(Green Living Magazine, Sept. 2013 – greenlivingaz.com)
The first time I went to Sedona, I hiked Boynton Canyon, the site of one of the area’s four strongest vortexes. At the overlook two-tenths of a mile off the main trail, back against the curve of a rock, tucked away, I watched as the Navajo sandstone flamed red and orange, shadows shifted and darkened then disappeared. I exhaled and closed my eyes and just sat in one place in that one moment and waited. I don’t know if there was a vortex or not or what that was supposed to feel like, but I do know that I sat and was present and allowed myself to be still, and was grateful to be reminded that the natural world feeds me.
On the surface, Sedona doesn’t appear the spiritual stronghold that nearly 4 million yearly visitors claim. The main street, State Highway 89A, is a series of roundabouts that alleviate traffic backed up at stoplights. Downtown, tee-shirt and tchotchke shops line the street, parking is scarce, and pink Jeeps filled with tourists intent on seeing the red rocks tool around. But Sedona boasts much more than the extremes of consumer culture and metaphysical mecca. Sedona, the Verde Valley and Oak Creek area offer a sampling of fun for the conscious traveler.
First stop: The Sedona Visitors Center at 331 Forest Road (corner of AZ State Highway 89A and Forest Road). Keep in mind that Sedona is full of time share resorts that advertise visitor information on brown and white signs, usually with a fine print “Sponsored By” tag. A blue sign with white lettering indicates the official Chamber of Commerce Visitor Center. The center has the requisite brochures and maps as well as info about area hikes and campgrounds, state parks and the Red Rocks pass that will get you into other hiking areas. To start planning in advance, go to their site at visitsedona.com.
Sedona’s main attraction is its stunning red sandstone formations. Hiking trails criss-cross creeks and canyons. While the red rocks are stunning, Sedona has also attracted millions of people seeking healing or enlightenment for more than 60 years because of the unique energy from its vortexes, a term first used by Page Bryant, former Sedona resident and psychic. Some say that this energy is swirling spiritual energy. Others explain that it’s magnetic, caused by the iron oxide coating the sandstone, but no scientific evidence supports this. For whatever reason, many who visit report feelings of ease, of healing, even a spiritual epiphany, after spending time at one of the several vortex sites. Myriad companies offer tours to these points, everything from strenuous hikes with an experienced guide, to yoga on the rocks, or a visit focused on healing and renewal. Smart phone apps are available that show trails and provide information about the vortexes, also.
Magnetic or not, Sedona has long attracted metaphysical practitioners: psychics, astrologists, shamans, alternative healers. To weed through the plethora of consultants (including vortex guides) a good place to start looking is on sedonaspiritual.com, the site of the Sedona Metaphysical Spiritual Association. The group was formed to offer access to reputable practitioners.
Some of us, after a profound spiritual epiphany, just want to go have lunch. A vegan hot dog? Yes – a really good one. Stop by Simon’s Columbian Style Hot Dogs adjoining Oak Creek Brewery for a dog of gourmet proportions. Don’t let a long line or seemingly strange topping combination discourage you. Potato chips and mozzarella cheese combined with pineapple might sound strange, but somehow it works. Choose between meat, veggie or vegan dogs.
For dinner, venture out to Up the Creek Grill & Bar in Cornville, southwest of Sedona on North Page Springs Road, just off of highway 89A. Dedicated to offering farm-to-table cuisine, entrees change regularly depending on what ingredients are in season. Plan on spending some time out on the deck overlooking Oak Creek.
If you’re heading to Sedona for relaxing, consider lodging at a unique bed and breakfast. The Canyon Wren has cabins for one or two, direct private access to Oak Creek, and no TVs, telephones or cell phone coverage. Dream Maker Bed and Breakfast offers all electronic amenities, and also boasts a teepee for relaxation, a labyrinth for contemplative walks and a 30-foot star gazing platform.
Vinti-culture thrives in the area. Chino Valley, west of Sedona, is home to Granite Creek Vineyard. The winery claims to be one of the original in the area, and offers only organic wines. Tasting hours are generally Thursday through Sunday, with live music on Saturdays.
Despite initial appearances, Sedona is a singular destination for conscious travelers. Off the track, find the places that speak to you; revel in the energy; be fed by the natural world – and go home transformed.