Sunset Crater Volcano National Monument: An Altar in the World

The area surrounding Flagstaff, Arizona is home to approximately 400 volcanoes.  Sunset Crater, which erupted over 900 years ago, is the youngest of these now dormant fire-breathing mountains.  During it’s 150 year reign, the baby of the family spewed ash, lava, and cinders over 800 square miles of land occupied by the Singua people.  Their descendants, the Hopi, Zuni, Navajo, and western Apache tribes to name but a few, have incorporated the history of Sunset Crater into their stories and traditions.  Actually, the entire San Francisco mountain range and its surrounding volcanoes are sacred to these Native American peoples.  For them, the rugged peaks and cinder cones are the sanctuaries of deities and the resting places of ancestral spirits.

By chance, we ended up at Sunset Crater at sunset after a long day of sight-seeing.  It was cold (19°F) and clear and worshipfully quiet.  The stark beauty of bare cinder peak, gnarled wood, and jumbled lava flows frosted with snow was singular and breath-taking.  It felt as if we’d stumbled upon holy ground, a place were the natural and spiritual worlds could easily mingle.  Our hike along the Lava Flow Trail became an active prayer of thanksgiving for the beauty of creation and for the senses to enjoy it.

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{ Viewing other volcanoes from Sunset Crater }

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{ Sunset Crater volcano }

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{ Beginning of the Lava Flow Trail }

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{ It was very cold }

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{ The San Francisco mountain peaks }

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{ About as close to the top as you can get }

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{ Sunset Crater earned its name from the orange and yellow colors displayed in its cinder cone. }

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{ More volcanoes }

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{ The last bit of sunlight }

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Amen.

An interesting tidbit of trivia: In 1928, a company in Hollywood wanted to blast Sunset Crater  with dynamite for a movie called Avalanche.  (Can you believe it?!)  A very concerned public fought for its protection and in 1930 President Herbert Hoover officially rescued Sunset Crater from nefarious movie directors and other individuals with bad intentions by assigning it National Monument status.  (Volcano was added to the title in the early 1990’s.)

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