Sunday, January 5, 2014

Desert Volcanoes?

After the sunrise, we went back to Stovepipe Wells, had breakfast at the restaurant (hello, chocolate chip pancakes omnomnom), then packed up our stuff and checked out of the hotel. We had to be back in Vegas by the end of the day, but we still had a few hours left to check out other parts of Death Valley.

So of course, the first place I made Mark stop was the sand dunes. Again.   :)

We walked back out onto the dunes. You could see a line of footprints where other people had already made their way out into the sand.

The guy in the green jacket walked pretty far out and eventually disappeared. If we had more time I would have done the same thing...I would have been perfectly happy wandering around the dunes all day.

Mark eventually pried me away from the dunes and we hopped back in the car to drive further north. We had heard a couple at breakfast talking about a neat crater in the far northern part of the park, so we figured we'd try to find it.

Hello, Ubehebe Crater! (I love the sign on the side.)

There are a few craters in the area, though Ubehebe is the biggest at 600 feet deep. They're formed by volcanic steam explosions; hot magma rises up and hits ground water, which flashes into steam and eventually explodes. Neat! The whole area is covered in cinder from the eruptions.

There is a path along the rim of the crater, so we decided to walk for a little while to check out the view. You can just barely make out the parking lot in the middle of the picture...the scenery is so dramatic in the park that you lose a sense of scale.

And of course, 'let's just walk up the path a little bit' turned into 'well, we already went this far, so we might as well keep going'. I'm starting to think Mark will never go hiking with me again after this trip.

I had given Mark my small camera, and at one point he got pretty far ahead of me. Probably because I was stopping every ten feet to take more pictures. If I ever wind up in the bottom of a crater or going off the side of a mountain, this will be why.

About halfway through the hike a jet showed up and started doing some aerobatic maneuvers overhead. I managed to zoom way in and realized it was one of the Thunderbirds! Neat.   :)

The trail wound its way around the ridges on the side of the crater. The cinder path was pretty soft, so it was slow going at times.

Looking back at Little Hebe Crater. We walked up the side of that crater a little bit, too, but you got a much better view from further away.

At one point the path was only a couple feet wide and had a fairly steep drop down to the crater floor. Normally something like that might seem a bit intimidating, but the ground was so soft that I don't think you'd fall very far if you went over the side.

As we rounded the far corner of the crater we got a really good view of some of the distant ridges. I loved all the layers.

We eventually started to get closer to the parking lot...

...and I looked down into the crater, just in time to see this person booking it down the trail that leads to the bottom. They were flying! It was a pretty steep path, and while I briefly through about following suit, I changed my mind when I thought about how long it would take to climb back up. Maybe next time.   :)

We eventually got back to the car. I would have loved to stay longer, but it was time to head back to Vegas, so we started to make our way south toward the highway.

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