Name: Peter Gersten
Location: Sedona, Arizona
From: New York City
Favorite hobbies: Hiking, binge-viewing DVDs, hiking, playing with my 5000 photos, hiking, hosting couchsurfers & hiking.
Peter was born in New York City, and moved to Sedona in 2000 in order to pursue his personal mission of taking 1,111 people up to the top of Bell Rock by the year 2012. Each person that joins him on his journey to the top of bell rock is given a number, welcomed into his Top of Bell Rock Club (TBRC), and given a card to confirm their lifetime membership.
To the people of Sedona, he is widely known as “The Vortex Jumper”. He frequently hosts Couchsurfers at his place in Sedona under two conditions:
1) You must have a car
2) The following morning you must hike with him to the top of Bell Rock
I reached out to ask Peter about this mission and how Couchsurfing has played a role. Here is his story:
How did you first become involved with Couchsurfing?
In August 2012 a woman living in Canada, who kept up with my UFO work, messaged me that her son would be coming to Sedona and asked if I could take him to the top of Bell Rock. I later did and on the way he told me about couchsurfing. A week later, while visiting my daughter in N.Y.C., it hit me. Couchsurfing would be the “cosmic conduit” the way I would find the pre-determined 1111 people (or they would find me) I needed to take to the top.
What does it mean to be the “Vortex Jumper”?
How do people get ideas for stories, screenplays, books, etc? I have a story but instead of writing it I created a holographic reality show that I star in as the Vortex Jumper and first-time CSers and returning TBRC members are my guest stars, co-stars, and recurring characters. I believe I exist in the ultimate role-playing game in which I programmed my entire life before I was born. Couchsurfing, no matter what its original purpose, is a necessary part of my story’s mission.
What part does Bell Rock play in all of this?
Bell Rock is the perfect rock for my story. It has the reputation of being an interdimensional portal. In 1987, during the Harmonic Convergence, people gathered around the rock waiting for it to “blast off.” Unlike other red rocks/vortexes that have a well-marked trail, Bell Rock has no trail to the top. People need me to lead the way. My home faces Bell Rock. It’s the first thing I see in the morning and the last thing at night. It is continually in my present moments.
I started the Top of Bell Rock Club (TBRC) a few weeks after I began hosting Couchsurfers. It was a fun way to keep track of the number of people while providing a foundation to my story. The TBRC now has 2338 members worldwide. About 1/3 are CSers.
I followed up to learn more about this “holographic reality show”, Peter’s unique worldview, and the role so many Couchsurfers have played in this, to which he responded – “Come to Sedona and to the top of Bell Rock with me and I’ll tell you.”
So I did.
After visiting my sister, Jenna, in Tempe, we both drove up to Sedona and arrived at the clubhouse a little before sunset. Peter was waiting there to welcome us to the city and give us a detailed tour of his home. The first thing we noticed inside was the variety of people featured in photos on his walls, showcasing the many who’ve traveled with him to the top of Bell Rock. He proudly walked us through these pictures and pointed out the wide diversity of participants – from pregnant women, to families with young children, couples whose wedding he officiated at the top, and countless 20-something year olds, each accompanied by their own unique story. There are hundreds of handwritten letters and trinkets left by TBRC members scattered around the house, as well as pictures of Bell Rock made from any material imaginable including watercolor, acrylic, copper, wood, and nails, to name a few. After Peter walked us through these various memories and works of art, we opened the bottle of wine I had brought and discussed plans for the next day.
As customary, we woke at 7am the following morning and set off to climb Bell Rock. We had a couple others, Michael and Robert, join us for the hike last minute after hearing about Peter from another Couchsurfer. We were happy to have the additional company. Peter guided us all up the same path that his feet have weathered a couple thousand times, yet is still disparate from any recognizable trail and unknown to the general public. He pointed out where to hold on and find footholds in the rock, where to take the best pictures, and what different parts of the red rock meant to him. At the top, he has all members complete a series of riddles before he will agree to show the way back down. When I asked if he gets tired of doing the same hike all the time, Peter joyfully responded “hiking Bell Rock is always a unique experience since each time I’m joined by new people like yourselves”.
Here are some pics from my first Top of Bell Rock journey with Peter, but to get the full picture you really have to experience it for yourself. Peter’s final advice for next time you are visiting Sedona:
“Send me a Couchsurfing request and come with me to the top of Bell Rock!”
This article was written by Josh, a Couchsurfing Marketing team member and proud member of the Top of Bell Rock Club.