On a New Year's trip to Sedona, Arizona (a reward for spending an intense three days hiking in the Grand Canyon), I visited energy vortexes (vortices?), saw a tarot reader, and attended a music and meditation class—on Day One. While I'm naturally inclined toward New Age arts, dabbling here and there in oracle cards and crystal-healing treatments, this total immersion seemed a bit over the top, even for me. Which is not to say that I didn't enjoy every last minute of it.
The luxury resort L'Auberge de Sedona was my home base—a dramatic, and welcome change in habitat from my backcountry campsite in the GC. Though I was tempted to hole up in my plush creekside cabin, with its roaring wood fireplace, gigantic marshmallow of a bed, and old movies on the flat screen, my inner adventurer seemed deaf to the pleas of my painful calves. Sedona's martian terrain of red-rock buttes is made for hiking, after all.
L'Auberge de Sedona (photo via the resort).
For a 20-minute uphill boulder scramble to Cathedral Rock, you'll be rewarded with immense views and the rare feeling of being at the edge of the world. Cathedral Rock is also a vortex site, so, bonus—if you set an intention here (or make a wish or say a prayer—whatever floats your spiritual boat), supposedly a cyclone of energy will supercharge it. In the famous words of Levar Burton, you don't have to take my word for it—even if you don't believe in this stuff, it doesn't hurt to try, right? The hike to Devil's Bridge (a natural red-rock arch) is an easy 3.6 miles round trip from the Dry Creek trailhead—a good sunrise tromp to help you work up a hearty breakfast appetite. The Brin's Mesa trail gives you panoramic views of Sedona's unique landscape—the hike is a cinch and the wide vistas give you great perspective: That is, you are a mere speck on the earth's timeline. Virtually insignificant. You're welcome.
All of your intrepid work requires refueling and relaxing. While the Sedona restaurant scene lacks finesse, the L'Auberge offerings are fine exceptions. Cress on Oak Creek dishes out delicious, if not a tad fussy, French Modern fare in a four-course prix fixe dinner. Don't miss the rabbit, which has a more delicate taste and texture than chicken, which is probably why it comes wrapped in the flavorbomb known as applewood bacon. The cured duck breast with black-truffle potatoes is rich and delicious. The plates are well-portioned and well-paced: At the next table, a man proposed to his girlfriend after he finished his charred carrots appetizer. She said yes, they hugged and kissed, made a champagne toast to their future, posted a glut of photos of the ring on their social media outlets, and called their parents with the news just before the smoked veal cheeks entrée arrived. Apparently, such fairy-tale overtures are par for the course at this restaurant. For less pomp and circumstance, the hotel's Etch Kitchen & Bar is a casual spot with hearty fare—a gooey cheeseburger or a plate of slow-cooked osso bucco, for example.
Scottish Salmon at Cress (photo via the restaurant).
Normally I'd be a little embarrassed to admit that I visited a place called Mystical Bazaar for my tarot reading, or that I was so stoked by what the cards predicted (something about rebirth—who doesn't love a good comeback story?) that I raided the retail shop for gemstones and crystals to support the metamorphosis! Jury's still out on their effectiveness, however. For more instantaneous results, try the 90-minute Quiet Mind massage at the L'Auberge L'Apothecary spa, which integrates yoga breathing with classic Swedish strokes for deep relaxation. Private Vinyasa Vortex yoga classes and the weekly chakra-balancing meditation sittings are lead by a lovely free spirit named Devani Paige, who expertly, and to great mystical effect, plays the Native American flute during her sessions. I could have stayed forever in the otherworldly mind space she created. But before I knew it, I was back home in San Francisco, downloading Devani's music meditation album from the L'Auberge website, and embarking on my own meditation practice. Until I fully realize my tele-transportation skills, I'll do anything to return to Sedona.