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: 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.