Monday, September 24, 2012

Exploring The North Land

A short post today, since yesterday was mostly a travel day.  From Tucson, we shut down operations and checked out of the motel there, and hit the road going North.  Our goal was to be in Flagstaff by about 1pm, and by limiting stops to just 2 bathroom breaks, we were right on time.  The winning vote for lunch was a visit to McDonald's (first time for all our visitors!), so We dropped them off there while Melinda (who was driving her own car full of luggage) and I put gas in the vehicles.  We joined them later, then left for our only stop of the day - Meteor Crater!

We learned that 50,000 years ago, a space rock collided with the Earth at this location about 30 miles east of Flagstaff.  Thanks to the arid climate, it is the best preserved impact site in the world.  We now know that impacts such as this have happened many times around the world in the past.  The scale of this crater, given the relatively small impactor only 50 meters across is quite amazing.  Because of its great speed over 12 km/second, it evacuated a 1.2km crater upon impact, leaving nearly no trace of the original iron-nickle meteorite.  We arrived just as a tour arrived - led by Darrin, a former baseball star from nearby Winslow, who attended the University of Arizona.  He gave a great running commentary as he led us on a rim tour about 1km along the northwestern edge.  Unfortunately, from the rim it is a difficult object to image because it is so wide.  I took many pictures for panoramas, but my software is having difficulty assembling them, so the big picture will have to wait.  The images here will have to do.

Along the way we passed a lot of amazing flowers that seemed out of place is the harsh-looking, rocky soil.  Darrin told us they had good summer rains that just ended a week or so before, and these will all wilt and die in a few days...  At left here is the most colorful - Indian Paintbrush.  Finally we reached the outer turn point of the tour, which had a nice location where the crater served as photo backdrop.  After that it was a quick return back to the Visitor Center - just about the fastest hour I've ever experienced!

After our return, all agreed to split up and meet again in an hour to depart.  I caught the short movie, which I'd never seen in my previous 2 visits, then went out to examine the Crater from some of the viewpoints where you don't have to be escorted.  It was a grand view in the setting sun.  In the photo at left, the man on the path is taking a picture of his small son who ran down to the lower platform visible in the distance.  Eventually, everyone explored and shopped to their hearts content, and finally loaded up the van for the trip to Flagstaff.  Our buddy, Chuck, who gave us the tour of the Pima Air and Space Museum a few days ago had flown his plane into the airport, and we picked him up to join us for the rest of our travels.  After checking into our motel, we went to eat dinner at a nice restaurant across the street, and Chuck bought dinner for everyone!

Tomorrow will be another busy day as our Russian friends tour winds down.  We go 150km to the NW to the Grand Canyon, with some surprises along the way.  It should be a fun day!


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