Many people travel to Sedona every year in search of divine guidance, spiritual inspiration, mysticism, and healing. It was all of these things that brought me to the city of Red Rocks.
Of all the places I’d planned out on my road trip across the United States, Sedona was the only city I felt I must visit. I half-jokingly told people before I left and along the way that I was hoping to get to Sedona, sit on the rocks above the vortexes, see the sky open up above me, and suddenly have clarity– suddenly understand my life purpose and my next step along this journey. Although I didn’t have a grand epiphany these past two days, I know that I will be leaving Sedona with a little more understanding of myself and of life than I had before.
When I was in St. Louis, a stranger who I spent an hour talking to and who had lived in Sedona told me I had to take a guided vortex tour because I wouldn’t find them on my own. That to me was more of a challenge than a suggestion. I decided that during my stay in Sedona I would let intuition guide me and that I’d find what I was looking for if it was meant to be. As strange as this may sound, my intuition became heightened as I drove through the beautiful mountain roads to Sedona and I knew how my first day would pan out before it began.
I got to Sedona before ten in the morning, shut off my GPS and allowed the street signs to peak my interest and lead me in the right direction. At the first “free public parking” sign I pulled over and decided to explore Main Street on foot. Most of the shops weren’t yet open, but I’m not one for souvenirs anyway and, more importantly, a cafe was open. I grabbed a free Sedona newspaper and sat on a bench reading, enjoying my coffee, and waking up.
When I finished my coffee I continued along the road, glancing in windows until I made it to the Visitor’s Center. Inside I looked at every brochure trying to find a vortex tour company that felt authentic to me, but really it all just felt like a way to make money. I found a few maps with a rough outline of where to find the vortexes, hiking trails, and other interests in town and decided that if my intuition didn’t serve me well on day one, I’d consider booking a tour with what appeared to be a young, earth-friendly, married couple from one of the brochures.
I stopped for lunch before going back to my car and ordered a black bean burger with sweet potato fries– my token meal when I go out with my friends to our regular hang-out. The nostalgia and courteous waitress were enough to put my mind at ease and make me open to whatever the remainder of the day might bring.
While I waited for my burger, I looked over the free map from the Visitor’s Center. Something was drawing me toward Cathedral Rock and its vortex. Back in my car, I tried to plug the address into my GPS, but it wouldn’t work. I shut it off, took one more look at the map (you must know my ability to follow a map is terrible) and set off. A few miles down the road, I stopped short, turned to the left, and saw the entrance to the Crescent Moon Recreation Area– a casual park with a beach along a gently running creek what looked like a short walk from Cathedral Rock on the map. I pulled in and over to the park booth to buy a parking pass.
“Is this your first time here?” the woman asked. When I told her it was she said, “We have our own vortex ten minutes down the Creek Trail.” I thought it funny that she should mention it since I hadn’t, but then realized that my wavy blonde hippie hair, new cowboy hat, and bright-eyed innocence probably made me look like every other spiritual seeker that passed by her every day. I parked my car, changed into my bathing suit and a strapless dress, thought twice about wearing my sandals and went with my dress shoes, and headed toward Buddha Beach.
Having grown up by the ocean, I was expecting an actual beach with sand, a large body of water, and miles of walking space. What I saw instead was a small patch of rocks bordering a creek that was overflowing with mothers and their young children. I decided to postpone my basking for the ten minute walk along the creek toward the vortex.
Even though the woman who gave me directions had clearly said it was just a ten minute walk down a trail, what I think she meant to say was, “Ten minutes down the creek, the trail will disappear and you’ll have to climb over uneven rocks, then continue on about a quarter mile through thigh-high underbrush while stepping over downed tree limbs and being careful not to get scratched by thorn bushes. You’ll get stabbed in the throat by a sharp branch, but don’t worry, it’ll only leave a small scratch. You’ll also have to cross the creek. If you’re lucky you’ll find the place where two small trees reach across from one side to the other, otherwise the rocks on the creek floor are covered in moss and extremely slippery. After crossing the creek, you’ll continue on a trail that turns into a switch back up a mini-mountain. At the top, the trail will diverge in two directions and you’ll have to use your intuition to figure out which way to go. The correct trail will lead you to Cathedral Rock where you’ll become a natural rock climber and scale up the side of the stone in your dress. The vortex will be a little ways beyond the ‘end of trail’ sign at the top of the giant rock, which to someone like you from New England will seem like a mountain. Remember to follow your intuition or you’ll lose your way. The trip will take over an hour, but don’t worry, you’ll lose track of time because the energy will have you feeling so great, you won’t care about the trouble it took to get there.”
And despite the ridiculousness of the journey, I was happy the whole way. I knew from the moment I set out along the creek that I was going to have to cross over, but I entertained the thought of staying on the side where the trail began until the underbrush and downed trees grew so thick that I couldn’t continue. I had just turned back to find an opening where I could walk through the water when a mother with her son stopped me to ask if I’d been there before and could tell her how to get to the vortex. I told her I hadn’t, but that I was sure we needed to cross the creek. “It’s only up to my shins at this part,” I reasoned, “we should cross here.”
She and her son opted to use the tree limb walkway and I attempted to cross in my bare feet, but kept slipping on the moss covered rocks and although I was wearing my bathing suit, I wasn’t in the mood to make the trek to the vortex soaking wet. I cautiously stepped across the limbs that swayed and rolled beneath my bare feet, then breathed a sigh of relief when I made it to the other side. By the time I got myself across, the mother was up the trail, asking another couple if this was the right way to the vortex. I smiled to myself knowing that that might have been me three weeks earlier before I learned to trust myself.
We walked along the trail and up the switchback for a quarter or a half a mile (not only can I not read a map, but distance eludes me as well). She seemed both envious and terrified of me, traveling alone across the country in my car. Her son moved quickly ahead and we followed his lead.
After the trail plateaued I noticed another, more hidden path off to the left. I pointed it out to her and said that I thought we should go that way. Her son was far ahead to the right and she called to him. It wasn’t long on the trail I’d chosen before the woman stopped short and declared that she was going to go back to the other trail. I don’t know what made her stop, surely I didn’t pose a threat in my fit-for-the-beach hiking attire and even though I said I was certain that we were headed the right way, she turned back.
I continued on my way alone until the trail ended and I let my intuition guide me the remainder of the way toward Cathedral Rock. I who am secretly afraid of heights and had to turn back more times than I’d like to admit on hiking trails in the past week, began climbing the rock without a second thought and with the ease of someone who knew what she was doing. When I’d made it three-quarters of the way up, I stopped to catch my breath and marvel over the fact that my dress shoes had proven better for climbing than my hiking shoes when I heard the movements of someone in the distance. I turned to see the mother and her son making their way up the rock. “That other path was wrong,” she admitted hesitantly when she’d reached me. I led the way to the top where we were rewarded by one of the most beautiful views I have ever seen. The picture couldn’t adequately capture the lush greens and blues of the distance.
After taking a picture for the woman and her son, I said goodbye, knowing she’d already be gone before I returned, and continued on past the “end of trail” sign. Just as I’d imagined, I knew immediately when I’d found the vortex as I pulled myself up to a rock even higher than I’d been before. Three other people wandered over in the time I sat there meditating, but there was an unspoken understanding that we were all there for the same reason– solitude– and we all remained alone in our own space.
Just before I turned to leave a moment of panic crossed my mind– how was I going to make it back down the rock? Descending was always harder than climbing up and it was half a miracle that I’d made it there in the first place. A new voice, stronger than before, told me not to worry, to take things as they came. And so I did, slowly scaling my way back down, offering encouragement to the tired travelers on their way up.
Back at the beach, I passed a tree trunk in the center of the creek and stopped to soak my feet in the cool running waters. Refreshed, I made my way back to the parking lot, refilled my water, then returned to the creek for the dip I’d been hoping for earlier in the day. Now that I knew my way, I continued on down the creek past the families to a spot where I could stand with the water at my shoulders.
At some point during the morning, I’d read that the best place to watch a Sedona sunset was by the airport. When I’d finished drying off on the dusty red rocks in the hot summer sun, I returned to my car, found the airport in my GPS and was happy to see it was just a few miles down the road. About half-way there, I found a scenic overlook, pulled my car into the last parking space, and hiked up the rocks on the side of the road to see one of the most beautiful sunsets I’ve ever witnessed. I learned later too that the rocks I’d climbed up were the site of a second Sedona vortex.
I knew well when I woke up in Sedona the second day that it would be next to impossible to top the near perfect day from before. I did make it to Bell Rock where I went hiking, climbing, and resting on the third vortex that I found without a paid guide. I returned to the same spot as before to see the sunset once again and overheard a meditating man in a flowing green robe, clutching what looked like a dead hawk, explaining to a couple who’d found their way to the top of the rock that some people can feel a difference when they’ve found the vortex and some cannot. He said that for many people it brings a sense of inner calm. I smiled knowing the feeling well from my place a few yards away. “That’s a good enough explanation for me,” the other man said before turning to descend the rock as quickly as he’d come up.
Even though the sky didn’t open up and I haven’t figured out exactly what it is I’m going to do with the rest of my life (sometimes I think I may never figure it out), I did learn that above all else I should trust myself and that if I listen to what is truly in my heart things will always have a way of working out.