Oak Creek at West Fork | Mark Lindsay

There is nothing like doing nothing after a big adventure. The senses need some calming after being bombarded with the stimuli of travel. One must return to a place that is familiar and quiet. Oak Creek Canyon, just north of Sedona, Arizona, has provided me with il dolce far niente (the sweetness of doing nothing) for many, many years. For the past few years, I've ended great adventures into Grand Canyon with a week of nothingness in Oak Creek Canyon. It is that combination of that seems to be so very satisfying.

Grand Canyon punishes the body with extremes of every type. It is deadly hot with a relentless sun that can't be avoided. The inclines tear at legs and lungs alike. Myriad stories have been written of the challenges of hiking from rim to river, back to rim again. Warning signs are everywhere on the trails. One can get into trouble quickly in the canyon, and, even if a hiker is prepared and in excellent physical condition, it is a grueling experience.

They call it the Kaibab Shuffle. Legs are not meant to go up and down big holes like Grand Canyon. They stiffen in unexpected ways. At Phantom Ranch you see everyone waddling like penguins. That's the Kaibab Shuffle. Canyon Walk. You get it going down and it gets only worse back up at the top. I suppose each year my body gets a little more acclimated to the experience. The first year was extreme. Now it just hurts.

Oak Creek Canyon is the perfect antidote for the Kaibab Shuffle. The creek is a great place to soak your feet after a canyon hike. Most of the creek is shady and cool. The geology is virtually identical to the canyon as they share the Colorado Plateau. One sees and feels the connection, but, the two canyons are worlds apart. When one sees the vastness of Grand Canyon one must explore it. But, in Oak Creek Canyon a visitor can simply sit back and do nothing.

If you must do something, a sketchpad or a camera are nice tools to have. But, at least a couple days should have nothing attached to them. Nothing. It is then that the true enchantment of the Southwest seeps into your pores.