“This cinder cone, estimated to be over a million years old, rises 1,000 feet above the plateau to 7,960 feet. As you hike a mile into the breached cone, you will go from Pinyon-Juniper to Ponderosa Pine vegetation. You will also notice a change in soil and rock features. Enjoy your visit to this unique geological formation.” Signage at the trailhead in the Coconino National Forest, U.S. Department of Agriculture.
The descriptions of this old, old place are deceiving as I found out on a quick hike into the cone on an early spring morning. The U-shaped cinder cone has an inner core of an ancient eruption that you enter but can quickly put you between a “rock and a hard place”.
Once you are in the inner core, there are many seemingly “foot trails” that you follow. This one goes to the right…….
and ends at a huge boulder that one must climb up and over. My short Hopi legs could not get a grip to hoist myself over. Two young females DID make it over and I saw them disappear into the crevasse.
I wandered around on the ground level. I sat and imagined what the ancient ones would have thought of this place. I could feel the energy of the rocks and the oldness of this sacred place.
The Sunset Crater erupted around 1050. It erupted more than once and there was the big one on Nuvatukaovi (San Francisco Peaks). It reminded me of a story my grandmother told us as children during a fall corn roast supper in Kykotsmovi.
Aliksa i’. In an ancient village before time immemorial, twin boys (Pökunghoya) were born to a woman. The mother abandoned her children. They wandered around the village as orphans, uncared for, starving and begging for food, shelter and water. A few compassionate families gave them food to eat. Finally, old Spider woman, Kokung wuti took pity on them and gave them shelter in her house. As they grew to be strong young men, they excelled at all skills, were industrious, and good hunters. They were very handsome. They became very important and necessary persons in the village.
As all children who are abandoned by their parents, they felt anger, resentment, insecurity and want acknowledgment by a parent at all times. So the twins felt this in their hearts. The twins decided to sponsor a katsina ceremony (tiikiveh). All the people of the village and other villages came to see the dance. The katsina spirit that came represented the fire, ash, storms and lava of the volcano to the west. The katsina spirit sang a song (Grandmother sang this song) and it told the story about the lives of the twins as they grew up in this society. It told of the hardship of their lives, and how society treated them.
Now the katsina’s song bewitched the people. They were sad. The uncompassionate people knew who they were and what they did to the twins. As the song progressed, the bad heart people on the roof tops saw dark, black clouds building up in the west. They were happy that the katsina song was bringing rain. They prayed hard.
The compassionate people also knew who they were. They were happy that the twins acknowledged their help. However, the people with the good hearts saw something different. They saw dark, black clouds. But it was not rain. It was fire. They knew that they had to escape. So the good-hearted people made preparations to leave the village and left immediately.
The song of the katsina spirit continued and the fire, ash, storm and heat came upon the people. The dark, black rain came closer and closer. The people were all burned. This is how the twins punished the people of an ancient village for the wrongs that were done to them.
Now this story could have been orally transmitted from any of the villages around either Nuvatukaovi, Sunset Crater or even Meteor Crater when it hit the earth. Someone saw the volcanic event and this story travelled to Hopi and is now a tuu wutsi. Hisatsenom saw the geologic explosions and escaped.
I heard nervous giggles of the two women high above me and wondered how they got so high. I decided to move on and saw an inviting “foot trail” with tiny burrs that caught my tennis shoes easily. I quickly climbed, and climbed. I thought I would climb out on the ridge somewhere. Unfortunately, I hit a deadend wall that I could not climb over.
I looked down. The hoodos rise up to 7,960 feet so I was pretty high. My shoes couldn’t support my weight on the tiny burrs going down. I contemplated how I got myself into this risky situation yet again as I do on my hikes! It was either slide down and break my arms or legs or head first to the bottom.
I finally laid full body over a thin layer of cinder and slowly zigzagged inch by inch to grooves and trees that slowed my descent. I made it down off the hoodos with jelly legs. I did not see the two women again. I hope they made it down safely! I learned to respect this place the hard way.
As told by (C) MFredericks, Webmaster Hopi story may not be reproduced without express written consent. Usqwali.