The Altered States of Sedona
Travel Stories: Laurie Gough looks Arizona's New Age mecca in the vortexes and says, "Sacred energy of the Earth, come and get me."
04.14.09 | 10:07 AM ET
I‘m hiking in Boynton Canyon near Sedona, Arizona, and the woman behind me is berating her husband for not warning her to wear hiking boots, speaking to him in a voice which tells of ongoing bitterness, a voice which discourages calm discussion on the matter. It’s at this point I realize that the theory of Boynton Canyon being devoid of male-female tension because of its “vortex” is in error. Either that or we haven’t reached the vortex yet, the place where soothing energy is supposedly oozing out of the Earth.
Yesterday, the owner of Sedona’s Center for the New Age—a shop full of crystals, tarot cards, flute music and dreamy-eyed patrons—enlightened me on the various energy vortexes around Sedona. The owner, a woman in her late 50s, a fellow Canadian, told me that the vortex energy of Boynton Canyon is special. “There are two types of energies coming from the rocks: magnetic (female) and electric (male). Boynton Canyon has both,” she said. “It’s balanced, so you’ll notice people there are calm. There’s no male-female tension in Boynton Canyon.”
Wow, I’d said. Couples on the brink of divorce should hang out there. It could save a lot on lawyer fees.
“As for the other three vortex sites,” the woman continued, “Cathedral Rock is magnetic and therefore feminine. The energy at Bell Rock is so powerful, you’ll notice it before getting out of your car. The Airport Vortex is masculine,” she said, “so watch out. The strength of it might knock you over.”
I’d first heard about Sedona at a remote campground south of Sedona called Verde Hot Springs, where my husband and I had camped for six days. The local hippies made jokes about Sedona’s tourists, but at the same time, each had a story to tell in support of Sedona’s mystical reputation. Around a fire, a camper offered his vortex expertise, claiming that one vortex takes something away from you that you want but gives you back something you need. “Hey, kind of like the Rolling Stones song,” I’d offered. Another vortex overwhelms you with so much energy you might get sick; another puts you to sleep, another vortex strips you of your beliefs. I smiled and nodded politely, pretending I didn’t think him a total flake.
Sedona is known as the New Age mecca—or New Age tourist trap, depending on your astrological sign—and when April White Cloud tacked her ads around town declaring she was a master clairvoyant, psychic healer and shaman priestess, I didn’t trust her, or the town’s metaphysical claim to fame, for a minute. Nor did I trust the man in the glossy photo with the gray ponytail who claimed he would open the Third Eye, retrieve wandering souls and channel spirits for $200 a session. Among the month’s topics in the popular New Age magazine, Sedona, Journal of Emergence are: “The World Through My Dog’s Sacred Vision,” “The Eleventh Chakra in the Fourth Dimension” and my favorite, “Could It Be You’re Already Dead?”
Sedona was entirely different from other Arizona towns we’d visited, places like Bisbee and Patagonia, old-fashioned towns with real people who have real jobs. But perhaps, I reflected, it’s only right that screwballs have their own town. All the talk of altered states and parallel universes was a turnoff, but I was curious about the vortexes. I suggested to my husband, Rob, that instead of ditching Sedona immediately, we go searching for energy sites.
The vortex woman said that the best way to feel the vortex energy was to go on a guided trek. Since guides are on a “higher level of spiritual consciousness,” you have a more powerful experience. At $250, I figured Rob and I could find the vortexes on our own and maybe eavesdrop on a guided tour, let leftover sacred energy spill onto us. Surely the Earth wouldn’t care who had forked out cash and who hadn’t. As I left, the vortex woman called out not to worry about going guideless because the energy is so overwhelming, a person would have to be abnormally insensitive not to feel anything.
Sacred energy of the Earth, come and get me.
In the first half-hour of the five-mile hike through Boynton Canyon, our first vortex, we passed Enchantment Resort, which somewhat detracts from the nature experience as you walk by million-dollar guest houses. But soon, we were hiking at the foot of crimson cliffs and eventually into a snowy pine forest. First, we passed crowds of hikers on this popular trail, but the farther we went, the fewer hikers we encountered so the more we stopped to chat. Now, near the end of the trail, high up in a spectacular box canyon, we ask our fellow hikers, “So, do you feel anything?” “Yeah, my legs hurt,” someone says. “Yep, sure am thirsty,” says another. Nobody has found the vortex.
Back at our van after the hike, we meet a man who gives us a more detailed vortex map than ours, and we discover that Boynton Canyon’s vortex is just 50 yards from the parking lot, conveniently. The map shows the vortex to be on a knoll surrounded by twisted juniper trees. Supposedly the energy of the vortex twists the trees. I’d seen twisted junipers in the Southwest before, however, usually in windy places, like on top of this knoll. I sit down in the dusty red dirt up on the knoll to absorb some sacred energy, but all I feel is the midday sun burning my face. I’m a redhead, apparently an insensitive one, and have to watch my skin.