Pros: Easily accessible and spectacular scenery
Cons: An abundance of New Age silliness
Cool October nights had gilded the aspen trees, but late autumn sunshine warmed me as I left the car and walked up the Boynton Canyon Vortex trail near Sedona, Arizona.
The Sedona red rock country attracts tourists from around the globe. The landscape, even if not endowed with supernatural powers, is exceptionally scenic, speckled with sandstone outcroppings that have eroded into amazing domes, arches, and faces. Unlike places like Yosemite or the Grand Canyon, however, the attractions here, while undeniably spectacular, are on a far more human scale. The most picturesque views here are not from the heights, but instead come along the relatively flat trails that wind between rock outcroppings, through gnarled juniper and sagebrush.
In Sedona, one can interact in a startlingly intimate way with the landscape. While expansive roadside vistas abound, particularly from Schnebly Hill Road, most hiking trails provide easy access directly into the rock formations, passing along canyon floors through copses of aspen and pine, past tributaries of the Oak Creek watershed, a gin-clear stream that flows south into Sedona.
I passed a French couple on mountain bikes who were reduced to blissfully inarticulate grins by the sheer enjoyment of their ride. Together we studied a shy horned toad lizard at the side of the trail. I watched three giggling, middle-aged Japanese tourists lapse silently into meditation. My senses sharpened to the tang of the autumn air.
After walking for an hour or so, I found a perfect stopping spot: an ancient fallen juniper, twisted in such a way that it provided both comfortable seating and an awe-inspiring view.
Theres a poignancy about autumn, even in a spot as soul-satisfying as Sedona. The landscape is amazing at any time of the year, but particularly so when the warm colors of the rocks are washed with lemony October light, silhouetted against a crystalline sky scoured clean by breezes that shimmer the aspen leaves a chill reminder of the approaching winter.
Deep in my backpack, carefully wrapped, I had packed a half bottle of decent cabernet, a glass, and a dark chocolate truffle. I huddled against the log, sipping my wine, savoring the chocolate, as the suns rays sank lower.
Many of our memories stem from intensity of feeling, from extremes of emotion that etch our personal experience. But in some cases, memories stem not from the outer bounds of experience, but rather from the center, from a sense of utter balance and contentment.
In Boynton Canyon, I didnt find a mystical source of healing energy, but I did share a near-perfect melding of all my senses, a profound sense of belonging that, if not supernatural, was as near to it as I'm likely ever to experience.
Copyright 2003 Sundogg99