A Most Treasured Peak
According to Pomo Indian legend, a beautiful maiden who lived on Mount Konocti created Soda Bay at its foot with tears she shed over the deaths of her feuding father and lover. Today, Soda Bay still bubbles with volcanic gases at the foot of Mt. Konocti, which rises to 4,300 feet in elevation. The Clear Lake Volcanic Field consists of some seven once-active volcanic vents.
The name “Konocti” has mysterious origins. Though European settlers attempted to change Mt. Konocti’s name to “Uncle Sam Mountain” in 1854, the original name has endured. Several Indian tribes inhabited the area more than 11,000 years ago, and though they were all of the Pomo Nation, they spoke several languages native to their own tribes. Konocti means “big rock” in one Pomo language; another tribe credits Chief Konocti with creating the mountain. The most favored translation is “Mountain Woman,” from the Pomo word, “Knoktai,” of which “Kno” means “mountain” and “Hatai” means “woman” in one tribe’s language. An essential part of Pomo spirituality, Mt. Konocti is still sacred to Native Americans.
Mt. Konocti’s surface varies with elevation and exposure. The south slope of the mountain is covered with 12 square miles of black obsidian. At the bottom of the north face, a Douglas fir forest is dense and cool. The first homesteader’s cabin on the mountain, built by Mary Downen in 1903, still stands. Orchards and vineyards thrive in the volcanic soil in a multitude of microclimates, and a grove of ancient maul oaks near the summit date back more than 500 years.
At night, a beacon atop the dark mountain announces its presence, and in daylight, it is possible to view Mt. Konocti’s very own weather system create wispy clouds, high winds, or winter snow flurries. Changes in barometric pressure cause gusts of air to move into and out of the mountain’s vents. Though some locals believe huge catacombs exist within, only small caves have been found. The Pomos have handed down stories of throwing carved sticks into Mt. Konocti’s crater and later finding them floating in the lake.
Mt. Konocti is the stunning backdrop for nearly every scene around Clear Lake. Lake County recently purchased 1520 acres on the top of Mount Konocti, placing much of the mountain into public hands for perpetuity. Lands for many purposes - for reflection, for hiking, for enjoying nature. Mount Konocti County Park is scheduled to open in 2011. Visit Preserve Konocti or www.konoctitrails.com for more information.