National Monument 1: Sunset Crater Volcano

Now that you know what we define as adventure (i.e. seeing and doing new things, be they near or far, big or small), we can introduce you to some of the steps to our goals we’ve already reached.

Sunset Crater Volcano National Monument is a really long name for ‘Awesome Big Red Hill with Lava.’ According to the National Park Service, the volcano was formed almost 1000 years ago and is one of the youngest craters in the San Francisco volcano system, which includes over 200 volcanoes in the area.

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The park has a 1 mile trail that loops around through a lava field and near the base of the cone.

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The lava’s not too sharp, but it’s obviously tennis shoe terrain. Things you should not do: wear flip flops around lava. Obviously I did not learn this the hard way.

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Funnily enough, the top of the cone didn’t explode off or become fragmented; it just lifted off the top during the explosion and surfed down to land about half a mile away. The red dirt is what gave the volcano its name; unfortunately I’m so used to seeing red clay at home that I didn’t even think of why they called it ‘Sunset Crater.’

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The trees in the area are also pretty cool to see; the big ones are all twisted up.

It was only a quick one-hour stop, but apparently it’s a good place to see in the early-mid morning, especially since you can see some cool reptiles like this tree lizard (Urosaurus ornatus) hanging around the start of the trail. It is entirely possible that I just enjoy lizards more than most people, though, but there were also birds. And fortunately a surprising dearth of snakes.

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Funnily enough, the park was actually closed right before we got there because of fires in the area. I tried to convince my mother that the volcanoes were active, but she was definitely not convinced.

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I’m not sure about you, but the burned ground looked pretty close to lava-colored to me.

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All in all, it was a pretty worthwhile visit despite the fires. We even got to meet the firefighters who were on break hanging out in the visitors center. Unfortunately, they were back to work far too quickly, and we were back on the road.

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