old desert haunts encompass the southwest corner of Arizona, southern New
Mexico and deep forays across the Mexican border. I’ve traveled through dusty
adobe towns and wiggled through narrow slot canyons that could rain down death
at any moment. I’ve hidden in pueblo ruins and scanned the ridgeline for the telling
silhouettes of my trackers.
venturing into Northern Arizona wasn’t as much a trip back in time as it was a
new journey of discovery. It was a mind trip as well as a real one.
leaving for Sedona, we traveled back in time to a mining camp east of Phoenix
that lay nestled under the shadows of the Superstition Mountains. Ever since an
ancient sea receded from the area, these mysterious silent sentinels of granite
have been looking down from the ‘Supersticiones’ on the passage of time
unfolding all around them. Long before my Camry rolled under the shadows of the
Salt River Mountains, known to the Pima Indians as Sierra de Supersticiones,
the ancients had left their mark and disappeared. After them came the Pima
Indians and the Apaches before the miners and settlers shoved them out.
the late 1800s, the Goldfield mining camp had become famous for the sheer
quantity of gold and ore extracted from its mines. Now only the buildings were
more weathered than the miners who once worked there. By the 1890’s the town
boasted three saloons, a blacksmith shop, a general store and one brothel. But
once the vein faulted and the grade of ore dropped, the town began its slow
gradual slide into decline. The town that once claimed it would soon best Mesa
and Phoenix all but disappeared.
treacherous conditions of the mines were only offset by the hardship of travel
under the constant of raiding Apache war parties. Long after the last Apache
had succumbed to white pressure, I could still feel the Apaches still looking
down on me even after all of these years.
like filling my head with inspiration with every glance up at those rugged
peaks. Leaning on the hood of my car, I was back among the Apaches once again.
At least in spirit.
think I got a C minus in my one and only college Geology class. That’s too bad
because even a cursory knowledge of rocks would have been helpful as I gazed
up at some of God’s truly wondrous creations, Red Rock Country in and around
just two hours north of Phoenix, Sedona boasts some of God’s most colorful
before the first human stepped foot in the Verde Valley, ancient winds began to
blow rose-colored sand grains into magnificent crimson-colored mesas. Around 8,000
B.C., the Paleo-Indians came to the Sedona area via a natural land bridge that
connected North America to Ancient Asia. After them came the Hohokam, the
Sinaguan and finally the Anasazi known as the ‘Ancient Ones.’ The quest for
gold and silver brought the first white explorers around 1583.
the many monikers that Sedona likes to boast about are the breath-taking
mountains and the vortexes below. Sedona has painted itself as a magical place
where artists of every type are inspired to create their masterpieces or
struggle to find their muse. I must admit being struck by the sheer size and
beauty of the mountains and buttes all around us. Much like the San Jacinto
Mountains in my own backyard, the sun seems to paint these mountains with a
different personality by the minute.
can now understand the publicity shots Sedona loves to share with the world.
I’m sure you’ve seen the pictures of individuals sitting on some mountain butte
contemplating their navel as the sun is setting. The entire region does have a
different feel about it. It’s a setting perfect for contemplation and creative
was only after the first roads were built into the Sedona area in the
mid-twenties that growth and prosperity soon began to follow. Now there’s a new
twist in attracting tourists and the curious.
hunting has become big business.
locals claim that Sedona has long been known as a spiritual power center
because of vortexes of subtle energy located in the area. “The subtle energy
that exists at these locations interacts with who a person is inside. It
resonates with and strengthens the inner being of each person that comes within
a quarter to a half mile of it” or so the literature says. There are male and
female vortexes but that would require too much of a definition and certainly a
suspension of belief for a non-believer such as myself.
perusing books on old time Sedona, I came to the conclusion that the spiritual
aspect of this place would have been seen as a strange and even silly phenomena
thirty years ago. But today it sells hotel rooms and some folks seem to have
bought into it yoga mat and sunsets combined. I suspect for most visitors it’s
more a trip inside their head than anyplace else.
whole New Age, spiritual, metaphysical, mind-tripping moniker got started
around the mid-seventies after a journalist came out here and wrote about her
spiritual experience on top of some butte. New Age hippies followed and soon
there were conferences here just focusing on spiritual healing and vortexes and
healing crystals. Now Sedona and most of Red Rock Country seems to have
captured a large part of that mysterious market. We were told that artists,
writers and seekers from all around the world flock to this Red Rock Country
for the spiritual uplifting experiences there.
to be left out of finding my muse, I went searching for my own personal vortex…
but more about that later…
are several ruins scattered about the Sedona area. One of the most fascinating
is Tuzigoot (Apache for ‘crooked water’). The Tuzigoot pueblo was built in
stages on top of a long ridge rising 120 feet above the Verde Valley. It was
occupied between 1100 and 1425 A.D and was once one of the largest communities
in the Verde Valley. Its occupants were a people called the Sinagua. These
ancient farmers quickly learned about the plants, animals, soils and climate of
the Verde Valley. This resulted in active
trade and exchange of ideas that enriched all of the cultures of prehistoric
my trip to Machu Picchu I was able to escape the swarming crowds that were
clogging the ruins and find a quiet spot for contemplation. I found a ledge
where I could dangle thousands of feet above certain death and ponder my life
just as their ancients had done centuries before.
at Tizigoot, the hideaways were either locked up or taken
over by a curio shop. Like most of the Indian trading posts during our trip,
these too had genuine Indian artifacts that, I suspect, may have come all the
way from China. It wasn’t quite the same as in Peru. And yet simply being among
the ruins released my imagination to fly in a hundred different directions.
of Tuzigoot and just as mysterious is the Grand Canyon. God had a field day on
it was raining and foggy most of the way up to the canyon. Once there, we were
lucky to get in just a couple of shots before the clouds dropped down into the
canyons and coated everything with a blanket of soft gray. Unlike the pristine,
colorful pictures of this magnificent chapel, we got some rare and mystical
photos of a Grand Canyon rarely seen by visitors. In the end it was a nice
preview for a return trip we definitely must take.
I never did find my own vortex; male or female.
Other than a little dust coating my hair and sand stinging my eyes, I just felt
the wind swirling around my welcoming body and mind. All the talk of spiritual
places and personal vortexes reminded me of some carnival atmosphere but
instead of hucksters, I had to listen to hotel desk clerks and tour hawkers. A
closer examination of the criteria for finding a personal vortex can be better
explained by one sentence in the local literature…”If someone is at all a
sensitive person, it is easy to feel the energy at these vortexes.” I rest my
Despite not finding my personal vortex, the trip was
a great success. There was still a lot I hadn’t seen. I missed Fort Defiance,
Canyon de Chelly and the Painted Desert. But not really. I wasn’t there in body
but I was in mind and spirit. I could feel the hot sun blistering my neck and
the ripples of heat waves dancing across the cactus-studded desert all around
me. I can taste the dust and the dirt and the rank odor of soldiers in the
field. I could feel the tension as my eyes scanned the horizon for tell-tales
signs of danger and perused the deep shadows of the rocks all around me. The
Apache are all gone by now but my imagination wasn’t about to let them get away
so easy. I was trying to process the ever present fear and anxiety so I could
capture it on my keyboard.
Northern Arizona provided a wonderful journey back
in time and mind. Although the metaphysical spirit never grabbed me, I did feel
a certain connection with the land and its past inhabitants. I didn’t have to
go looking for my muse since I’ve been chasing that dream for years now. The
journey was more a mind-trip than a physical one. But it was a journey that
filled me with a deeper appreciation for the artistry of nature and the my own
imagination running rampant over my keyboard back home.