Welcome to the website for the "Toe of the Flow" Labyrinth, also known as the Flagstaff Community Labyrinth. Please visit the Flagstaff Community Labyrinth page on Facebook for photographs of the labyrinth, an article in "Mountain Living" magazine (August 2013) featuring the labyrinth, information on events at the labyrinth, or to leave comments online. The "Visitor Comments" page on the site you are viewing now is updated about twice a month with comments written in the book at the entrance to the labyrinth.
A very short history of the labyrinth (5 billion years in 4 paragraphs)
The Earth formed out of stardust 5 billion years ago... After a few hundred million years, bacterial life emerged, eventually (1 billion years ago) giving rise to plants and animals. Time and again, continents rose into the sky and sank below the sea, collided with each other and broke apart. A vast sea covered northern Arizona & southern Utah 275 million years ago. Sediments from that sea formed the Kaibab Limestone – the white rock visible on the canyon wall opposite the labyrinth. While the region slowly rose to sea level and over 1 mile above it, mammals came into being (200 million years ago), eventually (60 million years ago) giving rise to monkeys & apes.
About 1 million years ago a series of lava flows occurred along a west-east line that followed the southern edge of Observatory Mesa, present-day Dale Avenue, and the southern edge of Cherry Hill/McMillan Mesa - all now parts of uptown Flagstaff, Arizona. Rivers of lava flowed southward across the Kaibab Limestone. One of those lava rivers flowed from what is now uptown, through what is now the Southside neighborhood, and stopped after about a mile. No human saw this happen. Humans first appeared in Africa 200,000 years ago, and spread throughout the world, reaching the Americas about 15,000 years ago. Then, with no communication between continents, people in Asia, Africa, Europe, and the Americas started farming 12,000 years ago, building cities about 6,000 years ago, and creating labyrinths 3,000 years ago. A few of those people built this labyrinth, and they built it for you. Enjoy it. Feel the love. Pass it on. Pay it forward.
The Toe of the Flow labyrinth is built atop the southern toe of the 1-million-year-old lava river described in the last paragraph. If you access the labyrinth from the Sinclair Wash trailhead on Lone Tree Road, you will see the full thickness of the advancing flow above the trail (on your left). The labyrinth is made of about 15 tons of lichen-covered boulders, all gathered within 200 feet of the site. Each boulder is a bit of froth from the top of that flow. The path length is a quarter mile (round trip).
There are many labyrinth designs. The Toe of the Flow labyrinth uses a "Gossembrot" design, so named because the pattern was recorded (and perhaps designed) by Sigmund Gossembrot of Augsburg, Germany in 1480. The Gossembrot pattern was taped on a plaza in Germany for a few days in 2012, and it has been printed on canvas for temporary indoor use, but this is the only known
permanent long-lasting installation of a Gossembrot design.
Walking the Labyrinth
A labyrinth is not a maze, in that there are no choices along the single path that leads in to the center and back out. The intent of a labyrinth is not to confuse the walker, but to slow the mind and engage in a walking meditation.
The developers of the first labyrinths were pagans. They may have considered labyrinths as analogs for the journey of life. Perhaps the inward walk represented birth and life to adulthood (or some other life stage) and the outward walk was an analog for old age, death, and rebirth. Or perhaps they had other ideas – we don’t really know. Labyrinths appeared in ancient Hopi and Tohono O'odham art, and were built in medieval European cathedrals, where they are still used for Christian rituals. Enjoy your walk without worrying about whether your interpretation is “correct.” Or experience your walk without interpreting it at all…
Most people take about 15 minutes to walk to the center, reflect a few minutes sitting on the massive stones in the center circle, and walk back out. For most people, the walk out feels different than the walk in. You can, of course, get bored and quit at any time, or you may be abducted by space aliens, in which case you might not walk out. The only "rule" for using the labyrinth is: respect the land, the labyrinth, and the other walkers.
The labyrinth’s biggest rock (on the far side of outer circle, about 180° from the entrance) is a comfortable chair with a good backrest. When you get to it, you can sit in it for a view that may surprise you.
Please come visit & walk the labyrinth, and return again often. Every walk will feel different. Some visitors bring beads, seashells, or other bling to leave at the labyrinth. You can do so if you wish. If you feel a trinket (smaller than your pocket) was left there especially for you, take it. If you find trash, please take it away and dispose of it properly (there is a trashcan at the trailhead about 600 ft west, and another in the kids playpark about 500 feet north).
You can walk or bike the trails east of the labyrinth for miles without crossing a road. The first mile may be the prettiest mile of trail in the City of Flagstaff. But if you keep going, it gets better...