types of wildlife that live in the park. They've got mule deer and all manner of lizards and this sort of warthog-type thing called a javelina and bobcats and some more fun-filled fauna such as tarantulas and rattlesnakes. I thought this would be thrilling to Felicity because she loves animals more than almost anything else. The exhibit noted how rare it was to encounter dangerous wildlife, but it went on to detail quite a few helpful tips in case you should run across, say, a bobcat, which seemed to suggest to our small traveler that in fact, this was an event within the realm of possibility for our hike.
(In case you're wondering, if you find yourself at cross-purposes with a bobcat, running away is not the thing to do, despite it being the ONLY thing I could possibly imagine having the mental acuity to do in the face of a wild carnivorous cat that could tear my face off in five seconds. Felicity was extremely disturbed by the recommendation that you should throw things at the bobcat to scare it away. "But I don't want to HURT it," she sniffled. You can also scream at it, although this seems awfully passive to me in a life-or-maiming situation -- at least I want to scream at it while throwing things before I give in to my uncontrollable urge to run away.)
I reassured her that (a) there was very little chance we would see a bobcat, let alone throw anything at it, and (b) if we did somehow come upon one, her daddy and I would do everything we could to protect her, which only increased her anxiety: "But I don't want anything to happen to YOU!" These things seemed to be the wrong things to say entirely, another gold star parenting moment among many on this trip so far. So now we have a kid who is weak from hunger, has recently vomited, was yelled at by a park ranger, and has been alarmed to the point of terror by the wildlife exhibit.
Off we go!
For at least the first third of the hike, Felicity gave a moment-by-moment account of her crippling anxiety: "Mama, I really hope we don't see a rattlesnake. What if you get bitten by a rattlesnake? Aren't they poisonous? What if there's a bobcat. I really don't want to see a bobcat. What if a deer comes running right at us?? Wouldn't it hurt us?" As the hike wended its way up a hill, mostly through a kind of low, brushy forest (in which we did not even see so much as a squirrel, so much for testing out my bobcat-fighting skills), Felicity started to become nervous about falling off a ledge (this was BEFORE she saw the Grand Canyon, and this hike had like maybe some mild ledges that would probably be unpleasant to slide down accidentally, but no total day ruiners or anything) and then she was upset because we had not seen any other people, so then as we started to come upon more hikers (including large families with children of all ages and parents carrying babies on their backs in those Kelty things, and dude, hiking in a hot place with forty pounds of child on my back is near the top of my I Would Prefer Not To list) she was somewhat heartened but somehow found still more to worry about. (WHERE DOES SHE GET THIS?? I CANNOT IMAGINE IT.)
I don't recall precisely the point in the hike at which she began to alternate between all-consuming fear and constant expressions of discomfort, but it had to be about halfway because soon after that we determined that we would cut our intended route by half because this was maybe not the rollicking good time we were hoping for when we set out for a day of intrepid exploration. Forcing my child to suffer in a hundred different ways, mentally and physically, was maybe also not setting well with me, either. So we made our way back to the visitor's center and gave her a snack and she got one of those Junior Ranger badges, and given that we were sweaty and covered in red dust, we thought it would be a good time to check out some fancy shops and galleries in town so that is where we headed next.
Felicity got to shed her concerns about wildlife and focus on touching every breakable item in every store, and to concentrate on making me feel guilty for not buying anything in this very precious music box store in which she asked the proprietor for a demonstration of about 100 different music boxes, none of which I intended to buy (even my Small Business Anxiety could not persuade me to part with several hundred dollars for the chance to transport a highly breakable item back to New York, only to take up space on Felicity's already-crammed shelves -- though I will say, without a trace of irony, that the Disney Precious Moments ones were AWFULLY adorable). When we broke free of the music box prison, we then found ourselves in one of quite a number of crystal stores (there are about 25 crystal stores per capita in Sedona), where I somehow fell into a conversation with the shopkeeper about her early menopause and her history of failed marriages, because this is just what happens to me everywhere I go; people tell me things, and I roll with it). We capped off the day with what was probably the highlight of the trip: a bubble bath in our enormous jetted tub with a fire in the fireplace. A+, Adobe Grand Villas.
Obviously, the next day we decided that given the success of the previous day, what we needed was an even longer, more technical hike! So we headed to Bell Rock and Courthouse Rock to get our trail on. This time, Felicity did not get ill beforehand, and she greeted the chance to scramble up vertical rock faces with aplomb. Perhaps the lack of a visitor's center made the difference; maybe she thought that without an expository exhibit, there was no chance of wildlife sightings, but regardless, she was like a different person from the day before. She would have climbed straight up to the top of Bell Rock if we had let her. During the other hike, she had lamented to me that, "Maybe I'm not as spunky as you are" but this time, when I hesitated at scaling a boulder the size of our apartment, she called out, "Now who's spunky??" Okay then. So we pressed on, tackling a six-mile circular route around two sets of huge rock outcroppings. She did very well this time, although she did wonder "did the people who made this trail not know the word 'bench'??" so she would have preferred some more resting spots. I must admit that by the last mile, I was gutting it out and really needed it to be over. My daily nature quota had been exceeded. I went into robot mode, charging forward and resisting any request to stop because if I stopped, I might never be able to continue. Finally, we reached the trail's end and rewarded ourselves with another afternoon of not buying anything at the fancy shops, taking another soak in the jetted tub, and inhaling giant burgers the size of our heads for dinner.
What a great trip.