When I was a senior in high school, my family took an Arizona vacation. It was the height of summer, and my parents were able to get an amazing deal on a fancy resort in Phoenix, since it was 114-degrees outside and no one in their right mind would want to vacation in an oven. So we spent our entire time in Phoenix in the hotel swimming pool. And, after that, we went to visit the red-rock town of Sedona, which was a relief at about 20 degrees cooler, and which leaves an impression on me to this day. SedonaSign

Sedona stands as sort of a spiritual center for the region. Drive into town and you’ll notice dreamcatchers hanging in windows and on rearview mirrors, large displays of crystal jewelry, a preponderance of candle shops, celestial-themed galleries, and people walking around with yoga mats. Part of the reason why Sedona attracts so many new-age seekers and dreamers is that it’s believed that there is a special, concentrated energy in some of the town’s rocks—this energy concentration is also called a vortex. There are a number of jeep tours that will take you to Sedona’s vortices where you can determine if you feel a special tingle in your spine, a healing vibration, or the presence of some sort of higher power.

Even if you don’t get a thrill up your leg, the sandstone rocks in and of themselves are a thing of beauty, and a photographer’s dream. Depending on what time of day you go, they take on different shades of red, which are heightened by the region’s spectacular sunrises and sunsets.


I don’t remember getting much of a special feeling from the vortex (we went to Cathedral Rock, but each vortex has its own spiritual properties), but the tour we took was pretty fun, going up and over the rocks of Oak Creek Canyon, tasting pine nuts picked fresh from the trees, and learning about the area’s flora and fauna. At night, the plentiful stars knocked our jaws open and lent an otherworldly glow to the martian-like landscape.

Even if pan-flute music, astrological charts, and the hippie go-to scent of nag champa gives you the heebie jeebies, all the new-age noise is pretty easy to get past in Sedona, where nature looms large enough to remind you and your brethren that you’re pretty small. Even when you’re a skeptical senior in high school. It was a place that restored the “cool” factor to our summer vacation in Arizona, in more ways than one.

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