Location: Flagstaff, Arizona/America
Elevation: 8,042 feet/Prominence 1000 feet
Note: When seeking out sacred places, signs for Neolithic Culture will not always reveal themselves. The world is a wide place, teaming with variation and regeneration. In places like Sunset Crater, you will experience real wonder about the regenerative ability of Nature, as well as its explosive potential. This is a relatively new landscape compared to the Ranges of Ireland, Scotland, England, and New England. Just like the Celts of the Atlantic coastlines, there are native tribes that have been in this particular place basically forever. These indigenous tribes can attest to the age and variation of the landscape, along with Neolithic legends of their own, which bear striking similarities to those of the Celtic tradition. The Hopi of the Coconino Desert tell stories of “Red-Headed Giants” that ‘terrorized’ this region once upon a time. Isn’t that ironic. Many tribes, such as the Wupakti, migrated away from this scene, out to the very edge of the desert, into mountains and forests, perhaps to get away from the threats that existed out in the wide-open-wild. They came to live in the shadowy-cool forests of what is now Sunset Crater Volcano National Park, the ever-young landscape on the edge of the abyss.
Some places, just by hiking through them, can literally change your dreams at night. After hiking the countryside in Ireland with eyes wide open for just a few days, the only thing you will see when you eventually close your eyes at night, is a bright residual green. (Image/ Below/Left/Glenveagh Mountains/Ireland). It truly happens. In the high Cococino Desert Plateau of Arizona (Image/Below) where everything you see is, at a minimum, 8000 feet in elevation, the altitude seeps slowly into all five of your senses, and even pushes you into a sixth.Here your body will begin to sense that it has moved into another world entirely. After a few days on the Cococino Plain of Arizona, the only thing you will see, when you eventually close your eyes at night, is residual white-gold. The perfect example of this is the wide-open panorama of the Grey Mountain (Image/Above), just south of the Grand Canyon. Grey Mountain sits like a white-gold monument welded by the timeless high-winds of the Cococino Plateau. On the extreme southern edge of this “white and gold dimension” is the surreal and vivid oasis of the ‘Sunset Crater Volcano National Park’. (Image/Below) Sunset Crater’ is the captivating edge of the intimidating, but totally scintillated, Cococino Desert scene. From a distance, Sunset’ is the first life-giving glimpse of green after a dauntingly vast span of high desert bush. The Crater’s’ black rock and golden brown soil stand outs like a holy mountain against this dramatic golden-white backdrop, and it is highly likely that the native Americans of this area believed it to be a spiritual monument.From the base of the Volcano, Sunset’ becomes a deep and jagged black-sea of solidified magma, an other-worldly terrain displaying a tangible timeline of life and death, and then life again, in a single glance.(Image/Below) The trail design here at Sunset’ is a short set of ‘Wizard of Oz-looking’ pathways that run through the incredible magma remains. The rocks are sharp and drastic shafts which cut deep into the earth. The smooth white stone platform built for hikers here couldn’t contrast the experience more (Image/Below). It is one surreal stroll.The best trail here is the small road which runs northwest into the newborn forest, around the Volcano. To see this brand-new forest rising up out of what was once magma, ashes, and fire, is to see a spiritual vision. It is a testament to the determination of the force of Life around us; how It finds a way, even in the harshest of environments. It is truly surreal: What looks like level pavement in the image below, is actually the newest of forests growing straight out of the compiled ashes and magma. The fauna here are tough, resilient, but somehow delicate and soft as well. (Image/Above) It is forbidden by the Park Service to climb the Crater’, but you can wander into this baby-forest near the western base of the Volcano’. Here you can catch a glimpse of the young glades climbing up the 1000 foot incline. The new growth browns’ the black-rock deep into soil, with the golden brush sprouting-up as a result, pushing the Ponderosa-Pines ever-upward, as if they were climbing The Great Pyramid.
The indigenous Natives of this region, the Wupakti, would’ve seen the dramatic eruption which took place here just over 1000 years ago, from their stone dwellings only a few thousand yards away. Their dwellings remain in the safety of the Ponderosa Pine filled Cococino glades, where once deer and rabbit would’ve been plentiful, before the modern era invaded their tranquil existence. (Image/Below).
The Wupakti absolutely knew what they were doing when they settled just west of the Volcano. The variety of alternate natural features within a 50-mile radius of Sunset Crater’ is overwhelming. To the north of Flagstaff City, and east of Sunset Crater’, is the striking San Francisco Mountain Range of Arizona, inclusive of four beautiful peaks, with trails, all climbing no less than 12,000 feet. (Image/Below) The native cultures here are beautiful and varied. The Wupakti chose to live at the base of these Mountains, within the Forest. The legendary Apache dwelled to the southeast; while the mystical Hopi chose the north, way-out in the desert Canyons, such as the Grand Canyon (Image/Left) and the lessor known, but no less beautiful, ‘Little Colorado Canyon’. All of this is out there in the northern arid abyss that seems to go on forever…(Image/Below) The signs of the Neolithic Culture that existed before the Natives of the region are certainly here, spread across an intensely vast amount of space. Multiple canyons, forests, mountain ranges, and deserts exist here, all with features that show signs of Neolithic culture. If you come to Flagstaff Arizona, visit Sunset Crater’. Experience raw elements of trails containing the Past, Present, and Future in one stellar region. The regenerative force of Nature persists in even the harshest of places. Amazingly, if you investigate the stories of the Wupakti, Hopi, and Apache, you will find myths so similar to Celtic legends, it will astonish you. A hike through Sunset Crater’ makes it all as real as it gets, and in a stunningly beautiful way. Don’t touch the lava if it starts to flow, but definitely enjoy the show.
Location: Oak Creek Canyon/Arizona/USA
Elevation: 7,200 ft.
Note: The majestic Oak Creek Canyon is as much an expedition as it is a unique hike, even by international standards. It’s an achievement just to commit to this adventure, which is located in a massive 16 mile crevasse beneath the dramatically elevated Ranges of Sedona and Flagstaff in the great State of Arizona/USA. This may be the most popular hike in all of Arizona, which is less extreme than the Grand Canyon, and more accessible, with beautiful Coconino forestry surrounding the rocky trails running along the surreal stony tributary of the Verde River. This is another photographic paradise, where the curvatures and contrasting colors of the Canyon create the feeling of a rocky oasis; a secret cavernous fortress; a brilliant natural hideaway which has protected the precious stream that has flowed here since the receding of the last ice age, some 21,000 years ago.
Route 89A runs dramatically into the base of the Canyon, twisting and turning along ledges that will require careful driving. Like the N71 that stretches across Killarney National Park in Ireland, or the A82 that cuts through the natural gateway to the Highlands in Scotland, 89A in Arizona has the potential to be one of the most dramatic drives of your life. Upon reaching the central base of the Canyon there is a toll with a small entry fee, along with an active parking lot. In this part of the world ‘climate conscious’ strategies should be practiced carefully in order to insure an engaging and healthy quest into the Canyon. Most importantly, for a hike in this region, is an early arrival, which insures the coolest possible temperature for your excursion, as well as the best odds for parking inside the reserve. If the parking Lot is full, which could well be the case by 8:30 a.m, most of the remaining gregarious trailblazers will attempt to park along the base of the 89A roadside ledge, which is certainly possible, but dangerous. Start early and increase your odds for a great and seamless experience.
The first vision of Oak Creek Canyon is of a domineering rock-tsunami of glowing golden stone that stretches for miles in each direction.
After crossing the main entry bridge, the Oak Creek trail branches off into several alternate options, each with varying ability levels. The initial trail follows the flow of the Verde River to the north, where dramatic caverns emerge like tunnels carved out of the rock-face, funneling a seemingly miraculous flow of water. On the right side of the initial trail is a rounded out rock cavern. This cavern is elevated with an entrance that is supported by stone-linings. These are similar to linings which can be found in New England and Ireland, although they are not a major feature throughout the trail here at Oak Creek. Additionally, there are several free standing boulders above the entrance way, and along the trail, which are often an indicator of something more than just natural “random rock” placement. The interior of this cave is perfectly smooth. There are no signs of it being chipped away at with some kind of pick-axe or prehistoric chisel. Even more mysteriously is a perfectly square 4 foot shaft angled straight towards the sky, specifically along the outer canyon wall. This is very similar to the square shafts found in almost all the stone chambers in New England, as well as the Great Pyramid at Giza. These shafts often point to the Sun at a specific point on the skyline, and more specifically, to the Winter or Summer solstices, which are moments that will flash dramatically through the shaft at that specific moment of the year. This also exists at New Grange in Ireland, the oldest megalithic temple in the world. How could a primitive native culture cut a perfectly square shaft through 4 feet of solid rock? While considering this question, observe the dramatic view from the cavern, which is truly a wonder. Moving on from this cave, the trail follows a stream into the deeper woods, and becomes an experience unlike any hike you’ve ever taken. The trail extends back and forth over the rolling stream, leading into the deeper glens of the gorgeous Cococino Forest. There are free sitting boulders at each significant portion of the trail, seemingly and mysteriously assisting the hike. At some points the boulders indicate a scenic place, and at other points they indicate an actual direction on the trail. It is hard to ignore the specific placement of these boulders, and what it might indicate. What culture is capable of moving boulders above caverns and along rivers, and to specific points on the trails? Continuing, this woodsy path quickly escalates into a humbling epiphany of enchanted woods. Oaks, Ash, Willows, Ponderosa Pines, and Cottonwoods burst broadly forth from the landscape, all surrounded by a red-rock coliseum of natural stone. Heading north along this beautifully forested route you will encounter a feature of colossal level granite shelves that lead dramatically up the chasm like a massive set of porticos. The color of these ‘shelves’ is so in tune with the surrounding forest that you might actually mistake these curvy and knotted red-rock exteriors for fallen wood, but it most certainly is not. It is a testament to the original look of this ancient trail, where once upon a Time, the first Time, the rock was barren and uncovered by the forest, revealing it’s incredible original story. Just use your imagination and picture these giant steps climbing up the canyon in an incredibly broad way!
This is a truly magical trail complete with brilliantly bright butterflies, dragonflies, fields of wildflowers, and gigantic trees. The rolling of the stream along the path creates a wind-tunnel that is invigorating, especially in such a dry climate. Feel free to jump in the water here, or perhaps picnic for the day. There are trailblazers of all ages climbing, hiking, and splashing through the woods. The protective feeling of the massive chasm of rock all around you creates a wonderful experience. The Native Americans considered this canyon absolutely sacred, and it is easy to see why. It’s a magical hideaway with miraculous qualities which could sustain a tribes existence with surprising sustenance, as well as profound beauty. Make the best preparations you can and explore this incredible place. Get a true taste of the southwestern American trail experience! And finally, welcome to the newest season of Stonestrider.com! There are some incredible and mysterious new surprises to be revealed here publically for the first time in the coming articles! Seek and find.