I’m a little nostalgic today. Maybe because I want to go hiking. Maybe because I miss warmer weather.
Or maybe because I feel the need to travel again.
That’s a panorama of Ubehebe Crater, smack-dab in the middle of Death Valley, Nevada. I visited this place on the tail-end of my field school that spanned California and Nevada in my graduating semester of my BSc at Memorial University. I had never been to a volcano before, extinct or otherwise (at least that looked the part, with a conical shape and depression in the middle).
Once we got there I was instantly a kid again. The world reverted to a much simpler place, where dinosaurs and volcanoes were cartoony, abstract concepts that weren’t real life. I couldn’t decide if I should walk the crater’s ridge or launch myself down into it. Was there time for both? I didn’t take much time to decide. I snapped that panorama as quickly as possible and sprinted down the path to the cater floor. The path was loosely-packed, volcanic gravel that gave way much like sand. It was difficult to run on, but if you jumped your landing was cushioned. I must have made the descent 10 or more feet at a time at some points.
Once my descent was complete, I ran to the direct center of the crater, and did several 360’s to take it all in. I was standing in the epicenter of an ancient, unimaginably powerful explosion of hot, melted rock kept under insane pressures. I attempted to replay the events in my mind. The crater proper was about the size of a hockey stadium in length and width, and maybe two or more tall. Many times that volume made up of a mixture of molten and hot solid material, held under the weight of the overlain rock, was liberated in one catastrophic instant.
It was impossible to comprehend. I didn’t even try that hard; it hurt my brain.
We had some kind of assignment down there, but I can’t remember what it was. It paled in comparison to how awesome the crater itself was. And, after about a half hour of exploring, debating, and picture taking, we had to start the hike back up. I had no idea how far it was, having ran down it so quickly. Boy, was I in for a surprise.
I took that last snap as I began my ascent. If you look closely you can just make out four people scaling that white layer of rock. It was a volcanic ash column, preserved from the time of eruption. Those four people are my buddies (part of team “Brotein”) that decided to make the trip up in style by pseudo-rock climbing. I was going to do it too, but I noticed how steep it was and that it seemed to split and drop off pretty sharply towards the top. So, being the wuss I am, I backed out and took the much harder volcanic sand-gravel route. It was a gruelling workout, and I’m glad I did it because I hate leg day. Oh, and those four geniuses made it out in one piece too.
And now I really have the itch to go exploring again. I can’t wait to travel somewhere new and learn all about that place’s people, culture, history, food, architecture, and especially geology.
I hope everyone has an adventurous weekend! I’ll have a Guinness (or two) for you.
Featured image: The little crater that could – Ubehebe Crater, Death Valley, NV.