P.S. Don’t think I’m taking myself too seriously with the title of this article. I’m just a goof.
I grew up in the woods. I remember, as a child, spending long hours imagining a mossy puddle of rainwater was an entire wetland landscape complete with islands and creatures that populated various pockets of its various landforms. When whole days, years, are spent interacting with a defined territory, you come to know every bush, every boulder, every turn of the trail as intimately as a family member. Each has its own story to tell. So hunter-gatherers relate to their land, as a community of storytellers, and sometimes, if you look carefully, you can discover sacred stories hiding in plain sight.
This was my fortune one night in Petrified Forest National Park (Arizona). The only camping allowed within the park is wilderness camping. You must hike a least a mile away from the road to the wilderness boundary and then, with a permit in hand, you are allowed to sleep on the open desert. After exploring the park all day, I hoisted my backpack and started walking across the desert in 105° heat. My goal was to find an interesting place to sleep, wake up early, and then hike out to the Martha’s Butte solstice stone by sunrise to watch the shadow cross the carved bull’s-eye marking the longest day of the year.
In the distance I saw a series of buttes and they called to me. I wondered if perhaps on a high flat place there may be some sign of prehistoric habitation. I chose a location near a vein of juniper trees that indicated there was at least subsurface water beneath the cracked desert floor, a requirement for a village site. I found a reasonably practical way to ascend the butte with only a small bit of boulder scrambling. To me this said, “if I can get up here wearing my expedition pack, other people could have come up here carrying burdens.”
As soon as I reached the top, my Spidey Senses began to tingle. The first plateau was nice and smooth and flat. I scrambled a little higher to a second plateau and saw that it was a very rocky and inhospitable camping place, so I climbed back down to the first plateau to camp. There was an enormous split boulder right in the middle that upon inspection seemed to have circular petroglyphs carved on the inside of the crack and on top. As I looked around, I saw that split boulders were everywhere! It was THE odd identifying feature of this strange, flat space. There was also a curious semi-circular arrangement of boulders that abutted the second plateau, but opened to the flat area.
I spent all evening examining the rocks and trying to piece together why this felt like a ceremonial space to me.It wasn’t someplace I had read about. There were no signs pointing to it, I had just read the landscape and was drawn to it and felt like it was speaking to me, but I couldn’t put the clues together … until morning … and then I SAW.
The video below details the exploration and the discovery. I hope you enjoy the adventure.