May 11, Arizona became the first state in the western United States to reopen its restaurants and shops. In California, attempts to ease Covid-19 restrictions were slashed when authorities in Los Angeles claimed that people were not “social distancing” on the beaches. The mayor announced that public areas would remain closed for another three months. Nevada’s governor flip-flopped on a definitive reopening date throughout May. Folks tired of self-quarantine looked toward Arizona as an escape to freedom.
It was time for a road trip, and my dear friend, Elaine, sensed it. The mounting tensions, not only across the nation but in households where families hunkered together for weeks on end, began to weigh on emotions. Regular routines were gone for children who went to school and where spouses left for work. A break from this kind of proximity was needed.
On May 28, we packed my car with coolers full of food and drinks and headed for Sedona, Arizona. Known for its majestic scenery and regenerative qualities that draw folks from around the world, Sedona fit-the-bill for a “girl’s” trip.
We opted for a two night get-away during the week, expecting that crowds would flock in during the weekend as places began to open up. Our decision proved insightful. By the time we checked out on Saturday to go home, cars were backed up out of the parking lot with folks waiting to check-in to the hotel.
Sedona is a four-and-a-half-hour drive from Las Vegas. It has some of the most beautiful landscapes in America. Known for its towering red rock formations, idyllic and refreshing creeks, and forests, it’s an oasis for Phoenicians and a mecca for new-age enthusiasts. Art galleries, restaurants, and five-star resorts draw visitors year-round. Our focus was hiking to the mysterious Vortex Sites that locals claimed made Sedona a unique energy center acclaimed worldwide.
We had looked up four Vortices that we wanted to visit. For more information, the following link from Sedona’s Visitor Center gives a helpful explanation about Vortex sites. visitsedona.com/spiritual-wellness/what-is-a-vortex. Each location (claimed by spiritual healers) had specific powers. Airport Mesa, part of the Airport Loop Trail, was the first vortex we visited as we pulled into Sedona. The energy generated there was credited to facilitate an uplifting, conscious-expanding experience.
Off of Highway 89A and Airport Road, it is an easy trailhead to access. It is located about three-quarters of the way to the airport. Parking is provided on the left side of the road with a clear signpost saying Airport Summit Trail.
The Summit trail is a short walk. We were eager to encounter the energy that emanated at the end of this trail. After changing out our sandals for hiking boots, we made our way along a dirt path with slabs of rock dug into the slope to provide steps for easy navigation. The trail is well marked. Scattered pine, cacti, and desert shrubs dot the landscape.
Large red sandstone outcrops flatten into an uneven surface at the summit. We sat down to take in the nearly 360-degree view of the valley below, along with protruding buttes and cliff walls in the distance.
It was 1:00 in the afternoon, and the day was well on its way to be unseasonably warm. The lookout was a great way to orient ourselves to the area. Highway 179 snaked its way south towards Phoenix, while on the other side of the summit, we saw Highway 89A and the surrounding town.
We goofed around, stepping into yoga poses, sitting quietly to feel any exceptional vortex forces, and hiking part of the Airport Loop Trail to get different perspectives of the landscape. We met folks on the trail who were enjoying the expansive beauty. Face- masks were nonexistent. Pleasantries were exchanged; polite hellos, comments on the weather, and announcing the towns we came from. An imaginary door was slowly opening, showing us what “normal” was like again.
The effects of the pandemic materialized as we arrived at our hotel. A large sign posted outside announced that only one guest from the arriving party could enter into the lobby. The receptionists were behind plexiglass. Social distancing markers were glued to the floor. At the pool, lounge chairs were arranged in pairs and distanced from one another. The dining area was closed, but the complimentary breakfast offered in the morning was bagged and handed out to guests to take back to their rooms.
Later in the evening, we dined at The Vault Downtown, one of the few restaurants accepting reservations for in-house seating. Not all the restaurants in Sedona were open. Seating was limited.
Dinner was a marvelous treat. We sat on the patio where views of the surrounding bluffs were stunning. There was an air of festivity as folks happily chatted as they dined.
Our waiter, who wore a mask, greeted us with enthusiasm. I’m sure he was grateful to work again. He apologized that service would be slow since the staff was minimal, and the crowd was large. We didn’t care. We were happy to be out enjoying a typical dining experience. We ordered cocktails and toasted to our first trip since the pandemic shutdown.
The next morning, we were up by 5:45 am. To my surprise, Elaine had contacted an acquaintance we had known years ago. She was a teacher that had taught our sons during their early years in Montessori School. The interconnecting threads of life had once again brought our paths together. She was now teaching in Sedona, and we were going to meet her at one of the Vortex sites.
Cathedral Rock was only five miles from our hotel. We were grateful we had a connection who could give us an “insider” view of the trails. When we arrived at seven, the parking lots were nearly full. We parked on the street, and after quick hellos, “air” hugs for social distancing, and updates on our kids, we were on our way.
Meandering through a dry wash, we ascended onto an expansive rock platform. It was here that our gracious guide told us that on the full moon, drum concerts are held. To the right of towering sandstone columns, known as Cathedral Rock, we walked along a trail descending into a lush forest.
We turned off the path marked by a cairn and arrived beside a refreshing creek. This is a spot that only the locals know, she told us. I have to say it was magical. I felt as if we had entered a different world away from the hustle and bustle of town. The creek softly gurgled as it flowed slowly along. Shade created a nice reprieve from the bright, blazing sun. Cathedral Rock was reflected in still pools formed by the creek. We took a moment to sit and enjoy the peaceful surroundings before heading back.
We learned that the vortex wasn’t one specific spot. Many folks believed the entire area offered energy-centered experiences. It was at the pools where I felt moved toward inner reflection.
We finished our hike within two hours. Those two hours were exceptional. Elaine and I simultaneously commented on how our sense of time, both past and present, seemed to merge into one. Was this what a parallel time continuum felt like? We found ourselves existing where we left off sixteen years ago, in the throes of joyful motherhood with the teacher that partnered in the development of our children.
With other commitments waiting, our friend needed to say her good-byes. Elaine and I continued on our quest to visit the remaining Vortices. Bell Rock Trail was a short drive away and was the next hike on our list.
Off of Highway 179 between Sedona and the village of Oak Creek, Bell Rock stands beside Courthouse Butte Vista. The vortex at Bell Rock is known for energy upflows that increase your physical vitality. We parked in the large parking lot provided for the trailheads of both Bell Rock and the Butte and decided to hike the four mile trail around Courthouse Butte.
The trail is an easy walk with a lot of flat stretches going across meadows. We enjoyed the different angles of the butte along with the unique plants that grew there.
We veered off the trail when we saw an outcrop of rock that looked like a UFO. It sparked our imagination. It seemed to have just landed between the cliffs of Courthouse Butte and another rising rock formation. Could this be an area generating a vortex?
We were going to find out. Nearing the rock formation, we sat under the shade of a dwarf pine. The sun was directly above us. The forecast for Sedona predicted unusual highs, and sweat trickling down our backs confirmed it. We needed to rest. Taking a drink of water, we assessed the next stage of our hike. A wide ramp of sandstone created a natural walkway to nearly the top of the rock. A ledge just under the dome looked like a good stopping point to take in the views. Reaching the top would be tricky. The stone became steep.
Birds sang. For miles, we could see the green carpet of trees and red-stained buttes rising above them. Open to the natural elements that surrounded us when we reached the ledge, we closed our eyes and allowed the warm stone to heat our backs and the gentle breeze to cool our faces. A twisted pine stood alone on the rock. Vortex specialists claimed that these pines were evidence of vortices.
I felt my body decompress. The vigors of hiking eased away, and for a moment, I imagined myself as light as the breeze that brushed across my skin. We finished our day gradually descending back to the parking lot. Later we would discover that the rock we climbed was called Spaceship Rock. Energized by the fresh air with our bodies pulsating from the activity of hiking, we were ready to enjoy the pool at our hotel.
The following morning was our final hike to the Boynton Canyon Vortex. We started early, making sure that we could get back to our hotel and washup before leaving town. Boynton was a 15-minute drive. Heading west on Dry Creek Road, it is tucked away into one of the many small canyons that form around Sedona. A large parking lot with pit toilets sits at the trailhead. Signs along the trail directed us toward the base of cliff walls. With each turn in the path, we delighted at the scenery that appeared before us.
We wondered if the vortex was marked by a signpost. The canyon was vast. But if this area was like the rest we had visited, there would be no marker. We started asking folks on the trail if they had visited the vortex. The answers varied. One person said that it was the entire canyon. Another told us it was the vista that we had passed. Still, another person told us to look for a grove of low bearing trees that branched off both sides of the trail. We decided to simply enjoy our walk and allow nature to tell us when she was ready.
The trail grew quiet as fewer people hiked deeper into the canyon. It was a six-mile hike round trip. Shadows fell across the path, and the sun was hidden behind towering walls. When we finally stopped to take a break, mother nature spoke.
Butterflies started fluttering around us. We were amused at their playfulness. But we grew amazed when they landed on us! I stood still as one butterfly landed on my hand. Elaine was pleased that one landed on her shoulder. For us, it was a validation that we had found our vortex.
Tips for visiting Sedona’s Vortices
- High season is during the summer. Folks from Phoenix (Phoenicians) look towards Sedona for relief from scorching temperatures in their city. Expect long lines and delays with traffic.
- Always bring more water and snacks on the trails than you estimate. We ended up taking additional routes on the trails, walking longer then we expected, and simply stopping for long breaks that afforded amazing views.
- There are no markers, nor is there one specific spot that locates a vortex. The four vortices we visited encompass the entire hiking route. It is up to the seeker (you) to allow yourself to be drawn to a particular place. We couldn’t help be drawn to Spaceship Rock.
- The Coconino National Forest has a link to all the hiking trails in the Sedona(Red Rock Area) with clear directions on getting to the trailheads. It is fs.usda.gov/activity/coconino/recreation/hiking