Tuesday, June 5, 2012

On to Arizona and the Sunset Crater Volcano

 After leaving Amarillo, we drove to Flagstaff, AZ along I-40. As we got close to the Arizona border, the landscaped changed to the classic bluffs and mesas of the southwesterm desert area. Along the way, Orinda say this long train next to us and Rick thought she should take a picture of the 4 large Diesel locomotives working hard to pull the mile long string of cars.

We like Arizona and were happy to see the state line. Arizona is a state of great contrasts -- in the north, where we are, you will be at some 7,000' in elevation and experience cold nights, even in the summer. Just a few hours south, however, the elevation drops dramatically and temperatures soar in the Phoenix area. 

 We were happy to have lunch in the rest area at the Arizona Welcome Center. One thing we constantly enjoy about the coach is the ability to be at home in the motorhome no matter where we are in the country.

 Located just north from Flagstaff is the Sunset Crater Volcano National Monument. The volcano erupted in the 1050 ad time frame and there are amazing lava flows in this area today that look like they happened yesterday.

 Lava rocks are literally everywhere, as Orinda shows us. Of course, these rocks and the entire area is protected, so we put this rock back where we found it. Volcanic rock is amazingly hard and sharp, so walking in this area needs to be done carefully.

 Here we are in the front of a large lave "river" that is frozen in place. The black ground cover is actually cinders that are many feet thick. These are like small pebbles and it is very difficult for any plants to grow in it.

 Here is one of several lava flows in the area. These are a few hundred feet wide and many feet thick. The molten lava must have flowed for several thousand feet before it cooled enough to become rock.

What is amazing about these flows is how they look like they just cooled. There is very little vegetation in the area and the rock is still knife-edge sharp. 

 While there are not many plants in the area, the ones that have been able to get a root hold in the lava flow area. This flowering small bush was a real rarity in this area and provided a real touch of beauty in a very rugged environment.

 There is a trail around the base of the mountain that goes through the lava flow. However, there is no nice, paved trail here -- you really need to watch your step here.
This is the actual volcano, with a huge field of cinders (the dark area on the cone of the mountain) from the eruption that still is totally devoid of vegetation. This is one of the few places in the continental US where you can really see the impact of the volcano eruption.

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