Friday, December 30, 2011


Arizona is definitely the place to come if you need to feel small. Today, we made it to Sedona, one of the primary attractors that Arizona could offer me - a crazy hippie.

We've been on the road for a week now, and we've seen such fantastic things that the Sedona of my imagination had a lot to live up to in order to beat the wonders of places like Saguaro National Park and Gate's Pass. In fact, what I found here was surprising and unique, but not in the way I expected. We took our time getting ready today, enjoying the stunning view from camp.

There are 4 energy vortices in the Sedona area (they ignore proper English grammar here and call them 'vortexes'. We set out to see Bell Rock first.

As you can probably imagine, on a beautiful sunny day like today, there were hundreds of people with the same idea. Parking was difficult, the trail was busy, and we had to work really hard to experience the vortex alone. These energy vortices are popular with new age spiritualists, as well as international tourists. A drum circle echoed from high above us as we climbed. We settled on a tableau around the base of the 'bell' away from most of the hikers. I sat down and took off my shoes to see if I could feel the energy and Bart took off down the mountain toward the other giant rock formation there, Courthouse Butte.

Both sites are littered with spiritual refuse. We saw Zen-style stacked rocks on every flat surface.

The desert has a way of distorting proportion and making things seem both bigger and smaller than they actually are. In the photo above, it's impossible to distinguish whether this tree is a bonsai or actually 4-1/2 feet tall, as is the case... Similarly, fir trees and other high desert plants appear in the landscape as scale-miniatures of their more temperate cousins.

One of the hallmarks of an energy vortex is the effect the location has on the Juniper trees. According to experts on these vortices, the energy twists the Juniper branches and trunks and has a powerful effect on the trees. Indeed the trees are strange here:

Along the level surfaces of Bell Rock, there were numerous little shrines... areas built to harness or cleanse spiritual energy, some in a grid formation, with equal sized rocks...

Some fashioned into wheels...

Some, a seemingly disorganized conglomeration of rocks, crystals, trinkets, even bones. People had paid meticulous attention to the arrangement of these objects in order to take advantage of the natural spring of energy that flows from the side of this bell-shaped rock. I thought maybe I'd feel the energy too, since I'm into that sort of thing, but what I felt, high up on the side of this magnificent red rock - was the weight of others' faith and hope... for decades, people have come to this very spot, hoping to have their problems solved by some mysterious force our Earth is focusing here. 4500 feet above the sea, among ancient ruins of rock. I felt both ashamed that I didn't feel the energy (I really should, if it's here) and also a little pang of heartbreak for all of the people so distraught and hopeless for something in their lives that they become hopeful again by wishing on an energy vortex and counting on personal miracles.

I'm not easily discouraged, so I climbed down and headed to the nearby Cathedral Rock vortex, behind the formation you see in the photo above. Maybe this vortex just didn't resonate with me, I wasn't ready to give up just yet. I found out the hard way that climbing up is easier than down with a broken foot.

The hike to Cathedral Rock's vortex along the Baldwin trail is fairly level, winding around the river to the base of the rock itself. We found several strange temperature pockets in the first mile of the hike, some parts of the field frozen, having hidden from the sun all day. We think yucca might be poisonous, I should probably look that up since Bart ingested some accidentally during this shoot.

This site has a much more Zen atmosphere, in addition to the stacked rocks in proximity to the vortex site - Buddha Beach, as they call it... there are lovely rocks in the river itself. The river was nearly glassy as we hiked, reflecting the majesty of the landscape. It was intoxicating to watch.

In fact, the beautiful scenery by the river made me almost forget why we were there in the first place, although I felt more comfortable here in the riverbed than perched atop Bell Rock, I didn't feel moved spiritually. If anything, I felt drained of my energy by the day.

I might have been tired from the constant gasping I did all day, it seemed like everywhere I looked, I was being affronted by some other piece of striking landscape.

Just before the sun set, we pulled off at a scenic overlook in the area, and gazed back over the Cathedral Rock we'd spent the afternoon wandering around. It formed a perfect proscenium for the sunset, which was the best of any we've seen yet on this trip. I was more moved by the beauty of this everyday occurrence than by the energy vortices, but I'm still optimistic, maybe the cumulative effects of visiting two vortex sites made me especially susceptible to the sunset's power today? It's a stretch...

We watched the painted sky kiss the painted desert goodnight, and then had dinner in Sedona. Tomorrow is still undecided, we'll likely hang around this area and do some more exploring and then visit the Lowell Observatory tomorrow evening. New Year's eve will be in Zion National Park, so we'll head north at some point on Saturday. 

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