Friday, November 10, 2006


The names of my world latch on to my imagination and become the toys of my mind. It’s enjoyable to wonder about them and the people who chose the names.

I live in the midst of volcanic cinder hills with names like North and South Sheba, Rattlesnake, Junction, The Sproul and Maroon. With the exception of The Sproul, the names are concatenated with “Crater” though most are cinder hills rather than true craters. South Sheba Crater is the eastern-most of the hills and marks the beginning of the Painted Desert. Merriam Crater is a true crater, almost perfectly shaped, with a deep crater and a lava flow that extends miles. The lava blocked the flow of the Little Colorado River. The river fought back and together Merriam and the Little Colorado formed Grand Falls which flows with muddy brown water after heavy rains and snow melt.

Cinder Hills
Saddle Crater in front of North and South Sheba. Our home is circled in yellow. This photo was taken from the top of Francis Crater.

Who named my daily world and why did they choose the names?

Two miles due south is the San Francisco Wash. On the north side of the wash, hidden in the shear walls of lava, is LeBarron Pit House. Above the pit house are ruins of ancient Native American houses and thousands upon thousands of small pieces of broken pottery shards. Who was LeBarron? Some archaeologist? It seems perversely inappropriate and down-right wrong to name an Anasazi ruin after some European.

Some of the names I accept with less thought. I see more rattlesnakes than all other species combined so Rattlesnake Crater seems appropriate. Who named it? Did he see an extremely large snake or was he bitten? Was it even a man? It could have been named by an adventurous woman.

On some evenings as the sun sets, the sky turns shades of reds, pinks, purples and maroons. This light reflecting on red cinders may have inspired someone to choose the name Maroon Crater.

North and South Sheba Craters! Ah, the romantic thoughts they inspire. The French did not explore this area or these would have been named something like the Petite Tetons!

The road to Leupp passes between the Sheba twins. My mailing address is Leupp Road. Yes, upon hearing my address, most people spell it “loop”.

Leupp is on the Navajo Reservation which is less than two miles east of my house. "Navajo" isn’t a Navajo word. The Navajo call themselves Dine. Why use the name Navajo rather than Dine? To the victors go the power to choose names.

Why the name was chosen for Saddle Crater is obvious. Approach it from the high ground to the northwest and it has the shape of a saddle. Approach it from the southeast and it’s impossible to recognize it as the same cinder hill. It looks totally different!

Moon rising over Saddle Crater
The moon rises over Saddle Crater. Photo was taken from our front yard.

On some weekends, Julie and I will finish our planned work and save time to set off in search of adventure. We look at topographical maps, choose some feature with an intriguing name like "The Sproul" and search for roads that will lead us near our goal. Sometimes the goal is fantastic and lives up to our imaginations. Sometimes it’s less impressive but the journey is always full of surprises and rewarding.


Blogger Buffalo said...

It is amazing what an adventure life can be if only we let it.

11/10/2006 12:48:00 PM  
Blogger Whitesnake said...

Beautiful pics Paul

Whitesnakes and rattlesnakes don't mix.
Hope Julie is ok.

11/10/2006 01:44:00 PM  
Blogger Anvilcloud said...

The French did not explore this area or these would have been named something like the Petite Tetons!

Bill Bryson said something to the effect that it's just as well tyhat the French didn't get to name the Grand Canyon.

11/10/2006 03:32:00 PM  
Blogger Larry Clayton said...

Good writing Paul. I went out there a few times and enjoyed it all. More recently I've been learning my western geography from Louis Lamour; his stories really used to grab me.
Do you know if he wrote one about your region? I've got about all of 'em.

11/10/2006 08:00:00 PM  
Blogger robin andrea said...

You make the desert look quite beautiful. That moon shot is really lovely. Naming conventions are often very weird. We live on a road that was specifically named for one of the streets in the game Monopoly. About as ahistorical a name as it gets.

11/11/2006 03:27:00 PM  
Blogger Jim said...

What a beautiful place you have found to live with, Paul!

11/18/2006 10:04:00 PM  

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