The Legend of Hum-mo

August 14, 2020
Yosemite Valley—Total distance biked: 6.81 miles
Lower Yosemite Falls—Total distance walked: 1.1 miles

With my bicycle back in working order (thanks to my husband who put on two new tires and tubes), we took off for a day of fun in Yosemite National Park.

Sugarpine Bridge over Merced River with Half Dome above.

We rode our typical route around the Valley then parked the bikes at the trailhead to Lower Yosemite Falls.  From there we walked to the base of the falls.

Near Sugarpine Bridge.

A wedding party was taking photos at the footbridge in front of the dry waterfall—an unusual scene.  I wondered if they were disappointed that there was no water flowing, but what really caught my eye was Lost Arrow Spire.  I’ve noticed the spire before, but the waterfall is usually the focus of my attention.  Without water, my eye was drawn to the shaft of rock jutting out from the cliff.

Lower Yosemite Falls with no water.

Lost Arrow is a detached granite pillar next to Yosemite Falls.  It is a famous feature among the climbing community.  An on-line article in Men’s Journal tells of a six-year old boy from Colorado who climbed Lost Arrow with his father this past July. 

Lost Arrow Spire with the dry Upper Yosemite Falls to the left.

A traditional Yosemite Indian legend surrounds Lost Arrow.  In fact, it was made into a short movie in 1912 entitled, The Legend of Lost Arrow.  This is a summary of the legend:

The Indians of Yosemite believe that the spirits of Kos-Su-Kah, a young brave, and his beautiful sweetheart, Tee-hee-nay still wander over the meadows of the “Lost Arrow.” Upon their betrothal day, Kos-Su-Kah resolved to go hunting on the heights nearby to supply game for the wedding feast. The young brave promised his wife-to-be that he would shoot an arrow from the cliff as a token of his success with the deer hunt. A feather was to be bound to the arrow for each buck that he brought down. But in shooting the arrow Kos-Su-Kah’s foot slipped and he [fell] far below. Tee-Hee-Nay, becoming impatient, climbed up, and discovering his body, summoned his young companions and had them lower her by means of a rope of tamarack boughs to the body of her loved one. She was able to bring the body to the top, but when she saw that her lover was dead, she threw herself weeping upon his breast and died.  —


The Legend of the Lost Arrow is one example of the many Yosemite Indian legends that were passed on by word of mouth for generations.  The legend was first printed in the book, In the Heart of the Sierras by James M. Hutchings (1888). Hutchings, an avid promoter of Yosemite, led the first tourists into the park.  


The slender spire of granite, standing near the spot where Kos-Su-Kah’s body was found, has since been known to the Yosemite Indians as Hum-mo, the Lost Arrow. Kos-Su-Kah’s arrow has never been found.  Some say the lovers took it with them to the spirit land beyond the setting sun—El-O-Win, and left behind the granite spire in its place.

On the trail leaving Lower Yosemite Falls.

We jumped on our bikes and pedaled back through the Valley to the truck.  Whether hiking, biking, or sitting and gazing, Yosemite, with its diverse culture and rich history and plethora of things to do, has captivated me in a way no other place has.