Flying magazine for pilots flying airplanes and helicopters in the Southwest
SW Aviator Magazine Aviation Magazine - Arizona, California, Colorado, Kansas, Nevada, New Mexico, Oklahoma, Texas, Utah
General aviation flight magazine
current past airport classified events links contact
SW Aviator Feb/Mar 2001
SW Aviator Magazine is available in print free at FBOs and aviation-related businesses throughout the Southwest or by subscription.
- - - - - -
Airshows, Fly-ins, Seminars
2001 Aviation Events Calendar
The web's most comprehensive database of Southwest area aviation events.
- - - - - -
Site of the Minute
Featured Site:
A continuosly changing collection of links to our favorite aviation related web sites.
- - - - - -
Used Aircraft For Sale
Search by:

Or enter a keword:

Post a FREE Classified Ad
- - - - - -

Into the Vortex
Exploring Sedona’s Crimson Splendor
By Gerrit Paulsen
Photos by Gerrit & Cindy Paulsen

"This must be a vortex site," my wife whispers, breaking a long, magical silence. We are sitting comfortably along the banks of Oak Creek, on a naturally sculpted red sandstone bench, watching the warm evening light wash over Cathedral Rock, one of Sedona, Arizona’s most magnificent natural landmarks. I give the statement a few anxious moments thought, first scanning the sky for tornadoes, and then the creek for whirlpools. Finding only benign clouds and tranquil water, I finally ask, "What vortex?"

It turns out that Cindy wasn’t commenting on the weather. Rather, she was recalling what she’d read in some brochures found in our hotel lobby, advertising metaphysical healing tours in Sedona. According to this New Age crowd, "a vortex is a giant magnet of energy – positively and negatively charged – where the energetic lay lines of the earth's field converge." Apparently, Sedona is a big winner in the magnetic energy department, with several vortices within a ten-mile radius of town. The advertisements go on to explain that the sandstone forming Sedona’s mountains contain both iron oxide, which gives the rocks their red color, and silica, which is crystalline. The literature states that positively charged vortexes have feminine attributes such as nurturing and calming (yin), and the negatively charged vortexes are masculine, active and energizing (yang). Consequently, believers from around the world converge on Sedona to experience and benefit from this Vortex Energy.

Yeah, okay. We’re just in Sedona because it’s breathtakingly beautiful. Our dalliance at the foot of Cathedral Rock was on the last evening of a four-day visit to Sedona; the most recent of countless pilgrimages we’ve made here over the last 30 or so years. The extraordinary chiseled cliffs, buttes, and spires that tower above us have been here a bit longer. They are the geologic remnants of a shallow inland sea that covered this area several hundred million years ago. The sand dunes eventually turned to stone, and were then uplifted by the massive geological shift that formed the Mogollon Rim (pronounced muggy-on), which bisects central Arizona. Today, 350 million years of erosion later, we are treated to this phenomenal landscape.

A bit more metaphysical research (at revealed that Cindy’s assumption was correct; Cathedral Rock is indeed a vortex site. We also discovered that during this visit to Sedona we had unknowingly hit all five major vortices in town, beginning with our landing at the Sedona airport.

Situated atop the 500-foot high Table Mesa, the airport is in the heart of the red rock country. As happens every time I fly in to Sedona, I found landing here invigorating, thanks to both the stunning scenery and the aircraft carrier-like nature of the runway. After landing, it took only a few moments to secure our airplane on the expansive transient parking ramp, place a fuel order with Red Rock aviation, and pick up our car from Sedona Jeep Rentals. We were then ready to recharge our energy in the traditional sense – with a nice lunch at the Sedona Airport Restaurant.

Located just a few steps from the terminal, the restaurant faces the runway, and has panoramic mountain views from every window. No wonder this is one of the most popular $100 hamburger stops in the Southwest! Open for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, this is also a popular restaurant with the locals, known for tasty food at a reasonable price (928-282-3576).

After a leisurely lunch we checked into our hotel, also located within the vortex up on the airport mesa. The Sky Ranch Lodge is perched on the mesa’s northern edge, overlooking the town of Sedona and the Mogollon Rim beyond. Built in 1982 by John Joynt, the Lodge is still a family enterprise, immaculately kept by the Joynt/Graham family. Our clean, efficiently furnished rim-side room came complete with a small refrigerator and microwave, plus a pleasant patio, where we finished the afternoon soaking in the grandeur of our surroundings. These popular rim-side rooms should be reserved well in advance, up to two to three months ahead in the peak seasons of spring and fall. Garden-view rooms start at $75, and rim-side rooms start at $139. The Lodge will reduce the normal 48 hour cancellation policy down to 24 hours for their fly-in guests, acknowledging that weather and winds sometimes don’t adhere to the long-term forecast (888-708-6400,

We weren’t too surprised to learn that another of our favorite destinations in Sedona, the Enchantment Resort, is also located in a vortex site. Nestled within the crimson walls of spectacular Boynton Canyon, a few miles northwest of town, this resort is surrounded by pristine wilderness. No wonder it ranked among the top 100 hotels of the Continental US and Canada in Travel & Leisure magazine, and is on the Conde Nast Traveler Gold List of the world’s best places to stay. The Enchantment Resort offers a wide range of activities and amenities, including a full-service spa. Accommodations range from comfortable guestrooms to luxurious two bedroom adobe casita suites sprinkled throughout the resort’s 70-acre complex ($195 - $535 low season, double that in high season). On this trip, we just dropped in for lunch at the resort’s well-known Yavapai Restaurant. This elegant dining room features terrific American and Southwestern cuisine, served with incomparable views. Dining reservations are advisable, even for lunch. (800-826-4180,

There is plenty of fine dining in the town of Sedona as well, along with excellent shopping and a profusion of art galleries. Though the first cabins were built in the valley in 1876, the name Sedona was not attached to the area until 1902, when early settlers Mr. and Mrs. T. Carl Schnebly named the first post office station Sedona, after T. Carl Schnebly’s wife. Today, along with the tourist boom, Sedona has become a major art center. It is home to more than 300 resident artists, with works on display in over 40 local art galleries. Many internationally acclaimed writers also call Sedona home. The famous author Zane Grey wrote his book "Call of the Canyon" here because of his love for nearby Oak Creek Canyon. In 1923, a movie based on his book was filmed in Sedona – kicking off a movie and television commercial making legacy that continues to this day.

We managed to drag ourselves away from the art galleries long enough one lazy afternoon to treat ourselves to a drive up Oak Creek Canyon. This beautiful 12-mile scenic drive winds north from Sedona towards Flagstaff along Oak Creek, through lush sycamore and cottonwood groves. About halfway up the canyon is Slide Rock State Park, a popular stop in the summer, where the creek forms a natural waterslide through the worn slickrock. Further up the canyon, near the spring that replenishes Oak Creek, the highway labors up a series of steep switchbacks to the canyon rim. Here at the roadside scenic viewpoint visitors are rewarded with an expansive view down Oak Creek Canyon, and a relaxing walk among the cool, green ponderosa pines. It’s not officially a vortex site (missing some crystals and magnetism, I suppose), but this spot inspires nonetheless.

Back in Sedona, the Chapel of the Holy Cross also provides visitors with inspiration, both spiritual and metaphysical. Dramatically built on a twin-pinnacled spur jutting out of a 1000-foot rock wall, the structure seems to float above the valley. The chapel, now also endowed with vortex status, was completed in 1956 amid a flurry of controversy. At the time, some folks worried the building would mar the beautiful natural landscape. In my opinion, these worries turned out to be unfounded, as the chapel is graceful and unobtrusive. (Unlike the ugly, sprawling subdivision that has since consumed the previously unspoiled valley floor below – definitely no vortex energy left down there.) Not far from the chapel, along Highway 179, is the unmistakable Bell Rock, another of the better known geologic features of the area, and, not surprisingly, another vortex site.
For a birds-eye view of Sedona without having to fire-up your airplane, consider taking a Jeep up Schnebly Hill. This rocky, rutted dirt road climbs up the Mogollon Rim, rewarding the adventurous with sweeping red rock vistas at every turn. You will likely recognize many of the views, which have been featured in dozens of movies and commercials filmed along this road. Pink Jeep Tours offers a 2-hour trip up the hill for $40 per person. They have several other excellent back-roads tours, ranging from heart pounding rock crawlers to sedate scenic drives (800-873-3662, If you’d rather drive yourself, Sedona Jeep Rentals at the airport rents hourly as well as daily, and provides customers with detailed maps of the back-county trails. Rates vary based on how long you keep the Jeep; for instance, $60 gets you two hours, $100 a half day, or its just $85 per day if you keep the Jeep for three days (800-879-5337,

Another exceptionally picturesque drive, the Red Rock Loop road, is perfectly suitable for passenger cars, and is how we arrived in the vortex of Cathedral Rock. A short, easily passably stretch of dirt road connects the paved Lower Red Rock and Upper Red Rock roads to form the loop. We first spent several hours exploring Red Rock State Park, which straddles Oak Creek at the end of Lower Red Rock road. This center for environmental education features an interesting visitor’s center, and a 5-mile network of interconnecting loop trails leading through lush greenery to beautiful viewpoints. Further along the scenic loop road, watch for the signs directing you to Red Rock Crossing. Here the pleasant Crescent Moon Picnic area provides access to Cathedral Rock. Plan to arrive in the late afternoon, when the warm glow of evening light highlights the red rock’s natural beauty. For the best experience, take the paved trail through the park to the end, then follow the "natural" trails upstream another quarter mile or so along Oak Creek. You’ll know the spot when you get there.

So, did we feel the Vortex Energy? Well, we did come home from our brief vacation in Sedona refreshed, inspired, and eager to tackle the demands of our everyday life. I don’t know if this was due to some complex metaphysical vortex exposure, or if it was simply caused by relaxing amid such magnificent natural beauty. I suppose it doesn’t really matter, since the outcome is the same.
Sedona’s astounding scenery attracts swarms of aerial sightseers, so stay heads-up, and announce you location and intentions well before entering the area. Expect some turbulence and downdrafts over the 500-foot drop-offs at the end of both runways. Also, expect to experience the visual illusion of being too high on the approach, use your altimeter and trust the VASI to overcome this illusion.
The Sedona Airport Administration asks visiting pilots to observe the following noise abatement recommendations:
• All arrivals and departures use standard uncontrolled airport AIM procedures. Land and take off into the wind, left traffic to both runways. (This is a recent change from the old recommendation of landing 03 and departing 21, so be alert for folks who haven’t gotten the word.)
• No scenic flights below 6500 feet MSL.
• No mid-field or intersection departures, low approaches, straight-ins, touch and go or stop and go operations.
• Use best rate of climb (Vy) on takeoff, and climb as high as possible before leaving airport boundaries, consistent with safety.
• Be aware of the three protected wilderness areas to the north, east and west of Sedona.
Transient parking is in front of the terminal building. A nightly tiedown charge of $7.50 applies for singles, $10 for twins. The FBO, Red Rock Aviation (928-282-1046), is located in the terminal, along with a nice pilot shop and several aerial tour operators. Sedona Jeep Rentals is the only rental car agency at the airport. In addition to the Jeep Wranglers, they also have sedans and minivans available. The Enterprise rent-a-car office located in town offers airport pick up (928-282-2052); be aware they close early on Saturday, and all day Sunday. Though both the Sky Ranch Lodge and the Airport Restaurant are within easy walking distance of the terminal, nothing else is. A car is really essential to getting down off the mesa and exploring this beautiful area.
Click here to return to the beginning of this article.
The material in this publication is for advisory information only and should not be relied upon for navigation, maintenance or flight techniques. SW Regional Publications and the staff neither assume any responsibility for the accuracy of this publication's content nor any liability arising fom it
SW Aviator Magazine • 3909 Central NE • Albuquerque, NM 87108
Phone: 505.256.7031 • Fax: 505.256.3172 • e-mail:
©2001 Southwest Regional Publishing, Inc.