Travel & Food

Sedona Rocks!

Now that you’ve slogged through the megillah about my energy vortex experience, let’s review the rest of my trip to Sedona. Expect more photos and less logorrhea this time.

Scenic Rim and Schnebly Hill Road

Pioneers T.C. and Sedona Schnebly moved to this area in Arizona in the late 1890s. The area was growing rapidly, so they petitioned the U.S. Postmaster General to open a post office, proposing the names Oak Creek Crossing and Schnebly Station. They were both rejected as being too long — the preference at the time was for one-word names.

Fortunately, they settled on Sedona, not Schnebly, as the name for the post office. As a consolation prize, the road from Sedona to Flagstaff was named Schnebly Hill Road. It’s a bumpy ride — it wasn’t long before I felt nauseated.

I think my photos are of the Mogollon Rim, but don’t quote me on that.

BTW, if you’re headed to Sedona, I highly recommend Pink Adventure Tours.

Merry-Go-Round Rock
Merry-Go-Round Rock as seen from Schnebly Hill Road
Dave at the Outer Rim
The Outer Rim is outta sight!
Outer Rim with moon in the sky
(In Obi-Wan Kenobi voice) That’s no moon. That’s a space station.

Broken Arrow Trail

Broken Arrow Trail is like Schnebly Hill Road: bumpy and beautiful. Our driver navigated the rocky terrain with aplomb, but I still got jostled around plenty.

Dave leaning against a pink Jeep on the Broken Arrow Trail
Come on Barbie, let’s go Jeeping! Don’t let the Peptol Bismol paint job fool you — this vehicle is rough and rugged.
Red rocks looming over the pink Jeep.
The pink Jeep looks like a Matchbox car next to the rock formations.
Dave leaning against a juniper tree.
Rockin’ around the juniper tree.
Broken Arrow Trail panorama
The view from the Broken Arrow Trail.
Dave gives a thumbs-up on the Broken Arrow Trail
(In Fonzie voice) Aaayyyyy!
Broken Arrow Trail
(in Willie Nelson voice)
On the road again
Goin’ places that I’ve never been
Seein’ things that I may never see again
And these Barbie Jeeps make me think of Ken
In Sedona, the off-road trails are as steep as the hotel prices.
Here’s another Jeep descending the same trail.

Sunset at Upper Red Rock Loop Road Overlook

Stunning. I did get a few photos, but most of the time, I set down my phone so I could mute my inner dialogue and be fully present for the experience.

Sunset from Upper Red Rock Loop Road
I’m facing east. As the sun sinks, shadows spread out before me and begin crawling toward the rocks in the distance.
Close-up of a formation seen from the Upper Red Rock Loop Road Overlook.
This rock formation looks like a manmade structure with imposing columns and a great golden dome — like a grand French Baroque palace or a fancy Taco Bell.
Dave at sunset in Sedona
A quick sunset selfie before I dash to the car and crank up the heat because the temperature is now about 35°F and falling.

Sunrise From Somewhere That Is Close to, But Not, the Airport Mesa Overlook

You’d have to be a complete idiot not to find the Airport Mesa Overlook, which is clearly marked and has everything you’d expect to see at a site for tourists: a huge parking lot, paved walkways, outdoor exhibits, coin-operated telescopes, yappy families, and so on.

Fortunately, being a complete idiot sometimes pays off. I parked nowhere near the overlook, lucked upon a rocky trail, followed it for about 25 minutes, and found a secluded spot to watch the sunrise in solitude.

I’m still not sure how I ended up there. Was it the happy accident of a man who got too little sleep, was in a cold, dark, and unfamiliar place, and failed to make sense of the directions on his phone? Or was he drawn in by mysterious vortex energy?

(Of course, it was an accident. However, if I look at the geotags on my photos, it appears that I had stumbled my way into the Airport Mesa Vortex. Cue the Twilight Zone music.)

Sedona sunrise seen from somewhere near the Airport Mesa overlook
As the sun rises, the shadow seems to melt off the tallest peak in the distance. The photos don’t capture how the peak is glowing, as if the reds, golds, and browns are lit from within.

Sunrise in Sonoma
Sunlight continues to trickle down the peak but hasn’t yet hit the town below.
Sunrise in Sonoma, as seen with a wide-angle lens
As the sun continues to rise, the sky becomes bluer and the clouds become whiter.
Dave somewhere in or near the Mesa Airport Vortex
Not a bad way to spend a morning.
A sign that says to close the gate to keep deer off the runway.
One of the many clues that I was, in fact, nowhere near the tourist-friendly official overlook area.

Concerning that last photo, I should point out that my painstaking research (i.e., a cursory scan of Google search results) indicates that deer are quite good at jumping over fences but really bad at reading signs.


What, I’m not allowed a special treat while on vacation?

Donut at coffee at Sedonuts
The place was called Sedonuts. Of course I had to stop in!
Deve eating a donut
This Red Rock Velvet donut didn’t last long. Also highly recommended: the Vortex (a massive cinnamon roll topped with pecans) and the Red Rock Oreo (a red velvet donut topped with crushed Oreos).

Travel & Food

Into the Vortex

My first experience with mystical energy vortices began, as these things sometimes do, under angry gray clouds in the parking lot of the Sedona Public Library.

After parking my rental car (a non-mystical Chevrolet Malibu from non-mystical Alamo in the most decidedly non-mystical Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport), I found my guide Rosane (ten out of ten on the mystical scale) in her white Jeep (mystical level: undetermined).

I clicked with Rosane before I even clicked my seatbelt. She was welcoming, warm, and chatty — just like me — and wasn’t fazed when I told her I was a skeptic. “Don’t worry, I’ve met many skeptics,” she said, with traces of her Brazilian background in her voice. “Maybe you’ll be less of a skeptic when we’re done.”

And Away We Go 

While I wasn’t sure I’d achieve transcendence that afternoon, I was 100% sure I’d experience bad weather. As Rosana drove up the hill to our destination, the sky turned from slate to charcoal. At the security gate — the only way to reach the site was to drive through a gated golf course community (the complete opposite of mysticalness) — we were warned of the possibility of snow.

The precipitation had trailed off when we reached Rachel’s Knoll, the center of a vortex, but the temperature had dropped to about 30°F (-1°C).

One to Beam Up. Energize.

According to Rosane, vortices are places where the earth’s energy converges and swirls — like an eddy in a stream or a tornado in a trailer park. Rachel’s Knoll, like other vortices, functions as both a magnet and a bowl for this energy. Large deposits of quartz and iron attract the energy, and the red rock formations around the site keep the energy in.

So, what does it feel like to be at the center of the vortex, where life, the universe, and all the elements united my body and spirit into a singular being capable of constructing overwrought and pompous sentences such as this one?

Well, it kinda feels like nothing. Not even a tingle of static electricity. The immense power of the universe was swirling around me, yet I couldn’t even charge up my dying phone battery.

And yet … I felt more serene and open than usual. It was like someone turned on the Do Not Disturb mode in my head. The acerbic old man who narrates my inner dialogue decided to step out for a break. I no longer felt fixated by every fleeting thought.

Was there, in fact, some kind of psychic energy coursing through my mind and body? I don’t believe so. But standing there under a heavy gray sky, encircled by rusty red peaks and specks of dark green foliage, and experiencing Mother Nature’s schizophrenia, I knew I was somewhere different and special.

More about the weather later. Let’s first turn to …

My Spiritual Toolbox

Rosane said we’re all born with a spiritual toolbox, but using each tool properly takes knowledge and practice. She led me through a few mental and physical exercises to put the tools to use.

Circle Circle

Rosane traced a circle in the dirt with her shoe. She had me stand in the middle, shout my name into the vortex, and then draw my hands back to my body to welcome any energy coming my way.

Dave in the circle
This is the vortex version of being in the on-deck circle.
Dave shouts into the vortex
Vortex, can you hear me?
Vortex, can you see me?
Vortex, can you find me in the night?
Welcoming the returning energy
Nothing really matters
The vortex is all we need
Everything I give you
All comes back to me

Senses and Sensibility

Rosane challenged me to identify things I could see, hear, feel, smell, and taste at that moment. Sight and sound were easy (mountains and rain). For touch and smell, I crushed some juniper needles in my very cold hands. For taste, Rosane came prepared with a flask of hot tea and some miniature Hershey bars.

Because this exercise is so quick and simple, I find myself using it when I realize I’ve been operating on autopilot.

Walk This Way

Rosane showed me how to connect physical motions to energy flow. First, she had me step backward while pulling my arms into my chest. This helps draw in creative energy and inspiration, she said.

Next, she had me step forward and push outward. This action forces energy back into the world, which leads to confidence and strength.

I’ve started doing some of these movements because they allow me to step away from my desk, move around for a bit, and clear my head. Also, they confuse the dogs, which delights me to no end.

Embiggening My Conciousness

Rosane asked me to focus on where my body ended and the rest of the world began. It seemed like a weird ask, but with a clear mind, it wasn’t hard to feel where my skin met my clothes. Could I push that awareness beyond my body, she asked. With some concentration, I could indeed. Rosane said that I could expand that consciousness even further with some practice. I’m finding this exercise helpful: It’s a mental reset for when I realize I’m acting mindlessly.

Weathering Heights

If a Karen were exploring Rachel’s Knoll with Rosane and me, she’d ask to speak to the manager of weather. (“Do you know who I am?”) The trip started overcast with overcast skies and ended with sunshine, but only after taking a wild detour into a downpour and hail.

The pictures tell the story.

2:22 p.m.

Arriving at Rachel's Knoll
Gray skies and no drizzle as we arrive at Rachel’s Knoll.

3:20 p.m.

Taking refuge under a juniper tree.
Not long after I shouted my name into the vortex (as described above), the vortex responded with drizzle. Before long, it had intensified into a driving rain, forcing Rosane and I to take refuge under a juniper tree — just in time to avoid a short burst of hail. This is where we do our sense-identification exercise and tuck into the chocolate bars and hot tea.
Dave and Rosane enjoy tea and chocolate
Despite the rain, we’re having a great time!

3:35 p.m.

The rain had let up a bit, so we continued exploring Rachel’s Knoll. It it at this point that I realize that it’s not actually a knoll. Knolls don’t have rock ledges and steep cliffs.

About 30 seconds later …

After foolishly posing on wet, slippery rocks for a photo, I turn around and notice a timid ray of light breaking through the clouds. I risk life and limb for another photo, which turned out great.
This is my view.

3:40 p.m.

The sun is out, but there’s a gossamer quality to the light. It is golden yet thin and trepidatious. You will notice in this photo that my pants are soaked. Not pictured: my sopping-wet underpants.

3:47 p.m.

Blue skies at Rachel's Knoll at last
I see skies of blue,
Clouds of white.
This energy vortex
Is quite a sight!
And I think to myself,
What a wonderful world
Raindrops on juniper tree needles
Raindrops on juniper tree needles. Hey, not every caption can be witty or insightful (or both). If you don’t like it, start your own blog.

3:54 p.m.

A pretty damn good photo of Dave in Sedona.
Lookin’ good, Dave!

4:02 p.m.

A bridge in the clouds
At first glance, I thought this was a rainbow. It wasn’t. What gave it away was the lack of color. Still, it’s a pretty cool cloud formation. There’s something architectural about that curve.

4:15 p.m.

Rosane gave me her book, “Get Vortexed,” so I could take a little piece of Sedona back home to Florida. I can’t explain why I posed this way. (Other pieces of Sedona I took back to Florida: vortex rocks, a souvenir T-shirt, and about five extra pounds.)

4:19 p.m.

Leaving Rachel's Knoll
One last look before we drive down the hill and leave the vortex behind.

My Vortex Verdict

I came to this vortex a skeptic, and I left a skeptic. But I did experience something close to, but not quite, transcendence atop Rachel’s Knoll. I’d describe it as a combination of awe, stillness, introspection, and openness.

I certainly wasn’t one with the universe. But I was one with myself.

As Douglas Adams once said, “Isn’t it enough to see that a garden is beautiful without having to believe that there are fairies at the bottom of it too?”

Take it from a skeptic: A place doesn’t need to be mystical to be magical.