airportvortexI was recently in Sedona, Arizona. One of the United State's most beautiful spots, it's no wonder that people flock here for vacations. Imagine an idyllic southwestern landscape, and put a town in it. That's Sedona.

Sedona is also woo-woo central.

Psychics, aura photographers, crystal shops, and all manner of New Age belief is rampant here. There's even a UFO Crash Landing museum and store, with nightly UFO tours out into the desert.

But the big unique attraction here are the "energy vortices," or "vortexes" as seems to be the local parlance. We're all familiar with the concept of a vortex - it's the funnel shape you find in a tornado or a draining bathtub. But how does that relate to energy?

The site says:

The vortexes in Sedona are swirling centers of subtle energy coming out from the surface of the earth. The vortex energy is not exactly electricity or magnetism, although it does leave a slight measurable residual magnetism in the places where it is strongest.

No one seems to be able to define it "exactly," but measurable residual magnetism? That means if you bring something that can be magnetized, like iron, into a vortex it should become a magnet. It also means that the red rock, which is red because of its high iron content should have a magnetic charge. And that is somewhat worrying, because like the name suggests, the Airport Vortex is right next to Sedona Airport.

So I did some research, and indeed, the area around Sedona does have magnetic anomalies, meaning compass readings are slightly different than one would expect given the area's declination from true north. So maybe they're on to something.

Or, maybe not.

It seems magnetic anomalies are quite common in Arizona, as this map shows. (That's Sedona right in the middle.) So what makes Sedona special? I don't know. I got a number of different response in the many shops I visited. Some say that the energy was "spiritual," others said it was "psychic." Some shops sold crystals "charged" with energy from specific vortexes. They did all agree on one thing though: I should experience it for myself.

So I did.

I drove my Land Rover up Airport Mesa, and though that sounds all rugged and romantic, it was a short drive up a paved road to a parking lot. A parking lot that costs $5. I dutifully put my $5 in the machine, and out popped, not a parking stub, but an error message. #77 to be exact. I wonder if that's the code for "vortex interference."

Undaunted I left a note on my dashboard and climbed up the steep and scenic trail to the center of the vortex.

The was a slight problem though - no one could quite agree where it was. The supposed spot was on a ridge at the edge of the mesa. For those unfamiliar with southwestern topography, a mesa is a hill with a very flat top. This one is large enough and flat enough to have an airport on it, as well as a hotel, restaurant and ample parking. But on the ridge, there were several cairns indicating the spot for "optimal vortex action."

I observed about 20 other people there, tourists from around the world, and they all seemed to be looking for what the same thing I was looking for. Some of them spread their wings like anhingas drying in the sun, and others sat lotus style absorbing, if nothing else, considerable amounts of UV radiation. At this point, I felt nothing.

I stood in different spots, looking for a vibe. I was told by the people in the closest shop that this vortex, one of four in Sedona, was "masculine and horizontal." I have no idea what "masculine energy" is, though I suppose there is some analogy being made to the magnetic poles. I started to dwell on which pole would be feminine and which would be masculine, until I realized that I was engaging in a form of mental masturbation, and in public no less.

The most impressive "optimal spot" is the one in the picture, and that's the highest point at this particular location. It's suitably marked with a cairn. I decided to go all out, open my mind, and let whatever was there influence me. The first thing I noticed was a steady warm breeze blowing from behind me - perhaps this was the horizontal-ness they were referring to.

And then suddenly, I realized that I was being overtaken by a feeling. It was more than a feeling... it was a sensation... a compelling one. I felt... hot. It was 112ºF and I was literally baking on a red rock in the middle of the desert. There was no tingling; no vibration. There was nothing one wouldn't feel on any other rock in the desert.

Well, that's not actually true. The photo only gives a hint about how beautiful this place is. As a skeptic, I can't really account for that. Why do we find long-distance views of colorful mountains beautiful? Why do we get a chemical reward for witnessing such places? I have no idea, and I love to consider any conjecture you might have. Vortex or no – this place is special.

So, in my unscientific testing of Sedona's most accessible vortex, I have to say that I felt nothing unexpected. It's an incredible spot, and I encourage everyone to stop by if they get a chance, but for me, it's more than enough to realize how fortunate I am that I can experience such a place. I see no need to apply some pseudo-spiritual mumbo jumbo about invisible, un-describable and seemingly undetectable energy fields.