Location: California, USA/Central-Sierra Mountains
Elevation: 1,300 ft.
Prominence: 14,490 ft
Note: So here we go again! There’s that crazy moment of “holy sh#t” here that makes the whole thing worth it, right from the start. At first glance, the raw ugly ruggedness with which this supreme scene has existed should hit you pretty hard. There is a cosmically harrowing vibe here, with a depth so broad that it seems to almost want to pull you in. Gravitas. On approach you will emerge from the beautiful Sequoia Forest heights, to be suddenly struck by an inestimable depth of imploding rock. Just driving here is no piece of cake either. First, the small mountains of Tulare County California, shimmering in dry gold (Image/Below) recline eternally as the dramatic ‘gates’ to the overall kingdom of the majestic Sierra Nevada Mountain Range. You must crest the small mountain roads of Tulare, and reach about 7000 feet above the Valley, just to approach the secret singular road into Kings Canyon, and descend again into the 7000 feet you just climbed! This is the rocky naval of ancient California, with ‘heavy-weight’ mountain statistics that hold as many truly sacred secrets as it does mesmerizing statements of ‘size’ and ‘scale’. Welcome to Kings Canyon, God’s rocky deep pocket.
This is literally a secret rock-kingdom that suddenly appears out of the Sequoia National Forest, like a stone-age Lhasa, tucked-into the massive enclosure of the Himalayas. In ancient times, the Natives that first explored this place would’ve absolutely been the ‘rangers’ of their tribes, super tough, with a spiritual connection to the landscape that made them the most capable for the needs and challenges of this descent. Really try to let yourself imagine the gritty resourcefulness of the ancient peoples that took this place on. A wrong step here means your life. The supreme forces of Mortality and Nature are dramatically at play in this rusty eternity. Here, it’s about balance; it’s about centering yourself; it’s about the significance of each step. Accepting the lessons of this place puts you in touch with a more rugged, more balanced, more real version of yourself. When returning to the mundane world, sitting on some couch with friends or family, a voice in your mind may possibly echo, behind all the chatter: “Deeper, simpler, tougher, stronger…you”; and somehow, it’s the remnant of the voice of Kings Canyon National Park inside you.
Returning to the realities of the present day, Nature enthusiasts of today make their way down in a vehicle, of-course. Tune up, gear up, and then go. Don’t get stuck on the side of a highway that barely clings to 14,000 feet of gravity gone wild because you forgot to check the oil. Have the car and supplies ready. Eventually, after about an hour of ‘marble-running’ your way along the highway, you will come to the dramatic base of the Canyon highway. (Image/Below) Take this dramatic stretch of singular highway all the way to its very end. You will come to the circle of campgrounds, trailheads, a ranger station, and even a restaurant, which all serve as a fine oasis against the intensity and concentration that comes from finally surfing a vehicle all the way down here. The hardest trails, Like John Muir Trail’, or Rae Lakes Trail’ are steep treks out of the Canyon to elevated lakes that feel miraculous in such a place. Medium level trails like Paradise Valley Trail’ or Mist Falls Trail’ are river-hikes that take you to gorgeous Falls, and multi-colored pools. Roaring River Falls Trail, a relaxing mostly level forest trail, winds through the various channels to a gorgeous Waterfall, and is highly recommended for first time hikers. Roaring River Falls Trail: After the effort of reaching this sunken stone bastion, a trek along the Canyon floor on Raoring River Falls Trail’ is a good choice for a relaxing photogenic foot-path experience. The views of river-ways rushing and rolling also produce a breeze that sings through the trees, which seems surprising when surrounded by this stadium of stone. The miraculous channels of the Kings River, Scenic River, and Kings Wild River, all branch off, and then merge-up again, in various places throughout the base of the Canyon’. It must have been the shimmering blue of the canyon waterways that truly enticed the first Natives to take the chance of inhabiting this rugged scene. In some places the hue of the river is a deep green, while in others an icy blue, pushing the palette of your vision, and testing any assumptions about what could be around the next bend. Unassuming wilderness. The trailhead parking-lot is less than a quarter mile from the very end of the single Park’ road. It’s located just on the right of the road, passed the campgrounds and restaurant. Park, grab your gear, and cross the bridge to follow the path along the river to your left, and the massive Canyon wall. This is a hike along a gorgeous river oasis, complete with rare Redwoods, Birch, Ponderosa Pine, and Maple, all gathered in grand familial groves along the flowing water. Settling into the rhythm of the Trail here, where immaculate and utterly impervious stone meets a shimmering freshwater rush, you may consider the amount of profound ideas that have emerged out of extreme and contrasting natural spaces such as this; the Anointing of Jesus in the River Jordan, against the vast arid backdrop of the Shamaliyah Desert; The River Nile connecting, like a chord, to the Great Pyramids, rolling out of the Sahara; or perhaps the birth-myth of The Hopi Native American Tribe, said to have emerged from beneath the Grand Canyon in the beginning of Time, to dwell along what would be known as the Colorado River. There is extremity here, on many levels. It seems that beautiful moments and realizations have emerged in the harshest of places, which may very well be Nature’s way of saying that regions, even on the verge of burning, are capable of revealing something abundantly profound and beautiful. Roaring River Falls’ provides precisely this kind of heartfelt contrast. The Trail dips through tall glades of the toughest trees you’ve ever seen, and you can feel the enclosure of rock, like a massive hug waiting to happen. No more than about 2.5 miles along this path will lead you to your reward, The Roaring River Fall! This blast of a bright-blue-pool, which emerges against the rusty Canyon façade, is nothing less than a slice of liquid Heaven heaved against stone as hot as flint in friction. Just the steel-blue color of the circular pool here alone, is medicine on your eyes, where the trees literally have charcoal in their veins, and the stones glow golden grey. This is a great spot. Take a moment. Dunk your head. Scenes like this for the Native peoples would have been like the ultimate pool party. After finally stepping away from Roaring River Fall, there is an opportunity to cross over to the other side of the narrow Canyon, along the road, and search for signs of Neolithic Cultural statements. These signs in Ireland, and New England, along with the dozens of other sacred zones explored at Stonestrider.com, have come to be known as: stone-linings, standing stones, cairns, and many, many, other wonderful statements from the ancient world. The Jack Kerouac side of strolling this road is hard to deny; stepping with a sense of surreal cinematic freedom along a secluded stretch of road embedded in a massive Sierra Nevada Mountain chain!… as the Irish say: “Good on you.” About a mile-and-a-half down the road, headed north, and back towards the Roaring River Falls Trailhead, the forest begins to reveal stonework, mixing and matching among the trees. Stone-linings, similar to those found within the forests of Massachusetts/New England/USA, and the heights of Glenveagh Mountain in Ireland, as well as the valleys beyond Mount Snowden, in Wales, are found here in this miraculous place. These are the signs of a Neolithic Culture that once dwelt all across ancient America, and the World. Following a stone-lining is spiritual process, an act of hope and faith that it might connect you to something spectacular, and lo-and-behold it will in Kings Canyon. Just along a trail to the left of the road, a stone-lining zigged-and-zagged its way to a beautiful seven foot standing stone, unlike any other stone anywhere in sight. This Standing Stone also had a 45 degree streak cut across the center, which is a common meme among standing-stones in other parts of the world, as described here at Stonestrider.com. If you take notice of the particular rounded “E” shape on the lower right side of the Standing Stone, it may serve to help you understand that this stone was absolutely “stood-up”. It just so happens that not even 10 feet away is a massive boulder with a rounded “E” shape in it’s side, and face. Clearly this Standing Stone was sliced precisely from this boulder. If you were to take this Standing-Stone and lay it across the boulder, matching the rounded “E” shapes to each other, it would fit absolutely flush; in shape, in interior roundness, right up to the jagged tip. Take a look at the common view of stones just beyond this area, leading up to the Canyon Walls; it is totally and absolutely disheveled, indistinct, and completely contrasted to the Standing-Stone. There is literally nothing else like it in sight; It literally just stands out among a universe of low-lying rotund stones. (Image/Below)Another tangible sign of a sacred Neolithic zone is the appearance of mass amounts of quartz growing beneath the hardened face of the rocks. There is quartz all over the boulders in the vicinity of the Standing Stone here; beautiful sections of glowing quartz, shining and expanding in the face of this arid dimension. This is also prominent in sacred groves and spaces at Neolithic sites all across the globe. From Ireland to California, the Ancients chose places to be based on factors like vantage, resources, and the presence of quartz. The properties of quartz are well known to science in this present day. We use quartz in our computers and cell-phones to basically redistribute electrical charge. This stone literally harnesses and balances energy, creating stability just by it’s mere presence, even in the harshest environments. (Image/Below) Quartz would also pick up on the subtle friction and electricity coming from the river, which is abundant in this miraculous place. Someone knew exactly what they were doing when they claimed this area, engineering a gorgeous Standing Stone to claim the spot, and warn others that it was claimed; God knows how long ago.On the way out of this magical and mysterious place, stop and sit down at the campground if you can. There are people here from over the World; Japan, India, China, Switzerland, and of-course America. Speak with these folks. The look on their faces is like they have found the ancient water-wells of someplace like the Sinai desert perhaps, and are now saved by presence of water. And just look at the beauty of Grizzly Falls, located near the entrance of the Park! It’s nearly impossible to imagine gorgeous waterfalls like this from the arid vista far above, and yet there are many to be found here. Beyond Grizzly Falls, the western side of the Canyon is marvelous, with quartz-stone chasms and ‘ultimate stone-stances’, all against a fantastic few of successfully quenching Ponderosa Pine trees, protesting in contrasting jade against the stone and the sky. What a scene! Kings Canyon National Park is a full spectrum gem, secretly shining from the depth of California’s primordial core. Just to get here requires a mandate of grit. Elegant and extreme contrasts exist here to push our understanding into realizations about what is truly important; i.e: Just the simple presence of Water, is Life itself. A humble set of well placed steps can successfully carry you through even the steepest of consequences…etc, etc… In a place where the trees are vulnerable to burning to ashes at any given moment, maybe take one of those moments to appreciate the small stabilities that exist in your life, keeping you from that burn. Beauty can prevail anywhere in Nature, even in the deepest parts of the world, harsh and hidden within massive mountain ranges. Kings Canyon is like a fortress built by the Universe, made specifically for remembering the essentials. Perhaps this is why so much spiritual thought has come out of the arid wastelands and chasms of the world; they just put what’s important front-and-center. Come to Kings Canyon National Park and experience the road-less-travelled, the wisdom of canyons, and the possible apparition of fire amongst trees, at any given time. What? A forests of apparitional fire in a quartz canyon.. where the ancients once lived in magical unison with the landscape! What more can I say? Go strong. Stonestrider.com
This article is dedicated to Bonnie. I realized, alone in this deep and real place, that you are the Water, the Stone, and the Light of my life. I am sorry for being such a f#cking jerk for so long, by forgetting what really matters. I want the entire world to know that I love this woman. Stonestrider.comette.
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.