Dean M. Chriss
Agathla Peak, Morning, Arizona, Landscape Photograph by Dean M. Chriss

Agathla Peak, Morning, Arizona

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Agathla Peak is a sheer and eroded volcanic plug in northern Arizona that rises over 1500 feet (457 meters) above the surrounding terrain. The English name Agathla is derived from the Navajo name aghaałą́ meaning 'much wool', apparently for the fur of antelope and deer accumulating on the jagged and abrasive volcanic rocks. Agathla Peak is considered sacred by the Navajo.

We went to Agathla Peak for sunrise on a spring morning in late March, but when the sun came up it illuminated the peak with very muted and diffuse light. We waited more than an hour for better light with my camera set up on a tripod with a bag over it to protect against blowing sand and dust. During that time the foreground was occasionally illuminated for several minutes at a time, but the mountain had at most a fleeting spot of randomly placed illumination on it that lasted no more than a couple of seconds. I decided to give up and take a picture of the illuminated foreground and dark peak as a memento before leaving. Right after I did that a spot of light appeared on the peak, and instead of disappearing immediately it slowly grew. I captured a photo every couple of seconds as the light improved. This photograph shows the maximum light we saw on Agathla Peak that morning. It remained like this for no more than about three seconds before going dark again.