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oto by Harrison Lapahie Jr.

the Wanderling

Rising nearly 400 feet above the desert floor in a remote section of ancient Anasazi territory named Chaco Canyon stands an imposing natural structure called Fajada Butte. Along a narrrow ledge near the top of the butte is a sacred Native American site given the name Sun Dagger that a thousand years ago revealed the changing seasons to Anasazi astronomers. After the ancient people abandoned the canyon for unknown reasons 700 years ago the sun dagger's secret remained hidden except to a special few. In 1977 it was inadvertently "rediscovered" when known or suspected rock art and petroglyphs on the butte were being studied and cataloged.

Many years before the rediscovery, I, as a ten-year old boy, joined my Uncle on what he called a "bio-search" trip to Fajada Butte. My uncle had field searched thousands and thousands of plants, herbs, and mushrooms, even to having had several previously undiscovered species named after him. We had gone to the butte because it has its own micro-climate which creates an environment that grows a variety of plants used by the indigenous population for traditional and ritual purposes, plants that are not generally found on the surrounding plain. Special plants also grow on the mounds thought to be the one-time homes of the ancient astronomers. Although others felt that the plants were equally powerful wherever they grew my uncle thought that the power of the plants was increased by being on the butte, hence his desire to be there. Please see Footnote [1].

Following a harrowing multi-day trip across the hot desert and some rather rough roads we were met by a friend of my uncle at an Anasazi ruin slightly west and several miles north of the butte. The man, a Native American and a spiritual elder of his tribe, told us we would need to wait before going to the top to ensure we would be be there only during a "special time," that special time being an occurrence of a very rare astronomical phenomenon of the moon being full at the EXACT same time as the summer solstice. Special time or not, for me it was the first I heard we were going to the top of the butte, my uncle having apparently overlooked any importance of mentioning it. I had grown used to how things unfolded in a sort of unconnected way during my various experiences with my uncle traveling throughout the various parts of the desert southwest --- from staying weeks unexpectantly within feet of the ancient Pit Houses along the southwest rim of the Meteor Crater to walking the suspected debris field caused by the mysterious downed craft related to the so-called Roswell UFO the September just before this trip --- so such a "small" oversight on my uncle's behalf was not totally out of character for him. Even so, the straight up and down walls of the all imposing butte caused a major uneasy feeling in the pit of my stomach that was a long way from being resolved by mere reassurances and platitudes.

It was very, very hot so we moved as close to the north side of the butte as we could in order to take advantage of what shade we could find, cooling ourselves among the cold boulders while waiting for the "special time." The longer we waited and the more I looked up the 400 foot wall of the butte the more and more apprehensive I got about any attempt on my part to get to the top. When I told my uncle I wasn't sure I wanted to go he told me he couldn't leave me in the desert alone, and since he was going to be up there a couple of days it was mandatory that I go along. A few hours before sunset of the third day as the last heat of the sun began to wane along the desert floor, we moved to the base of the south face not taking time to set up any sort of a camp. My uncle had barely shut off the motor of the truck when the man bolted out of the cab and headed into the desert, not returning until after nightfall and the full moon was high in the sky. When he returned he had some plants with him he said warriors used sometimes before going into battle in order to make them strong and brave, and if I used some I would be strong and brave too, inturn alleviating any concern about making my way to the top of the butte. As my uncle nodded an approval, I did as prescribed under the direction of the tribal elder. Then I was told to lay down and rest as there was a difficult trip before us.

At sunrise my uncle shook me awake and said he and his friend would be gone for a while and not to leave, telling me there was food and water in the corner if I wanted it. I rolled back over thinking I would go back to sleep when it dawned on me my uncle had said "corner." When I sat up I could see I was in some sort of a room. Actually, it was more of a "some sort of ruin" barely stuck on a ledge on the side of the butte hundreds and hundreds of feet above the valley floor. How I got there I didn't know, if I climbed or my uncle carried me I didn't have a clue. Later in the day the two of them returned, and unbeknownst to me at the time, they had visited the then without-an-english-name sun dagger site, which was basically just above us. It got late, the sun started to go down on the other side of the butte and the temperature began to drop. My uncle's friend gave me more of the plants in the same manner as the previous night, then I curled up for the night. I woke up in the cab of the truck parked in the same ruins northwest of the the butte we started from just as the sun was coming up. My uncle and his friend were standing some distance away drinking coffee they had brewed over an open fire. As we were leaving I turned to the man and asked how all this happened and he responded by saying something in his native tongue. I asked my uncle what the man had said and he told me it translated into something like, "Eagles don't climb, they fly."

In the copyrighted segment in Fajada Butte, from the written text portion of Dr. Paul Charbonneau, O.R. White, and T.J. Bogdan's slide lecture on Anasazi astroarchaeology, Charbonneau et al, says that without rock climbing hardware or uncommonly good rock climbing skills there is only one possible route up the butte, plus, even with that, located halfway up is a steep forty foot "chimney" cutting through rock you have to use to complete to climb. There is, however, an ancient legend told by members of the local tribes that at one time, a long time ago, there was a woman, said to be a ghost or spirit entity of some sort, possibly even a Cloud Shaman, called She Who Dries You Out that lived on top of the butte. They say, at the most, one could only catch a fleeting glimpse of her and then, always from a distance. She could be seen going to a nearby canyon and fill her jug with water. Then, carrying her water, would return back to the top of the 400 foot butte. To do so it was said, she would use a trail leading to the top of the butte on one of its sides. If anyone tried to interfere or intercept her along the way she would just vanish into the environment. Another part of the legend goes on to say the woman was very, very beautiful and, on occasion, instead of disappearing when approached she would come forward and mingle with the people. She would select a man and with her wiles woo him into following her back to the top of the butte, apparently it is guessed, using the trail. The next morning her beauty would be gone and she'd be an old woman.[2]

Charbonneau as well as others, say there IS evidence that a ramp may have been used at one time on the southwest face of the butte to get to the top. The ramp, which is no longer clearly discernible and even less so usable, at least to the casual observer, was apparently constructed in three sections, said to be 750 feet long and rising almost 350 feet above the valley floor, just short of the top of the butte and nearly the same level as the sun dagger, making access to the upper ledges where the dagger and the astronomer rooms are much easier for anyone who knew the trail. If my uncle and the tribal spiritual elder knew and used the trail I'm not sure, but if it is hardly discernible during the day, I do not see how my uncle, spritual elder, or anybody else would be able to traverse ANY trail along the butte at night, even under the gaze of a full moon. I do know that just past sunset and the rise of that same full moon I was given something that was supposed to make me brave and give me strength and the next morning at sunrise I, along with both my uncle and the spiritual elder, woke up in the ruins nearly at the top of the butte.

Unfortunately I never got to see the sun dagger in real life. The closest I got to it was on the ledge just below it that summer with my uncle. At the time I had never heard of such things, summer solstices and all that, nor did my uncle explain what he was doing, although many years later, when the sun dagger became well known he confirmed that was what he and his friend had gone to observe. So too, neither did he ever offer an explanation of how I was able to get up and down the butte except for telling me he felt the the spiritual elder had answered the question quite adequately. My father and Stepmother divorced while I was still under the guardianship of my uncle. When they divorced my uncle returned to his old haunts in and around Santa Fe and I went into a foster home. By high school I was living with my grandmother in a southern California beach community. Between then and the time we met up again I went from a pre-teen to having been drafted and honorably discharged from the military. By the time our conversation ensued I already had my experience under the auspices of the Obeah high in the Blue Mountains of Jamaica, plus I was familiar as well with my uncle's interaction with Carlos Castaneda. During our conversation, when I asked if he knew of a plant similar in properties to Solanum that grew in New Mexico, he stopped for a second as if to shield me from the information, then mentioned a plant that only blooms at night called Sacred Datura that is used by Native Americans in the desert southwest for coming of age and other rituals, then repeated again he felt the the spiritual elder had answered the question quite adequately.

Eighteen years had passed between the time my dad divorced and I saw my uncle. One day early in 1968, out of the blue, he called asking if I would meet him in Kingman, Arizona.[3] During the meeting my uncle gave me a small taped up cardboard box six or eight inches square and requested I deliver it in person and only in person to a man in Laguna Beach, California --- and whatever I did, NOT give it to anybody else under any circumstances. When I arrived in Laguna Beach to deliver the package I found the man sequestered in a remote cave hidden in the hills above Laguna Canyon Road. The man, Dr. Timothy Leary. The contents of the box not known.

The meeting in Kingman eventually rekindled the relationsip between us. However, as the years passed, before every bit of information could be garnered my uncle died after being medi-vacked back to the United States from South America. He had been on an extended trip exploring the Vortexes at Machu Picchu high in the Andes then bio-searching the banisteriopsis caapi vine associated with the Ayahuasca Sorcerer's Brew along the upper reaches of the Amazon when he broke his leg. Returning to the United States, weak from the complications of that break, with dementia sneaking in and his body defenses down, cancer took over and he died a couple of years later at age eighty-six. [4]

NOTE: During that period of time prior to the death of my uncle and we were going over our travels together, a period of time I was no longer a ten year old boy but a grown man, he handed me several files filled with a jumble of handwritten notes --- notes he had made over the years regarding any number of things. Many of those notes contained references to our travels together, of which the following is a combination of my recollections, his notes, and discussions we had regarding the experience. No dates were included to speak of nor were any of the notes to my knowledge --- except for possibly a few --- written on the scene. Most were jotted down several days or more after the fact from informal talks while riding in the truck, sitting in a cafe, or huddled around some rock-ring campfire someplace.[5] Although most of the below was discussed in rather on-and-off lengthy conversation with my uncle as an adult, my rememberance welling up from a once ten year old boy, except for minute details, were really not needed to recall most of what happened:

Being on the butte, as one might suspect, was an unforgetable, awe inspiring experience. It was both magnificent and scary. The view was unbelievable. Treading where the ancients tread was even more unbelievable. However, at the time, except for knowing where the four cardinal directions were because of the position of the sun, I wasn't sure where I was specifically. For that fact I wasn't sure where my uncle and the tribal elder happened to be either. I didn't know when they were expected to return or from where. Nor too, did it seem exactly safe. Up to that point in time, for most practical purposes, my experience with any kind of a similar situation was exremely rare or non-existant. But, if being on the butte was truly, truly unsafe --- or only seemed so in the eyes of my ten year old mind --- it didn't matter much as the results were still the same.

The ledge along the front of the ruins varied in width from sort of wide to quite narrow. At any given point you could find yourself being only inches away from a 350 foot drop to the canyon floor. In SOME places, but not all, the ledge of the ground surface had a minor-to-worse slope tilted toward the edge which made walking difficult. Along the whole length a great deal of that ground-surface was covered by loose rocks, either weathered from the cliffs above or intermixed with fallen stones from the ancient structures. The wind was dangerous and unpredictable with strong gusts one moment and utter still next. The only way it seemed safe being there was by staying inside one of the ruins. On the ledge the only way to be safe seemed to be to crawl on all fours along the cliff wall or to lay down and crawl --- and even then I wasn't sure.[6] Years later, as an adult, I would undergo an eerily similar experience in an Incident at Supai on a foot-wide ledge just below the ridge top along the cliffs of the Grand Canyon, an experience that also involved a tribal spiritual elder and a mysterious melding into the canyon walls.

(please click)

Peering over the edge from an angled prone position for the second or third time for no other reason than pure curiosity or an adrenaline high I began watching three vultures lazily circling at about the same height across the valley ... and of course, scary or not, to drop a few rocks over the edge as any boy might be expected to do no matter where they were. The three vultures were soon joined by a fourth and in my mind I thought how cool it would be to have the Da Vinci glider my uncle and I was building in the garage back home and launch it from the cliffs and join them. The group was slowly moving away, drifting south and higher on the thermals. One of the four, whether it was the new one to the group or not, widened its circle flying incredibly close to where I was on the ledge, so close individual feathers could be seen and it seemed, but not probable, eye contact made. The vulture circled around toward the group. Thinking there might be a second pass I waited, but in the process of the flight, somehow lost visual contact. The vulture group continued to drift south, but now distinctly with only three members.

With no sign of the bird returning I decided to inch my way back away from the ledge toward the ruin entrance. In a slow turn while rising to my hands and knees in order to scoot back inside where it was safe to stand, I caught what was nothing more than a fleeting glimpse of what seemed to be a person, almost shadow-like, not my uncle or the elder, but possibly a woman, along the ledge several rooms down. Covered with goose bumps and scared out of my mind I scrambled into the ruin and hid in the corner of the crumbling half-height wall in such a fashion that if a person did pass by they would be unable to see me.

I glanced slightly over the wall and could see that it would be easy for anybody to recognize that the ground-surface of the ledge between the ruin and the edge had been disturbed quite recently by a someone or something going in and out of the structure. I decided to hop the wall between the rooms thinking that if someone did come into the room and see the backpacks and equipment they might think whoever owned the stuff was out on the butte and just leave. I raised up in a half-crouch to slip over the wall into the other room when I was confronted by a woman on the other side. At first glance, in the shadow of the cave, backlit with the bright blue sky, she looked like an old lady with long white hair and wrinkled face, but as we both moved to strengthen our positions I could see surprisingly, she was not old at all. Her face was smooth and young and her hair long and black, the whiteness I thought, apparently caused by the brightness of the backlit sky. She carried a small pouch-like bag tied at the top in the palm of her hand. With her thumb and the first finger of her other hand she spread the top open and stuck in two fingers, pulling them out covered with a fine white powder. For some reason I was no longer scared, I even leaned forward as she put her hand out as though she wanted to touch my face. She put three marks across my forehead two fingers wide, each time returning her fingers to the pouch to replenish the powder. She also put what felt like cresent shaped marks on my cheekbones starting at the top of my nose and going outward toward the bottom of my ears. She also put one downward on my chin. She then turned and walked away. When she reached the exit she turned back for only a moment, shaking out the pouch much like one would shake out a handkerchief, the wind coming through the portal catching the dust and swirling it into a white cloud. In the second the dust took to dissipate she was gone.

I THOUGHT I hopped the wall and in neither direction on the ledge could she be seen. However, when my uncle and the tribal elder returned they found me either asleep or unconscious and all tied up, both hands and feet, with the white powder markings still very clear on my face. They got all excited and were full of questions. What did she look like? What did she say? What did she have on? Did she have any markings, tatoos, jewelry? According to my uncle's short and somewhat cryptic notes, most likely written a few days after the fact, my responses, which I do not recall specifically except through our discussions, were: She looked like a Native American, Navajo, possibly Hopi. She never said a word. She was dressed in all white, actually sort of off white, heavy weave cloth. One piece, dropped over her head almost to the ground, no sleeves, tied at the waist with a string or rope, fringy around the bottom. Looked handmade, not worn or dirty, but something about her outfit seemed old, almost ancient. Her too. Barefoot, no shoes, sandals or boots. Maybe three necklesses, one maybe of shells, not sure. A bracelet, possibly wood or bone on one arm. No silver, turquoise, leather, buckskin or feathers in the traditional sense. No markings, applied or otherwise. When I say no feathers in the traditional sense what I mean to say is she did have what appeared to be a shiny black feather cape or shawl --- possibly made of crow feathers only seemingly much longer --- tied, attached, or layered across the top of her shoulders and slightly down her back like nothing I had ever seen before or since, especially in relation to Native Americans.

My uncle and the elder crossed over into the other room and through the opening out onto the ledge, both looking for footprints or markings in the soil, the elder stopping to taste the white powder residue left from the dust cloud. Soon they were back. They had found the pouch and the tie-string laying in the dirt along the edge where it got too narrow to walk and too far to jump, but no sign of the woman. They told me the powder was white corn meal.

That was it. The next day we were down off the butte. Some would say it was patently unwise of my uncle to leave me on my own in such a situation, and to an outsider such might be viewed as true. However, even though he and the elder had to be on the butte at a special time, I think my uncle knew exactly what he was doing. It is my belief that the special time incorporated other aspects of being on the butte as well --- especially in how it applied to me. It was just one more in a long line of building blocks similar to my experience with the spiritual elder and the Death Defier as described in Julian Osorio that my uncle was continually in the process of putting into place.




the Wanderling's Journey

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ON THE CRATER FLOOR: Meteor Crater, Arizona








The "notes" so described from the above as:

"(S)everal files filled with a jumble of handwritten notes --- notes he had made over the years regarding any number of things. Many of those notes contained references to our travels together."

As hodge-podge and unkempt as the notes were, being not much more than a jumble of misaligned and unrelated papers tossed into file folders and large manila envelopes, they still contributed a huge and important role in a number of aspects regarding various incidents as they played out in my life as a young boy and interactions with my uncle.

Contained within those files of handwritten notes, all of which my uncle refused to part with except for a dozen or more letters that he somehow had in his possession that he originally wrote and mailed to my father and inturn gave me, have all, since his demise, for reasons unknown, somehow simply disappeared.

Some years later I showed the letters my uncle gave me to his son to read. His son, my cousin, showed me inturn, a bunch of letters that had fallen into his hands that MY father had written to my uncle --- letters that I never knew existed and many of which filled in a great deal of my early childhood that I never knew, the most important of which was a long forgotten trip to India just prior to my mother passing away. Even though I could not remember the trip, the downstream outflow is still impacting all that goes on around me. For more please see:


Those of you who may have gone through and read any of my material on the net have no doubt come across over and over many references by me to the above mentioned boxes of hodge-podge and unkempt notes tossed into file folders and large manila envelopes. Although those notes play a minor role in what I have presented here on the Sundagger site, where they play the most significant role is in relation to my observation as a young boy of the giant airborne object that flew over Los Angeles during the early stages of the World War II. The object, as large as a Zeppelin, some 800 feet in length, was witnessed for hours by thousands, yet historically, reported by few.

One of the foremost and most respected chroniclers of the event is C. Scott Littleton, who also witnessed the object, and, like me, has taken time to write about it. Littleton, who tends to agree with my reporting of the object because it strongly substantiates his own thesis regarding the object, has however, suggested in his writings that my eyewitness version of the account might be somewhat "shaky" because of my age at the time --- which got me to thinking. For whatever reason, in my orignial account I did not make mention the of the hodge-podge and unkempt notes tossed into file folders and large manila envelopes, that did in fact contain some pages by my uncle with references to the event that night. Since then I have gone back in and so noted same. Please see:



The image on the left shows a side view of a typical southwest type pit house, while the image on the right illustrates a top view. What remains of the pit houses along the south rim of the impact site are NOT what one would call "typical." Although apparently constructed in a fashion similar in appearance to other pit houses in the region, they were actually built entirely of indigenous stone (blocks of the Coconino sandstone from the crater rim). So too, they were originally thought that none were built to be lived in or to be permanently inhabited, assuming they were ceremonial in nature. However, such was not the case according to Dr. Lincoln La Paz researching his article "PRELIMINARY REPORT ON INDIAN RUINS DISCOVERED NEAR THE CREST OF THE BARRINGER METEORITE CRATER" (Popular Astronomy, v58, 1950)(see). The best preserved pit house, located 250 feet of the crest of the rim was excavated during the summer of 1950 by Boyd Wettlaufer of the University of New Mexico. La Paz writes the following in the article regarding Wettlaufer's excavation:

"The ruin excavated was found to be a single-room structure with a centralized fire-pit. It contained much ash and many pottery fragments, thereby proving it had been a dwelling. Local stone (blocks of the Coconino sandstone from the crater rim) had been used as building material, and the masonry was very crude, only a few rocks having been purposefully shaped. Since the ventilator shaft constituted the only break in the rock walls, entry into the original dwelling was through the roof, as is customary for dwellings of this type. On the basis of the characteristics of the ruins and associtated artifacts, it is believed the dwelling was built prior to A.D. 1300."

References had been made of the crater existence by members of the indigenous population from very early on, even to the point of using pieces of the meteor for ceremonial and ritual purposes such as the two-foot long, one-foot wide, five-inch thick, 135-pound Camp Verde Meteorite found wrapped in feather and cloth and placed on a stone alter miles and miles away from the main impact site. The first written report pertaining to the crater was not made until about 1871 by a man named Albert Franklin Banta, known then as Charley Franklin, who served as a scout and guide for the U.S. Army and worked for a short time at Bosque Redondo while the Navajos and Apaches were interned there following The Long Walk. It was sometime later that the Pit Houses were first discovered.