Elevation: 3,900 ft
Note: Welcome to the place in every persons imagination where ‘epic Quests’ take place. This is the ‘impossible wasteland’ of mythic tales, like Don Quixote, or The Song of Roland. This is the backdrop that provides ultimate silhouettes, and inexplicable skylines. Colors radiate from both the sky and stones, and these stones are nothing less than solid-rock skyscrapers. People come here to turn monumental pages in their lives, and to leave the East behind. Nearly every conversation from the local people, from artists and hikers alike, includes the idea that Sedona changes lives. The trails at Red Rocks National Park, where Sedona is located, feels like the natural stage for the places in which Jesus preached, or The Crusades. Precious waterways roll beneath tunnels of reeds, cutting through a universe of rock, looking like miniatures of The River Jordan. The river is actually Oak Creek, which is also the name for the main trail leading from the visitors center. (Image/Below) Their are just so many associations that are possible in one glance, that all you can really do is catch your breath…
Myths: Native to this landscape are the Anasazi, a people that carved their dwellings out of the highest livable portions of the upper canyons, as well as concealed rock dwellings on the Plain. The upper Anasazi dwellings are so elevated that they can only be reached by rope. Why would an entire culture build homes so high above their essential resources? What was roaming the plain that required a great height to steer clear from? Interestingly enough, the Anasazi myths, just like the Celtic ones, are of Giants. Why do all the oldest cultures insist that they experienced Giants? Something to think about, and this is the place to do it. As it is with so many places in the American West, there is a toughness to everything you see, but even with that toughness, a delicate beauty refuses to be ignored, which can be seen in the color of the wildflowers at Oak Creek Trail.
Oak Creek Trail: Red Rocks’ is sprawled-out massively to the east of Sedona. Oak Creek Trail is the best introductory experience here, with about five miles of options that head into ridges where photos can be beautifully made. You cross the Oak Creek Bridge and wander into a rare reality. The amazing thing here, in 105 degrees of heat in July, is that the fauna finds a way, and colorful statements emerge in the landscape. (Image/Below)
After crossing the bridge and heading up a few of the ridges you can turn north and see this epic space. There are hills and rock towers, forests and grand ridges, with miniature canyons, all in one glance. The concentrated ridges truly look like temples. Perhaps that is why one of the more major statements in the park is called Cathedral Rock.
Cathedral Rock Trail: Cathedral Rock’ has its own trailhead, but can be reached by a 8 mile trail from the Oak Creek route. This longer route required preparation and expertise. Any trail passing through the High Plain will require 1.5 gallons of water and food in your pack, along with a small med kit. Respect this wilderness. From the trailhead at Cathedral Rock, which can be reached by a simple and brief car ride, there is a fantastic loop that takes you around the ‘Cathedral’. There is a type of reverence here, with the Cathedral in sight, as if something otherworldly once happened at this beautiful place. Like a meditation center, hikers can be found circulating the massive Rock, and camping out in groups of spiritual seekers. There are trails for biking as well, for those who are prepared for the rocky terrain..There are offshoots of the main trail here that are hard to understand. Some of the bedding of the rocks look as if water once rushed over the stone, obviously in another Era. Amazingly, there are cross section here, delicately etched into the stone, just like in the rocks of the trails back East. This one, pictured on the left, is at Cathedral Rock Trail; the one on the right is at Watatic Trail, 1800 miles away. What is the meaning of these cross sections, which are found in the ancient rocky sites of the world? As described in other articles, I believe they are the “calling card” of a Neolithic Culture, which created cross section of triangles as a utility for building, as well as a tribute to the divine concept, which is The Axis of creation, a philosophical concept from the beginning of Time.
There are deep cuts in the landscape leading away from the wide bed-rock faces. They are tempting to climb into, but beware of snakes, and other wildlife. There are also stones that are clearly cut, and not average debris, but the amount of possibilities as to who may have done this work are too general to specify.
Red Rocks National Park is a place unlike any other in the world. One could spend a life time hiking and researching its epic features and indigenous mysteries. The colors here, the scale of everything you see, is overwhelming. For those first-timers, try these basic trails first, and make time to visit Sedona. There is a vibrant Arts community here, with a social scene to match. Arizona, overall, is a hiking paradise. You can feel that something incredible took place her once, however hard it is to put your finger on. Perhaps the myths are just a hint as to what this place was before the West invaded.
Red Rocks National Park is just one of just dozens of national parks, each one being an absolute gem, like Oak Creek Canyon, Grand Canyon, Hulapai Mountain, and Sunset Crater, just to name a few. An experience here increases your overall ability as a hiker, drastically, as you are moving in 105 degree heat, roughly 4000 feet above Sea-Level. When you go home you will be significantly stronger. The energy is obviously radiant, but purifying and straight-forward, without any room for wasted effort or lazy mistakes; yet in places where the stakes are higher, the value of the experience enters into that realm of spiritual appreciation that makes hiking the very real meditation that it is. Red Rocks National Park is that experience. Give it a shot if you can, and go strong!
Location: Clark Peak/Rocky Mountains/Colorado
Note: If the mountain ranges of Ireland, Wales, and England could be said to be like rolling waves of infinite green……then the Colorado Rockies of the northwest United States could be said to be nothing less than a rock-solid “tsunami of blue stone”, frozen forever along the landscape, above the western world. There is no other possible introduction to this juggernaut of a mountain range. Clark Peak, our destination for this article, sits in the southern Medicine Bow National Park. The northern Medicine Bow National Park, across the state line in Wyoming, is an auspicious type of “warm-up” for the grandeur of The Rockies. Southern Wyoming’s Medicine Bow’ features a unique lessor-known range, with ‘chocolate-milk’ looking soil, seemingly poured all over the ledges, standing at what looks to be about 2000 inviting feet of prominence with the highway running right through them. (Image/Below)
These are surprisingly dramatic yet relatively anonymous mountains, a mere preview to what looms just across the State line. They are absolutely worthy of many an expedition for certain, but remain in the reputational shadow of what awaits in Colorado. To its credit, a mere glimpse of these small peaks reveals a warm and distinct beauty, truly inviting. Everything about this small range says “jump up here for a day!” Like so many people just passing through, this place was passed by in order to reach the Rocky Mountains of Colorado.
Clark Peak Trail: The feel of Colorado is vast and rustic, and yet it leaves natural space for significant delicate statements also. Trails are thickly bedded with wildflowers of every possible color, like the approach to the mythical city of Oz. Brown Bears and Moose roam the mountains and forests, but for the most part steer clear of the trails. The high plain sits about 9000 feet above sea-level, supporting a universe of fauna. Accessing the elevated trails of Medicine Bow National Park in high country like this requires a 4×4 vehicle, plain and simple. The highest peak of Medicine Bow’, above the northern Rockies, is Clark Peak, looming just shy of 13,000 feet above sea-level. There are basically three levels of trail-heads, each a bit further up the Trail than the next. The first trail-head approaching Clark Peak is at the end of a wide dirt track that passes a small lake on the far edge of the mountains. To start from the first trail-head could basically take more than a day to complete the ascent and return. Most hikers attempting the peak desire an entry that reaches to at least the second trail-head. You should not attempt the second or third trail-head without a 4×4 truck, and prepare to rent a 4×4 for your excursion. Below is an image of the Clark Peak approach. Above the high basin on the left is your destination, where a large still-water pool awaits. The second trail-head begins about 5 miles into the lower vale, so when you ditch the truck on the side of the track, the forest will already be surrounding you, and perhaps in a way it has never done before (even for seasoned cross trainers.) If this is your first hike in Colorado, you are stepping into a type of hiking phantasy from the moment you get out of the truck. The tallness and fineness of the Aspen trees, Blue Spruces, Douglas Firs, Ponderosa Pines, and Lodgepole Pines, creates a literal euphoric vibe in the forest. From a distance, the woodlands seem to be blending into each other somehow. When the shafts of sunlight hit these trees, it is hard to focus on any single thing; it’s as if the trees are literally vibrating into each other. There is a type of enchantment here, a vastness to these glades that gives a very physical impression. The thickets here look as dense and deep as any ocean, and just like the ocean, to go too deep un-prepared could prove fatal. Respect this wilderness, pack properly, study-up, and stay on the trail when inside the forest. The basics here are about being aware of ‘forest-fire warning-levels’ and the restrictions to using flame, the possibility of bringing bear-spray (or even a fire-arm), and never leaving cooked food/food goods unburied or littered in the forest; it will draw the Brown Bears if you are lazy and careless with your goods. Stay sharp and aware, ready to have a great experience.
Very much like in the Mourn Mountains in Ireland, after the lower valley roads begin to elevate, they usually blend into a stone road trail that is almost certainly an ancient pathway. I wondered if I would find such a thing in a wilderness so far removed from Celtic characteristics, and to my delight I did. The look of these rocky tracks are surprising in the initial heights of any mountain range. In many places it seems that these ancient pathways were the very first roads on Earth, navigating the high mountain passes built by the most ancient Culture on Earth, the Neolithic Culture. Here is a look at the ancient stone-road at Mount Bearnagh in Ireland. (Image/Below) And now here is a look at the nearly identical width grade, and angle of an ancient stone-path in Colorado.(Image/Below) Many of these approaches have been re-worked from a much older original path that has been there (for all intents and purposes) forever. In Ireland it would be the Gaelic/Celtic Culture that identified and revised the ancient paths, while in Colorado, the Native Americans would have been the first to observed and acknowledge these trails as “sacred pathways”, or “pathways of the spirits.” These origin roads had existed long before even their earliest ancestors had arrived. The point is, there is very good reason to believe that an even more ancient culture existed here before the natives, a culture capable of building and engineering with megalithic stones. To my great wonder, some of these signs of “cut stones” and a singular pathways with a specific measurement (roughly 4.5 feet across) in the high mountains appeared here on Clark Peak Trail. A deciphering look at the old pathways alone, however, is not enough evidence to support the idea of a Neolithic existence in this place; it will be in the heights that Wedge Tombs, Cairns, Standing Stones, and Vantage Stones reveal themselves, as we know from Celtic ranges. I admit that this was on my mind as I ascended the beautiful valley with one of my oldest and best friends.
As the old rocky road begins to narrow into a winding path, bustling streams and narrow log bridges emerge. The stream runs almost directly towards Clark Peak, in a line of sight that is classic Colorado; Pines and abundant overgrowth pointing to the peak as if it were a temple corner stone. The basin at the upper portion of the trail comes into clear view here, along with a grand clearing in the middle of the vale, about a mile ahead on the trail. A clearing of this scale, where the tree-line abruptly ends, is indicative of a glacial rockslide, which is what we found. The trail continues across the fallen rocks where you catch a first glimpse of the curvature of the glowing moss and speckled glades of the upper basin, which still had somewhat miraculous patches of snow, in July! The absolute dryness of the comfortable cool air preserves the snow in the heights, giving subtle surreal contrast against the hillsides. While trekking through a massive rockslide a chronology of the natural events of the mountain comes into perspective. The receding of the last Ice Age left entire mountainsides inundated with random boulders in spastic shambles. Intriguingly, some of the boulders seem to have broken away from the riotously random placement-pattern. One massive ‘squared’ boulder, at the base of the rockslide, seems to be sitting perfectly centered on the incredible scene of the mountains below and beyond. In the upper valley at Mount Bearnagh, of the Mourn Mountain Range of Ireland, not only are there boulders that seem cinematically placed, but they also seem to have been, somehow, hewn to match the shape of the valley beyond. (Image/Below)
There are also “seat boulders” at the pass at Bearnagh, which absolutely look to have been placed at a cinematic point on the valley, as a place where you could sit and watch anyone approaching slowly from below.(Image/Below) Here at Clark Peak Trail there sits an auspiciously placed boulder which looks more like a “seat” then a random resting place from a rockslide. This ‘squared’ boulder is perfectly centered on the vision that is the brilliant view of The Rockies beyond.(Image/Below) The other stones of this scene are compiled in stacks, tightly packed together, way off to the side of this beautiful seat; and the possibility that it was intentionally placed there becomes very real after considering its perfect symmetrical placement at the dead center of the valley. Only the Neolithic culture, the culture that had the strength and skills to build New Grange, or arrange massive stones in The Mourn Mountains; or masterfully craft the Sarsons at Stonehenge, has the capability to do something of this scale in antiquity. Clark Peak Trail, as you progress, begins to show signs of Neolthic Culture. Clark Peak Trail may very well have been home to the very same Neolithic Culture that marked and roamed the peaks of ancient Europe. From this gorgeous spot the Trail runs over the landslide stones and into the curvature of the upper basin, where the scene becomes truly surreal. Beautiful fields of wildflowers decorate the mouth of the basin. Campers pitch their tents here on soft glowing beds of grass and singular Pines. The view is like trekking the natural porch taking you straight to Valhalla.
Neolithic Cultures seem to have had the capacity to recognize sites of great beauty. In many places, for example, Standing Stones and Dolmens are found facing the most gorgeous scenes of the heights they occupy. The Standing Stone of the Conwy Valley in Wales overlooks the sacred valley just north of the most revered mountain of the entire Celtic World, Mount Snowdon. (Image/Below) That’s pretty significant placement…Here at Clark Peak Trail, standing distinctly above the glacial rubble is an equally significant statement, a Standing Stone that was almost certainly placed to acknowledge the incredible beauty of the valley beyond, along with the elevated basin on which it sits. This is an incredible statement of epic proportion that signals an anthropological link to the cultural practices of a Neolithic Culture a Continent, and Ocean away. To find this here was one of the most exciting moments of my life. It vindicates the idea that the heights of the world, mountain ranges in Celtic, Semitic, and Native American places, were once occupied by a Neolithic Culture that had significantly similar practices in marking-out sacred territories with megaliths. Those who dismiss America as a place void of Celtic-esque culture are slowy being dismissed as academic charlatans, theorizing from afar, never to be found in the heights where the answers are, only in the cities where the money is. This may be the worlds first international glimpse at an absolutely gorgeous American Standing Stone in the heights of the Colorado Rockies, on Clark Peak Trail, of Medicine Bow National Park. (Image/Below)
This Standing Stone is 6 feet high and 4 feet thick, looming on the left ridge just above the main Trail along the upper basin fields. The most distinct crafted cut of this Stone’ is along the entirety of Its right side. At the top of the Stone’ there is a distinctly straight top ‘cut’, with an indented ‘top’ slant above it. The left side contains two smaller ‘levelly’ crafted indents. It is so distinctly different than any of the other stones in the basin that I was left to wonder how it was possible that not one person had acknowledged it before?! Additionally, like so many Standing Stones, there is a distinctly marked Cairn on the ledge below, a fairly large crafted cavern where the designers of this Stone would’ve kept objects of value tucked-away. A set of large parallel streaks marks the stone above the trademark opening at the bottom right of the boulder. Do you see any streaks in any of the stones around the area? No, you don’t. The stone is marked for a reason, it was obviously a valued setting in the basin for whoever claimed it. This Cairn Colorado was one of the largest I had ever seen. Other Cairns of this nature could be found in Ireland, New England and practically ever other Celtic peak. Take a look at these very similar Cairns to be found in Ireland and New England: It is true that they look very natural, but their attributes are almost always the same, containg an emblematic “side” which covers a specific gap on the right side, and are in areas where other amazing stones have been blatantly crafted. These Cairns are almost always found near sacred stone statements in the landscape, meaning they are indicative of a specific area that was inhabited by craftsman of the Neolithic Era.
From the Standing Stone here in Colorado, the last portion of the Trail runs up the Basin. Tucked into the Basin is a lovely hidden lake, which at one time would’ve been a perfect source of drinking water for anyone trying to occupy these heights. All the elements for survival are there. Make your way up the final narrow pathway, where beneath a ledge of millions of stones, none of which look anything like the ones that we have identified as ‘crafted’, sits the stellar pool. Here is the final elevated path into the high basin the image below:And here is the reflective pool. Imagine looking down on this pool on a clear night to look at the stars! It may very well be that the Standing Stone is pointing to a specific constellation in the night sky, or some meaningful designation of that nature. It would require more time than I had on this fine day to discover such things. But it is truly safe to say that most Standing Stones have a multi-contextual meaning, and here in Colorado, with a crystalline clear sky in July, that possibility is very real.
This is one of the highest basins in Colorado, and the country. Like so many beautiful Celtic trails, things here slowly blend into child-like wonder. You are humbled. A look back from the Lake displays a gorgeous jade animation of the entire basin, with the High Plain of the Rocky Mountains beyond, along with drifting clouds that practically touch the upper crags. There is a very real temptation to break all convention and remain in this place, however reclusive it may sound. If a Neolithic individual did decide to live here, the set up for a fantastic existence seems perfectly clear; you could keep a flock in the lower basin, keep a fire by the upper lake, drink a never ending supply of water, and monitor the entire scene from the Standing Stone vantage. Logically it makes sense here.As someone who was trying to scale the heights of Glen Coe Scotland while caught in a rain storm exactly one year earlier, I could not help but feel that Clark Peak Colorado is one of the most comfortable challenges you will ever engage in the month of July. The air temperature and quality in near perfect, pristine, and so delightful. The wildflowers exude an overwhelming spectrum of statements, where entire mountain glens are covered in violet, steel-blue, glowing wild yellow, and subtle bits of auburn.(Image/Below) It is understandable if readers are still not sold on the idea of a Neolithic Culture in the heights of these mountains. To some people they might see a mere stone where there is an actual cultural statement. It has taken six years of challenging research in some of the most off-the-grid locations on earth to finally begin to see the patterns of a very real Neolithic Culture. Only after dozens of expeditions have the specific memes begun to reveal themselves. It is not just the evidence itself, but the context of the evidence: the position of a stone in a particular way in a valley; the paring of stone statements in not just one valley, but dozens. There is a very real consistency. It is hard to tell if the Standing Stone here at Clark Peak was there before the rockslide, and was later engulfed by the rush of stone, or if it was placed squarely into the stones after the fact? But the most important, and truly obvious thing, is that there is no other stone even remotely like it in the entire basin, which is what I mean by context. And moreover, the place where it stands, like so many other Standing Stones across the world, is most likely the most advantageous, as well as beautiful, vantage on the entire valley; it’s as if someone wanted to claim the best of what the valley had to offer. I’ve seen this in literally dozens of mountain ranges. The overall point is that hiking and ‘striding’ will take YOU there. You can go and size up the strangeness of these megaliths for YOURSELF. You don’t need my opinion, you can get there and judge on your own! When you do I believe the realness of these statement will hit you….will make it real. Clark Peak, from the second level trail-head, is one of the single most relaxing and cool hikes in the entire world.The reward in this place far outweighs the work, which is not usually the case for international hiking. Aside from the evidence, there is also that feeling of total tranquility in the Colorado heights, a feeling in all honesty, I have only felt once before in my life, ironically, by the Standing Stone in Wales, at the top of the gorgeous Conwy Valley. At Conwy, a Standing Stone and a Cairn both sit atop the heights, just like in this gorgeous basin in Colorado, paired together like a chair and table, but in an ancient-stone kind of way. So… plan a week or so at the cottages of the tiny American hamlet of Walden Colorado. Take the time to do what it takes to get to the trailheads for Clark Peak, which sits at the eastern edge of Medicine Bow National Park, one of the most scintillated and stellar National Parks on Earth. Find your way, and the way, amazingly, will find you. Go strong. A special thanks to my great friend and confidant Christopher Frohlich for providing his style, skill, and understanding of the grand Colorado landscape. Couldn’t have done this without you Fro’, thank you.
Location: Aspen Peak/Kingman, Arizona/USA
Elevation: 8,417 ft
Prominence: 1700 ft
Note: Half a world away from the ancient Celtic Ranges, where Standing Stones guard the mythical heights of Wales, Ireland, Scotland, and England, are the epic mountains of the American West. Among the vast options of the grand natural spaces that dominate northern California, Montana, Oregon, and Colorado, are the mysterious high Ranges of Arizona. The Hulapai Range is a few miles south-east of Kingman Arizona. From Kingman you will take the ‘Hulapai Mountain Road’ straight into the heart of the Range, climbing slowly upward into a set of elevations that look like an American Mount Sinai. The comparison is a good one. The air here is absolutely void of humidity. With temperatures that climb up to 116 degrees in July, the trees, some half burnt, radiate a charcoal scent which carries on the wind; and you can taste that scent on the back of your tongue. Amazingly, there are some similarities to Celtic mountain ranges here, if you have the right perspective. There are other-worldly rock fixtures, free standing boulders that stack the mountainside, and an amazing magical stone near the peak, which you will see in this article. Aspen Peak Trail at Hulapai: As you approach the Range you will notice golden glades, not purely green zones. The bright Ponderosa forest at the belt of these mountains is spacious and inviting . In Celtic Ranges, the signs of the Neolithic Culture usually increase the further up you go. By this logic, if there is Neolithic cultural evidence at Hulapai, the highest peak would most likely yield the most evidence. Aspen Peak is the highest vista in this range, and the focus of this hike. Make sure to bring at least 1.5 gallons of water along with a sports drink for necessary electrolyte/sugar replenishment. Ration your intake. Also bring an extra shirt due to perspiration, several granola bars/ carb eating options, including jellybeans for when you reach the peak. There are options for approaching Aspen Trail. There is a lower entry through the hills and woods off the Hulapai Mountain Road marked by a sign on the left, which is more of a challenge with an extra 1000 ft below the campground trailhead (and about 1.5 miles of extra trail through rocky glades and curiously rounded stones). If you want to cut that part of the approach off, you can make your way, by car, passing the Hulapai Ranger Station on the road, and then take the right onto the main campground, which is the more popular entry. After passing the numbered cottages and the RV’s in their designated areas, and you will see the marker for the ‘Aspen Trail’; here you will begin your challenge. Aspen Peak Trail’ is marked with signs on the way up, but remember on the way down to follow the signs that say “Campground” to get back.
The first portion of Aspen Trail is a bold introduction to the Ponderosa Pine “vibe”. Dragonflies with a shiny blue armor orbit dazzling red cactus flowers beneath the forest. (Image/Left) This initial 1000 feet of incline is a winding set of switchbacks and vistas. The boulders here are rounded like leavened bread, adding a unique surreality to the openings in the glades, and there are hundreds of thousands of these rounded fixtures.
How it is that these boulders came came to be rounded and stacked individually is hard to imagine. As you continue into the 1500 foot level of prominence you will come to the ridge which opens up on the northern view of Kingman and the overall desert plateau. It isn’t just the vastness of this view over the northern ridge, but the stillness that presides over the radiating gold that takes your breath away. Arizona is like “spirituality that happens at a glance”; there’s truly an underlying force that imposes an evolved slowness over everything; it’s the ‘un-rushed’ spirit that survives among the high desert winds. If you move too fast, you just won’t make it. Everything you see is whispering “Pace yourself, and take your time.” The land feels like natures assigned setting for prophecy, which is one hell of a calling card.
After taking in the northern vista on Aspen Trail’ you will begin to see the peak as you curve slowly around the mountain face, eventually making your way to the southern side. There is a view of the southern ridges beyond as the path first crosses a rickety wooden bridge that is your ‘gateway’ to the uppermost vale.(Image/Below)
From here something otherworldly happens. Just like in the Celtic heights of enchanted places like the Rowan Valley in Wales, where massive ‘cut’ stones just start to appear out of nowhere, Hulapai seems to support similar ancient stoneworks specifically in the advantageous heights, where anyone approaching would be seen for miles before arrival. There are several stone-linings along the upper path. It is a good possibility that these stones were placed by the Neolithic culture, then supported by the Hulapai tribe, and reinforced in modern times. Clearly the area was sacred for someone if they were taking the time to create stones-works at 8000 feet, which is what we see here. In Celtic elevations, often times when you find stone-linings that begins to announce a sacred zone, there is a singular solitary statement monumentalizing that sacredness. It is beyond astonishing that as you travel a little further along this last 200 yards of trail you will find a single Standing Stone unlike any of the other hundreds-of-thousands of rounded stones you’ve passed. The Standing Stone is cut abruptly on the top, with a a right angle cut into its right side. It stands about 6 feet high, with an absolutely flat-cut face, like a table standing up at about 4 inches in width. It is totally opposite the rounded features of the common boulders here, in every possible way; and it faces the peak.
This Standing Stone is most likely one of the oldest sociological statements in all of Arizona, among hundreds of such statements. If it is related to the Neolithic culture of ancient Celtic places, then this stone is no less than 4000 to 6000 years old. It is truly priceless. It might very well be that this is what is known as a ‘Solar Stone’, marking mid-day on this mountain for eternity. ‘Solar Stones’ appear in Celtic highlands, as well as the New England mountains. It is no mistake that from here you can follow the last portion of Aspen Trail towards a grand monolithic peak laid out dramatically before you. Continue towards this massive pinnacle to make the dramatic Aspen Peak. Even looking at the rock features in this uppermost area, you will see that there is not a single stone cut with right angles at the top and sides, like the Standing Stone that marks the upper trail.
At the peak you are able to see a beautiful northern desert plateau. At this point you are 8,417 feet above Sea-level.
Aspen Trail at Hulapai is a spiritual challenge. You will have to put aside your usual hiking tendencies and regular comforts. Plan carefully. This is a stellar place. There are deer running through the forest below, and a high wind rushing over the desert; it may carry all the way to the Pacific Ocean in California! The Peak here is like an epic guard tower for the entirety of the ‘American West’; Hulapai being on the western edge of the mountain ranges of Arizona, which continue all the way up to the Rockies of Colorado at its eastern edge. The wonders that exist deeper into the Arizona interior are astoundingly worthy of such a “tower”, where the ancients once dwelled, high above the world. Just let it all sink in.
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.