Getting Physically and Spiritually Recharged in Sedona

Red Rocks and Energy Vortexes Converge in Stunning Sedona

The full moon was rising over the distant hills but we still needed our ATV's headlights to pierce the darkness as we bounced along a labyrinth of trails in the Prescott National Forest outside of Sedona. We could only see the trail ten feet or so in front of us as we muscled our way over rocks, jagged ruts and thick sandy ravines, but nothing that Nature threw at us could stop us. Mary, our intrepid guide from Arizona Offroad Tours, knew the area like the back of her hand and two hours later she led us through the moonlit night back to our starting point with ease. Our adventures in Sedona's wonderland had begun in unforgettable style. I had arranged this mid-April trip to Sedona as an early birthday present for my wife, but this remarkable trip ended up being a gift for both of us. We flew into Phoenix and drove two hours to reach our hotel, the Sedona Rouge, with its inspiring view of the famed red rocks. The next morning after checking out, we joined Sedona Adventure Tours for their two and a half hour kayaking excursion on the Verde River. With two guides and seven other guests, we enjoyed paddling our inflatable kayaks down the fairly placid, turbid river, past rocky desert hills and thick green stands of cottonwoods, willows and mesquite. Back in town, we stopped at the ChocolaTree vegan restaurant for a much needed meal and energy recharge. The restaurant's modest exterior hid a secluded oasis in the back, complete with assorted small tables, a fountain, garden and, best of all, chair hammocks for relaxing while absorbing the sounds of ethereal flute music. It's not fancy, but it is a nice, soothing retreat--perfect for Sedona. Three nights at the historic El Portal Sedona Hotel, tucked away in the middle of the renowned Tlaquepaque village, provided us with a centrally located base from which to explore the area. Our room's unique decor featured massive tree trunks protruding from the adobe ceiling, furniture crafted from raw pieces of tree limbs and deer horn drawer handles. If you have a dog, this is the place for you--USA Today readers rated it as one of the top pet-friendly hotels in the country. Sunday morning, after a hike around the Airport Mesa vortex, we headed for brunch at L'Auberge Restaurant. Serendipity--an unexpected delight--describes the experience best. We drove down the hotel's inconspicuous driveway off Sedona's bustling main street and suddenly found ourselves in a different world. A series of cottages, each with its own balcony, overlooked the valley below and hills beyond. But the biggest surprise awaited us as we passed through the restaurant to its rear deck. White linen-clad tables were tucked among a sea of shade trees, including our private table perched just a couple of feet above the clear flowing waters of Oak Creek. Emerald green mallards paddled past us and our reverie was interrupted only when the attentive staff periodically asked, "Would you like another glass of champagne, a mimosa or bloody mary?" The buffet was a gourmand's dream with tables of fresh fruit, seafood, hand-carved turkey and roast beef, and deserts too numerous to count. No trip to Sedona is complete without a meal at this unique place. Still savoring our meal, we headed back uptown for our Pink Jeep tour. With over 75 jeeps in their fleet, these folks dominate the Sedona tour scene. Having done their ever-popular Broken Arrow offroad tour in the past (a tour I highly recommend), we opted to try something different this time. Their two-hour Diamondback Gulch tour took us into the high desert and provided a combination of panoramic views and white-knuckle ascents and descents of roads that I never thought a vehicle could navigate. The next day, we set aside time to explore two of Sedona's four world-renowned vortexes that metaphysical folks describe as 'areas of enhanced energy flows with remarkable powers of spiritual awareness and healing.' Our hikes up to the tops of vortex-imbued Bell Rock and Cathedral Rock rank among our all-time favorites. The red rocks of Sedona, whether you believe in vortexes or not, have a beauty of color and form that is seldom found elsewhere. For our final excursion, we drove west through Cottonwood to reach the starting point of the Verde Canyon Railroad in the historic town of Clarkdale. After boarding our first class car, we chose a comfy looking sofa that allowed us to enjoy the view while our affable hostess served snacks, a modest meal, and beverages. We alternated between lounging on our sofa and standing in the adjacent open-air viewing carriage to admire the twenty miles of spectacular scenery, geology, archeology and history. This four-hour train tour has been added to my "Sedona must-see and do list".  Afterwards, we were ready for an early dinner so we headed for Harry's Hideaway Restaurant in nearby nondescript Cornville. The restaurant's modest exterior and furnishings belie the high quality of Harry's menu, wine selection, and desserts. We'll return to eat here next time. As if all these wonderful experiences weren't enough, on our last night in Sedona we received a final gift from Mother Nature--a rare blood red lunar eclipse at midnight. Alas, all good things must end, but as we said farewell to Sedona, we were grateful to have experienced its positive energy and profound beauty. We've already planned our next hikes when we return to this red rock wonderland.   Doug Hansen is a travel writer and photographer in Carlsbad, CA. You can find more photos and articles at www.HansenTravel.org ............................................................................................................................................................ FOR MORE INFORMATION: LODGING: Sedona Rouge Hotel & Spa, 2250 West Hwy 89A, Sedona, AZ 86336; 866-312-4111; www.sedonarouge.com. Nice views of the red rocks from windows facing the back of the hotel. El Portal, 95 Portal Lane, Sedona, AZ 86336 (located in Tlaquepaque village); 800-313-0017; www.ElPortalSedona.com. AAA Four Diamond luxury inn with just 12 rooms.   TOURS: Verde River Float Tour with Sedona Adventures Tours; 928-204-6440; www.SedonaAdventureTours.com. Arizona Offroad Tours; 928-451-1777; arizonaoffroadtours@gmail.com. Mary McDowell merits her five star rating on TripAdvisor. Pink Jeep Tours; 800- 873-3662; www.pinkjeep.com. Verde Canyon Railroad, 300 N Broadway, Clarksdale, AZ 86324; 800-582-7245; www.verdecanyonrr.com. If you can, pay extra for first class. Climb to the top of Bell Rock with Peter Gersten at no charge (no kidding); 928-451-1990; ufolawyer@msn.com. If you're a hiker and interested in Sedona's vortexes, try to arrange this climb with Peter.   EATING: ChocolaTree Organic Oasis, 1595 Arizona 89A, Sedona, AZ 86336; 928-282-2997; www.chocolatree.com. 100% organic, vegetarian food with a backyard seating area that mixes tables, hammocks and the most soothing spiritual flute music. L'Auberge Restaurant, 301 Little Lane, Sedona, AZ 86336; 928-282-1661; www.lauberge.com. Breakfast, lunch and dinner alongside Oak Creek. Reservations recommended. Harry's Hideaway Restaurant, 10990E Cornville Rd, Cornville, AZ 86325; 928-639-2222; www.harryshideaway.com. About 20 minutes from Sedona; has a TripAdvisor 5 star rating.   TOURIST INFORMATION: Sedona Chamber of Commerce; 928-204-1123; www.sedonachamber.com. 858-922-7811