Sunday, August 22, 2010

Sunset Crater etc.

Sunset Crater National Monument is an extinct volcano outside of Flagstaff. It last erupted a little less than a millennium ago. Today, the volcanic area makes up a series of black hills east of the San Francisco Peaks. I had never heard of Sunset Crater until I moved to Arizona and I haven't heard people talk too much about it here. But it's damn impressive. We walked around on a lava flow and took pictures of the black gravel hills with their sides blown into wavy dunes. We even camped out on a forest road just outside the monument (though still in Coconino National Forest). The ground was covered in medium grain black volcanic gravel that made it very hot to walk on during the day, but soft to camp on at night.
lenox crater sundown
This is the view into Lenox Crater just before dusk. You can't hike up Sunset Crater anymore, but you can still check out Lenox Crater, which is a smaller volcanic crater.
lava rock trail 1
firelight clearing
Our campsite ended up being a pretty interesting place to be even beyond the black ground and hills. There were some interesting flowers, like virgin's bower and primroses (pictured below). Virgin's Bower is my new favorite flower.
virgin's bower
primrose 2
While I was walking around looking at flowers, I came across what I thought was a cornmeal ring on the ground. I called Erin over and showed it to her and we speculated at the time that it was related to a Native American custom. That area around Flagstaff, including particularly Sunset Crater and Humphrey's Peak, are sacred to the Navajo. Turns out that, according to Thomas Raitt the author of "The Ritual Meaning of Corn Pollen Among the Navajo Indians," we were mostly correct - "In certain contexts the application of corn pollen to something functions as an act of sanctifying or consecrating that to a very special and sacred use." The circle we found likely asked for a blessing for the campsite, designated the spot as their temporary hogan. At least that's what I got from Raitt's article; if anyone reads this and knows first hand, let me know in the comments or via e-mail. In any case, we slept better there that night alongside that presumed blessing.
corn pollen ring 1
corn pollen ring 2
headlights campsite

erin campsite
I'm getting a little out of hand with the pictures here, so I'll stop and let you see them all over on our Flickr page.

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