by Liz Fleming

What is it about Arizona? Does the power that pulls us come from the rocks, the sun or the universe itself?

Enchantment ResortCourtesy of Enchantment Resort

The magic of Sedona manifests first in the early morning hours when the sun begins to rise over canyons, deserts, lakes and forests – the many faces of a diverse landscape. Birds make delicate landings on impossibly prickly cacti and lizards scuttle into the shade of boulders.  The early morning light drenches the canyons, making the soaring red cliff faces glow with a more-than-earthly light.

A Favorite spot for shopping for everything from cowboy boots to stained glass jewelry as well as stunning art and sculptures and for cafes and cozy dining spots, the tiny charming town of Sedona seems to crouch in the shadow of the burnt red canyons that surround her. Be sure to make your visit there first, before you head into the rocks. Once your heart is captured by the landscape, you'll find it hard to tear yourself away again.

When  it comes to claims of supernatural power, I’m a hard sell but Sedona’s seduction get me every time and I just can't explain it. I’m not alone. Sedona is a potent place.

Some New-Age Sedona lovers refer to themselves as "being on the path" to a cleaner, stronger, better life as a result of their absorption of Sedonian strength.  They use semi-scientific evidence to argue that the power they absorb comes from the magnetic iron content of the red rocks. Other believers insist that the sun is the source of the energy – soaking into your body as you hike the mountain trails.  Still others argue that the power surge comes from the universe itself and warn that Sedona is the next landing site for extra-terrestrials.

No scientist and certainly no spiritualist, I can’t pretend to understand where the power originates, but I do know that I feel an energy in Sedona that’s different from anything I’ve felt anywhere else.  My husband and I decided to investigate.

Enchantment Resort Casita PoolCourtesy of Enchantment ResortOur Sedona base was the exquisite Enchantment Resort, a 70-acre property designed to integrate subtly with its Boynton Canyon setting. Built of vermillion adobe that blends seamlessly into the backdrop of rocks and foliage, none of Enchantment’s buildings are more than one storey high.. Guests are coddled in luxurious private casitas set on pathways that wind up the hillsides, most with sheltered private balconies.  Sitting on ours, we drank in the uninterrupted view of pine trees and towering red cliffs, sipped our tea and felt all the tensions of life slide away

It was tempting to spend the day lolling in the shade or luxuriating on the inviting treatment tables of the in-house Mi Amo Spa, but we were on a mission, determined to find Sedona's mysterious energy source - to search out a vortex.

Mii Amo SpaCourtesy of Enchantment ResortWe were more enthusiastic than practical, given that neither of us had a clue what a vortex might look like...and no one we talked to could offer any solid advice for searching it out. We were told that a vortex is a spiralling funnel of energy that can be formed by almost anything - electricity, light, wind, or water. That description was a bit tornado-ish for my liking, but we were assured the four Sedona vortexes are more subtle - invisible, actually - and made of energy that can be sensed by all those who come within a quarter to a half mile.

We laced up our hiking shoes and hit the trails. Not far from our casita was a steep mountain trail leading to what is reputedly the site of the most powerful of the four vortexes. Known as the Kuchina Woman, the rocky pillar rises like Mother Earth from the crest of a rough, red hillside.  She was our goal.

The walk up to her feet was challenging enough to get our blood flowing but not so hard that we didn’t enjoy it. Stopping along the way, we took photo after photo of the rich, rusty rocks, hoping to capture some of their warmth.

When we finally reached the Kuchina Woman, we were hot, sweaty and grateful for the bottles of orange juice we'd brought along. The question was: were we glowing from our exertions or lit by an energy-fire within?  Our New Age friends had told us we'd feel the power of the vortex mixing with our own internal energy centers. We closed our eyes and considered, breathed deeply and examined our souls for evidence of sparking, stretched our arms heavenward and opened our hearts to a connection.

And did we feel it? Did the vortex swirl into our beings and ignite a new fire within? Were we charged by a power from beyond? We can't say for certain but what we do know is that Sedona's pull is now stronger than ever as a result of our morning of connecting with the earth and the lure of those warm red canyons is already calling us back.

Scottsdale Sunrise

There are very few things worth hauling yourself out of bed before sunrise, but hot air ballooning over the Scottsdale desert is one. It was still pitch black when our guide from Hot Air Expeditions rolled up to get us at Scottsdale’s swanky Valley Ho Hotel.
“Get in,” he said with a huge smile. “It’s a great day for ballooning.”

Hot air balloonCourtesy of Hot Air Expeditions

A finicky business, hot air ballooning demands exactly the right conditions. Too much wind and the flight is cancelled.  Not enough wind and the balloon goes nowhere. That morning, we’d hit a lucky mix of exactly enough but not too much.

Eager to help, we held the sides of the massive, silky balloon as the pilot and his team filled it with propane-heated air. As flames shot into the miles of bright yellow, red, blue and green fabric, the balloon swelled like a rainbow-hued  ballroom.

Quickly scrambling into the tall, segmented basket that would somehow hold eight adults aloft, we put our faith in the captain and hung on. In moments, we were afloat, rising high above the desert below.

As he nonchalantly released the bursts of propane-fired air that kept the whole miracle working, the captain pointed out the various species of cacti and wildlife in the desert below.  His ease with the process was breathtaking as he took us silently soaring, then lowered the basket so close to the ground we felt we could have reached out and touched a passing jack rabbit.

When at last we were returned to the earth for good, a breakfast of quiche and croissants appeared from nowhere, along with a bottle of Champagne for the traditional balloonist’s toast:

“The winds have welcomed you with softness,
The sun has blessed you with its warm hands,
You have flown so high and so well,
That God has joined you in your laughter,
And set you gently back into the loving arms of Mother Earth.”

For even the laziest among us, a Scottsdale ballooning adventure is well worth the early wakeup call.

Originally published in Cruise & Travel Lifestyles Spring/Summer 2016 issue.

Get Cruise & Travel Updates!
Get Cruise & Travel Updates!