Wanders with Wit

How Not to Visit a Vortex - Part 1

Tripping out on Yavapai-Apache Nation, Arizona, USA
Sandcastle-looking red rock formations in Sedona, Arizona, USA
Red rock sandcastle-like formations in Sedona
In the heart of Arizona lies a mystical land of red rock buttes, ancient canyons and spellbinding phenomena where the earth energy is so powerful, it can twist growing trees into spirals. Around 3-million tourists make the pilgrimage each year to visit the "New Age Centre of the Southwest" that boasts the highest concentration of energy vortexes anywhere in the world: the spiritual Shangri-la known as Sedona.
Okay. Vortices (more commonly referred to as the sassier-sounding vortexes) aren't just about highly sensitive, unicorn-adoring empaths accessing gateways into other dimensions. There's actually an entirely plausible scientific reasoning for their existence: natural geophysical anomalies such as seismic faults, gravity inconsistencies, high conductivity of rocks and underground water with an elevated negative ion count can all affect the natural magnetic, electrical and gravitational fields of the earth.
It's not like you can just go out into your backyard and find several though. Vortexes are predominantly located where electromagnetic tributaries - or ley lines - intersect where, depending on the type of energy created, deeply spiritual states may be obtained, flamboyant dreams experienced and a peepshow into the paranormal is not unheard of.
The Bermuda Triangle, anyone?
Whether a vortex produces a positive or negative charge, bathing in its frequencies can apparently amplify emotions, bring about healing or even create a bridge to the spirit world.


Courthouse Butte rock formation in Sedona, Arizona, USA
The beaut Courthouse Butte
"Yoohoo! I'll make you famous."
It was the catchphrase of the century, articulated by Emilio Estévez in the fabulously epic film Young Guns II, inspired by the life of Billy the Kid. The movie's rocking soundtrack, stupendous landscapes and extraordinary buffet of handsome outlaws ensured it found a permanent place in my heart, as well as fuelling my lifelong fascination with the American Southwest. (And maybe a little bit for Emilio too ...)
When FOMO finally reached fever pitch, I booked a holiday to explore the frontier lands of Arizona and New Mexico, starting with Sedona - where I ended up trading kernels of curiosity for alternative reality.
"How far is the drive?" I asked the shuttle bus driver as our coach pulled out from the Phoenix Airport.
"It's about a two-hour drive and a very spectacular one at that."
It was the understatement of the year. Vivacious vegetation blossomed from rich volcanic soil as rugged red canyons and soaring sandstone buttes rose like phoenixes from the enchanted embers. It was an achingly beautiful fantasy not of this earth - like The NeverEnding Story of the Wild West.
For thousands of years, the First Nations peoples of Sedona have considered the vortexes as sacred healing sites at which they have performed rituals, blessings and ceremonies. The towering crimson buttes are believed to act like gigantic magnets, attracting visitors to come face-to-face with their true selves - like Atreyu at the magic mirror gate of the Southern Oracle. (Gratuitous NeverEndingStory reference #2.)
The energy experienced at each of the four major vortex sites of Sedona could feel vastly different to each person, depending on their emotional states and intentions at the time. Was it just a coincidence that Sedona spelt backwards was “anodes” – conducting surfaces from which electrical currents flowed?
Sandcastle-looking red rock formations in Sedona, Arizona, USA
More fantastical-looking red rock formations
With an official Red Rock Pass in hand that granted me permission to access all of the vortex car parks and hiking trails for the afternoon, I queued up to collect the rental car I had ordered, only to discover a "medium-sized" vehicle booking in Arizona equated to a Dakota Dodge pickup truck so colossal, I could barely climb into, nor see over the steering wheel of.
I'd decided to visit the most accessible vortex first, located just off Highway 179: a box jellyfish-shaped behemoth known as Bell Rock. The positive, electrically-charged vortex was believed to strengthen both the male and female sides of anyone in its sphere; as well as helping to raise the subconscious into conscious awareness. When I arrived, scores of people were huddled around the base of the rock seemingly trying to soak up the energy. Some tourists had even been known to jump up and down to kick start the process!
A handy hint for locating the strongest points of energy was supposedly the presence of twisted juniper trees. The spiralling motion of bubbling energy springs purportedly acted as a stress parameter for plants, resulting in sparse vegetation and an axial twist in nearby tree branches. I surveyed the scene: Bell Rock was surrounded by contorted, swirling juniper trees.
The only mystery that remained was where to find a car park in the overcrowded lot. With time of the essence, and so many loud excitable people in the one place, I concluded it would be difficult to feel anything other than frustration, so I pressed on determined to return at the end of the day (to at least take a photograph).
Sedona, however, had other things in mind.
Next stop on the Fabulous Four tour was the Monument Valley-looking Cathedral Rock. As I pulled off the aptly named Back o' Beyond Road, the afternoon sky began to darken into an ominous tone. I suddenly became hyper-aware of being a lone traveller in a remote pocket of cowboy country.
Cathedral Rock formation & Oak Creek Canyon in Sedona, Arizona, USA
The majestic, amd slightly anxiety-inducing, Cathedral Rock
As I fell out of the Dakota Dodge, I realised there was much ground to cover before I even reached the base of Cathedral Rock - the magnificent spires of which were mirrored in the silent waters of Oak Creek below. When thunderclouds began to roll in, I broke into a reluctant jog.
As I raced towards the rock, I came across three young men as twisted as the junipers who were practising yoga. They informed me I still had some distance to go before I reached the vortex. I thanked them and pressed on. Just then a thunderclap struck up ahead and almost scared the socks off me. My heart was racing with fright as manic thoughts began tumbling through my mind.
"What the freak am I doing here?"
"What could actually happen to me at a vortex?!"
And, the question on everybody's lips:
"What if my vibration became so high, I vanished and reapparated as an amoeba in the Middle Ages?!"
The portentous power of the magnetically-charged Cathedral Rock not only filled my soul with apprehension, it demanded it. Like Atreyu, I was about to come face-to-face with my spirit ... and I was petrified. I peered up at the spires towering at me through the trees. It was now or never. Panicking, I chose the latter and ran as fast as I could back to the car. Unfortunately the route I had chosen was also the slipperiest: taking a shortcut across Oak Creek caused me to slip and crash spectacularly into the mossy creek; from which I just managed to rescue my camera from a watery grave.
"So much for Cathedral Rock strengthening the feminine qualities of kindness, consideration and patience." I sighed as, dripping and exhausted, I hurled myself back up into the pickup and sped off towards the third misadventure for the afternoon.
Boynton Canyon rock formation against dark sky in Sedona, Arizona, USA
The effervescent Boynton Canyon
Boynton Canyon: a place of emergence, regeneration and connection. Not only that, it was home to a revered rock spire known as Kachina Woman, or Grandmother Spirit: keeper of knowledge and medicine, whose spirit was believed to guard the entrance to the canyon. Although the magnetic and electrical fields emanating from the vortex located just south of the spire were said to balance both male and female aspects, the goddess energies of Kachina Woman burned so brightly and brilliantly, they could apparently be felt up to 25 kilometres (15 miles) away. Rumour had it that hundreds of quartz crystals were also buried beneath the canyon, no doubt amplifying its power.
By the time I reached the turnoff to Boynton, I could already sense some strong energy abounding but, fortunately, instead of fear and agitation, I experienced inner cartwheels of empowerment and excitement. (I just couldn't tell at the time if the pulsating dizziness was from the canyon itself, or the clouds of dust all the tour company jeeps and rental cars had stirred up on the congested dirt roads.)
It was well and truly peak hour and finding a vacant park before night fell and/or the charcoal thunderclouds unleashed their watery wares proved impossible. Every time I circled the car park and drove even close to the canyon's entrance, the more intensely I felt the energy throbbing around me. If only my rental car hadn't been due back by dark, I would have waited for a spot, after which time I still would have had to go on a short hike to get closer to the vortex. Instead, my hammering heart and I reluctantly decided to take our leave and sped off to the final vortex of Airport Mesa, hoping we had saved the best for last.
"No one is meant to visit every vortex in one day. The effects would be too much. You're only meant to go to the site/s you need to learn from at the time."
Words from an article I had read on the plane earlier that day began echoing around my already swirling head as I sped up Airport Road and veered off to the side.
The place was completely deserted: not a vibration-loving visitor in sight. As I tumbled out of the Dodge, a feeling of peace began to pervade every one of my pores. At the top of the lookout, I was greeted with a view so surreal, my imagination took notes. The ancient cascading sculptures of Sedona were spread out before me in all of their mythical, monolithic glory.
Mythical-looking rock formations from view at Airport Vortex, Sedona, Arizona, USA
Possibly the most spectacular view in existence - the view from Sedona's Airport Mesa
I became tipsy from the visual intoxication alone and, even though my head still felt like a bowling ball from outer space, I could sense even more powerful energy at play. No wonder. According to my trusty map, I was standing on the actual vortex! I felt an inner expansion like I'd never known before. (Cue: sweeping orchestral music.) I became esoterically ecstatic - like a butterfly on a bender - even after the heavens opened and soaked me to the bone. I stood my ground and began to laugh - not too maniacally, mind you - as the elements danced their magical elixir around me. Before too long, I was literally shaking with energy. A few hours later, I passed out like a satiated sunbeam (in my hotel room) and my dreams were filled with wild, vivid imagery.
Bouncing along on the shuttle bus the following morning, I sat up the front and shared my experiences with the driver. He slowed the coach down and turned to look at me. "In the twenty years I've been driving this bus, I ain't never heard of anybody feeling anything out there. A lot of folks just pretend they do so they can show off. You're the first person I've ever met that's genuinely felt a thing."**
I smiled and looked out the window of the coach, chuffed to be the more optimistic equivalent of a canary in a coal mine. The article I had read had hit the nail on the head:
"When the student is ready, the vortex will appear."
And, subsequently, so too will a car park!


**Disclaimer: This was a while ago so Sedona wasn't as popular as it is now. That, or highly sensitive people never catch shuttle buses. Either way, it sure does explain the retro quality of the photographs.