The Wonders and Mysteries of Pisac


After playing tourist in Peru’s most famous-and suffocated-  sites including Machu Pichu and Cuzco, the quaint town of Pisac was like a cool breeze on a hot day. I left the crowds and chaos behind as I stepped into the tranquility of this Peruvian gem.

Pisac Market HDR

Known for its touristy Sunday market, Pisac is much more than its vendors and crafts (although they are quite lovely.) It’s bewitching and mysterious ruins and chill, chakra-aligning energy, left an indelible imprint on my journey.

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The Lively Sunday Market

Referring to both the town and the ruins, Pisac is perhaps derived from the word “Pisaca,”  the Qechua word for Partridge.  While nobody know exactly why the ruins were built, I was told by a local that if Cuzco was the “Puma” and heart of Inca Civilization, Pisac was the underworld.  This makes sense considering one of the biggest collection of Incan tombs rest just opposite the valley from the ruins. You can see the honeycomb holes that adorn that hillside, yet are no longer accessible to visitors as they were raided by grave robbers long ago.

PisacRuins copy1

Pisac remains a mystery to visitors and historians alike. In no Spanish conquest texts is this mighty fortress even mentioned. Yet, its perfect stone architecture is captivating.  The precision to which each block was placed cannot be replicated even with modern technology.  The canals and irrigation systems built by Ancient Inca still flow with Andean spring water while its impressive agricultural terraces contour the hillside and feed the village.


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The precise stonework indicates these ruins were used ceremoniously

Part of Pisac’s beauty is in its mystery. Perhaps we will never uncover the secrets and wisdom of the Inca, but perhaps we may catch of a glimpse of that elusive cosmic thread they were tapped into.


Laughing with the Wildflowers

Aster and Sunflower

They say the Earth laughs in flowers, and, with names like Orange Sneezeweed, Sulphur Buckwheat, Mountain Coyote, it’s no wonder why.  At Cedar Breaks National Monument, July is quite the jolly jubilee, indeed, as it erupts in plumes of wildflowers of every color.

Cedar Breaks Indian Paintbrush

Cedar Breaks is a hidden gem of a monument. Only one hour away from the scorching heat of the red rock desert, it sits over 10,000 ft. in elevation and gives visitors a brisk alpine breath of fresh air. This was the monument’s thirteenth annual Wildflower Festival, and photographing the event enlivened my heart and soul.

Purple Plant


Penstemon up close & personal


Lupin Leaf Water copy

The intense, regal color of scarlet paintbrush, to the perfect symmetry of the sunflower, made it easy to capture their beauty. I love the refreshing splatter of fresh rain on the lupine leaves, giving the flowers an ethereal twinkling effect.

Sunflower Symmetry
Sunflower Fractal Symmetry


Upclose Parsnip
Sparkly Southern Ligusticum




Aster Up close
Huddled on an Aster




Lupin Leaf Water
A lively lupine leaf


water Droplets


Lupin Field Vibrant
Happy Lupine Flowers


Indian Painbrush


Cedar Breaks

Just try not be joyful at the Cedar Breaks Wildflower Festival!

“If the thunder don’t get you, the lightning will…”

Zion lightning

It’s monsoon season down here in Southern Utah, my favorite time of year.

I love the dark, brooding atmosphere cast from thunder and lightning. There is something elemental and primordial about it, reminding us of our powerlessness against the fury of nature herself.

Lightning Zion 7.22

A few days ago my friend and photography mentor Dawn2Dawn Photography  and I set out on a mission-to capture the ephemeral energy of one such lightning storm.

Up a dirt road a few miles from Zion, we set up our tripods in the midst of several ominous, tempestuous storms. Capturing a lightning bolt is no easy task; its elusive nature makes photographers work hard. We took thousands of photos, moving our cameras around, changing the settings and making sure we were constantly watching for changes and movement of the storms.

Storm Lightning

All the work paid off in capturing these fleeting electric moments.

I was also reminded, after deleting the thousands of images without lightning, to embrace the tedious toil of the process- the hours of sitting and waiting, the thousands of empty handed exposures, the experience of being in the thick, brooding storm.  It’s not merely about the end result,  but the effort, intention and awareness that creates it.

Gooseberry Storm



It isn’t “brave” to travel solo as a woman. It’s normal.

When I decided to venture solo off to the mystical land of Peru, some friends and family members expressed  concerns, a few expressed astonishment and a lot of folks reminded me to “be careful.” While I certainly appreciate the consideration, I think the overzealous warnings from loved ones can be a bit misguided.  Here is why:

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Here is me not getting murdered by this predatory alpaca

Despite being the fool-hearty adventurous type, I have often considered myself rather timid and awkward. I’m possessed of an inner dialogue that years for adventure and wildness, simultaneously crippled by anxious rumination about whether or not I possess the  heartiness to go out and seek it.

Perhaps the timid voice is simply an internalized manifestation of our paranoid culture.  (I will take responsibility for the awkward one). A culture that reinforces the notion that women have to be extra careful, vigilant and scared while traveling alone.  For women, internalized weakness turns basic  vacation and trip decision-making into a life or death scenario, often causing unnecessary anxiety.  Not only is this fear-mongering rarely directed at men, rarely is it directed at the riskiest, yet most mundane of behaviors-driving, eating sugar, not getting adequate sleep, etc.

Yes, the world is dangerous. But I’m tired about worrying whether behind every kind gesture there is a rapist. About whether behind every shadowy alleyway, a predator.  It is clear why many women choose to ignore their yearning for adventure, to believe in their own weakness rather than their own strength. It also is clear why a simple act such as going on a solo vacation seems profound and utterly courageous.

We can and should raise the bar. Telling a woman going a trip alone is “brave” may sound kind, and likely the intention is, but it can also be condescending.  I know the risks of traveling alone.  Just like I know the risk of eating sugar (it’s bad). Or not getting enough sleep (really bad). Or driving. (crazy super bad).

Our culture sees going on a trip alone as a woman as brave. But I wish it didn’t. As long as courage is measured differently between women and men, we have a long ways to go.



The Transcendent Colors of Peru

It’s been almost three months since my return from my solo adventure into the beating heart of South America-Peru. From the metropolitan, screeching chaos of Lima to the somber serenity of the Sacred Valley, Peru is a land bustling with contradiction, seething with history, and vibrant with life of every variety.

Emblazoned in my memory of this  country are the colors. The luminous golds and yellows of Qechua garb, the ripe magenta of tropical flora, the flush hues of red and orange fruits at the markets have imprinted in my mind. The stunning and sometimes overwhelming visual sensations tell the story of the richness of Peruvian culture.  They tell of the Qechua people clinging to an ancient way of life while acquiescing to the capitalism of hawking wears and crafts to western tourists. Threads of colonialism, Indigenous resistance, and modern consumer tourism ripple through the country, creating an intricate and complex quilt of modern culture.

Kids and Alpaca copy

Cuzco Market

Meat Market Cuzco

Mural Pisac

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The markets of Peru are writhing, seething organisms unto themselves. You can lose yourself wandering in the toil and clamor of the cobblestone alleys, then find yourself again in a juicy mango or greasy empanada.

Fruit Market Peru

Cuzco City Alley

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Pisac Market, rainbow vendor

I lost and found myself many times over throughout my adventures in Peru.




The Journey Begins

Welcome to Ali’s little corner of the great digital firmament.  The Crooked Trail is premised under the idea that our journeys often have to go wayward, upside down and topsy- turvey to bring us to our personal truths. The paved path can often be the most treacherous.

I am an air sign and a blonde, so, naturally, my trails have meandered far, far off trail.  I currently live in an RV with two cats, so the stable life isn’t my forte. What I lack in certainty and stability I try to make up for in adventure and life long learning. My blog, like myself, will be a constant work in progress, may meander through strange, dark canyons, lonesome mountain peaks, swirling rivers and mystical deserts.  Sometimes, it may even meander into sketchy bathrooms and dubious alley ways.

As a lover of all things earthen, you will be sure to find the quintessential outdoorsy nature porn. As a whiskey-drinking vegetarian, reluctant optimist, friendly misanthrope, and shape-shifting agnostic with slightly woo-woo spiritual proclivities, you may find some whimsical,  physcho-babble as well. I don’t like to offer advice, but I may pepper the space with personal anecdotes you may or may not, aptly apply to your personal predicament. Happy reading!



“She was a wanderess, a drop of free water. She belonged to no man and no city.”


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