Sun, Fun, and the Paranormal

It was about this same time last year (when the relentless Pacific Northwest weather starts to drive me nuts) that my friend invited me to visit her in Scottsdale, AZ.

I was thrilled. To feel the sun on my face again. To exercise outdoors. To rediscover my pre-holiday body.

“Let’s go hiking in Sedona. We can check out the energy vortexes.”

“Sounds great!” I texted back, wondering, What in the world is an energy vortex?

Easter Island Moai

Easter Island, an Energy Vortex

I learned that energy vortexes are places of reported paranormal sightings and metaphysical events. Easter Island, Stonehenge, and the Great Pyramid of Giza are vortexes. Over twenty vortexes are located in the US. However, Sedona prominently features multiple vortexes within a 7-mile radius.

The prospect of a paranormal experience had just increased the coolness factor of my trip.

During my online search, I discovered Dennis Andres a.k.a. “Mr. Sedona” and author of What is A Vortex?. According to Mr. Sedona, a vortex can amplify our physical, mental, spiritual, or emotional energies. Sedona visitors have reported unusual experiences, such as sudden relief from physical ailments, increased intuition, and heightened feelings of happiness. Others have reported feelings of anxiety (or of course, nothing at all).

As I packed, I wondered what I would feel in the presence of the Sedona vortexes. I was excited by the possibility of gaining more than just a tan and firm calves during my trip.

The distance from the vortexes to the center of Sedona allowed us to visit two vortexes in one day. When I arrived in Scottsdale, my friend shared her plan to start with an energetic hike in the “upflow” vortex at Bell Rock, head into town for lunch, and then wind down with a hike to the “inflow” vortex of Cathedral Rock. From reading Mr. Sedona’s website I knew upflow vortexes could energize, while inflow vortexes had a calming effect.

We left Scottsdale, bringing along another friend and her high-strung, 2-year-old Labrador named Lulu.

Driving up the gradual ascent along Hwy 17, we arrived 2 hours later in the red rock territory of Sedona, 4400 ft above sea level.

Bell Rock

We could see Bell Rock’s distinctive shape for miles from the freeway. When we finally hit the trail, my friend showed us a grounding exercise that I chose not to perform. I felt fine. At the time, I’d forgotten that Mr. Sedona recommended being emotionally grounded before entering an upflow vortex. Something about recklessness behavior.

Trail leading to Bell Rock. Sedona, AZ

Trail leading to Bell Rock

At the start of tourist season, the trail was pleasantly uncrowded. A handful of mountain bikers and hikers passed us as they returned to the parking lot.

Although it was mid-March and 10 degrees cooler than Scottsdale, the full sun had us tying our jackets about our waists. Within the first mile I felt a sudden heaviness around my feet. I attributed it to the higher elevation. My home in Seattle is just a few hundred feet above sea level.

This heaviness disappeared as we neared Bell Rock.

Paradoxically, as we gained in elevation, I gained energy. I suppressed an urge to run the rest of the way uphill. To avoid leaving my companions behind, I began taking side paths where some bouldering was required. I was giddy. My friends chose to remain less adventurous and took the wider, flatter routes.

View from Bell Rock overlook, with Submarine Rock in center. Sedona, AZ

View from Bell Rock overlook, with Submarine Rock in center

In time, we reached the first viewpoint, and at my friend’s suggestion, we each found a place of solitude. I claimed a flat promontory. With the pinnacles of Bell Rock to my back, I enjoyed the breeze and a 270-degree view of the valley.

Prominent rock formations framed the landscape, with Cathedral Rock to the west, Courthouse Butte and Submarine rock to the east, and the northeastern Twin Buttes from which I could just make out the grey outlines of the Chapel of the Holy Cross.

Using my jacket as a pillow, I laid back to gaze at the moving sky. With nothing in my peripheral vision, I felt as if I were on the deck of a massive, floating ship. A heart-shaped cloud formed overhead.

I lay there until my friends came to get me.

On the way down, my friend finally spotted a special juniper tree she’d been searching for on the way up. Its trunk and limbs were dramatically twisted like the rubber band on an old-fashioned toy airplane.

Vortex Tree at Bell Rock. Sedona, AZ

Vortex Tree at Bell Rock

She had us place our hands on a branch to see if we could feel the energy. Nothing.

Then I placed my palms on the trunk, and immediately felt a vibration similar to a washing machine on spin cycle. This didn’t impress my friend, who said she felt the energy running up her arms and twirling through her body. Our other friend felt the vibrations beneath her hands, but also heard a low hum.

Lulu, unfortunately, did not fare well. Unnerved by the long car ride, the hike up Bell Rock did little to burn off her anxiety. This manifested as a bad case of diarrhea. Sitting beside her in the back seat, I was relieved that her gastrointestinal issues resolved after she got into the car. In retrospect, I suppose she could have used some grounding, too.


Cathedral Rock

After lunch, we took the Crescent Moon State Park trail to Cathedral Rock. Unlike the hike to Bell Rock, the trail was flat, following the meandering path of the creek, beneath a canopy of  oak trees.

In time, I noticed cairns, or stacks of balanced river rocks, along the trail. Normally used as trail markers, these cairns served more as artistic expressions than navigation aids (unless one needed massive levels of reassurance). Eventually, I spied rocks whimsically nestled within the crooks of tree branches.

Avid cairn-masons in Crescent Moon State Park.

Avid cairn-masons in Crescent Moon State Park.


We walked at a leisurely pace, enjoying the canopy of the old oaks. All the while, my friend’s lab pulled at the leash, enticed by the bubbling sounds of the creek.


Cathedral Rock. Sedona, Arizona

Cathedral Rock above the rushing waters of Oak Creek

The trail opened to a flat expanse of rock known as Red Rock Crossing. The trees parted revealing the famous view of Cathedral Rock.

We moved on until we reached an area the locals call Buddha Beach. The ground was covered by a profusion of rock cairns of varying heights and complexities.

After rebuilding a cleverly balanced cairn knocked over by Lulu’s tail, we decided to keep moving.

A woman sat on the bank with her legs folded, meditating. A group of children splashed about noisily nearby in a shallow bend in the stream. It made me wonder who arrived first.

Several people had crossed the creek at this bend and were ascending the steep, narrow trail cut into the southeast face of Cathedral Rock. Some were using their hands to hoist themselves up vertical sections. We decided to turn around, due to timing and inability to scramble up the mountain with the dog.

However, before heading back, we finally let Lulu off the leash to play. Vortex or no, I was certain she found her bliss here.

Labrador in Oak Creek. Sedona, AZ

Lulu enjoying the cool waters of Oak Creek


During the drive back to Scottsdale, I felt content with my experiences in Sedona. Was this a residual effect of the tranquil energy at Cathedral Rock? Perhaps.

However, I have a general rule when traveling: Go with no expectations and appreciate each experience.

Was Sedona worth checking out? You bet. The beauty alone is reason enough to visit. The mysterious sensations at the vortex tree were an unexpected bonus.

Next time I’m there I plan to stay in town and explore the other vortexes (as well as the Grand Canyon, only 2 hours away).

We’ll make sure Lulu and I are both grounded to avoid recklessness or diarrhea, respectively.


If you go: Sedona is accessible by car within two hours from Phoenix via I-17 North, and within 5 hours from Las Vegas via I-515/US-93. Private/group walking and 4WD tours to the vortexes are offered by several Sedona touring agencies. See the Sedona Chamber of Commerce website for specific directions and information on lodging, tours, and transportation. Videos highlighting special points of interest for each vortex are available on the Mr. Sedona website

Categories: Travel

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