November 23, 2012

11/08/12 – Sunset Crater Volcano NM

Seems it never rains in southern Arizona.  (Or is that California???)   Either way, it wasn't going to be the standard “hot and dry”.  The weather guessers forecast a rain and wind and snow storm by the weekend, so we figured that if we wanted to see a couple of national monuments north of Flagstaff, we’d better get going.
Sunset Crater Volcano National Monument is the most recent volcano to erupt in the Flagstaff area.   As with many geological events, time is relative.  It’s been about a thousand years since the last eruption...but that’s almost yesterday to geologists.   They think in millenia instead of decades. 

Some early Puebloans actually lived nearby.  Smarter than the folks at Pompeii, they left town when the earth started shaking and flames shot out of the ground.  They managed to get on the bus before it left, watched safely from someplace else, and their escape (as they say) "lives in legends." 

The volcano is a 1,000’ tall cinder cone.  In 1928 some filmmakers wanted to blow it up for an early version of special effects for a Zane Gray movie.  That got the people of Flagstaff all riled up, and eventually resulted in preserving it as a national monument. 
We hiked the Lenox Crater Trail to the top of a smaller volcano.   It's not a very exciting hike--walking on cinders is worse than walking on the beach.  Throw in a 300’ elevation gain at 7,000’ and the ½ mile hike took longer than expected.  Coming down is quicker, but those little rocks roll, and suddenly, I did too!
Tourists could climb Sunset Crater until 1973, but now it’s off-limits.  You can still see hiking trails on the slopes, even after all these years.   The Lava Flow Trail is at the base of Sunset Crater, so we saw more cinders and different kinds of lava, some splatter cones, and lots of signs that say “stay on the trail”. 
I know this is a boring post--lava rock mostly comes in black or gray.  But Wupatki National Monument is just down the road, and their pueblos are made of red rock.  We headed there next.
More pics here:  Sunset Crater Volcano NM