What happens when a 150 foot wide chunk of Iron and nickel drops in on the Earth? You get a hole a mile wide and 500 feet deep! Welcome to Barringer Crater, aka Meteor Crater. The crater is located 40 miles East of Flagstaff, AZ. Its right off of Interstate 40.
This is the windest place North of Antarctica! There is a steady 30 mph wind and it gusts well above that. But its the easiest to visit and best preserved crater around. Most craters are eroded by water, in Northern Arizona not much of a problem.
There are three observation areas set up along the rim. Two are slightly below the rim. There is no access within or to the bottom. You get a fairly young (50,000 year old) feature that all the hallmarks an impact crater. This is what the Moon surface is coveted with. The astronauts actually trained here before going to the Moon.
There’s a movie telling the story. There are guided tours subject to weather. The have a small display of other impact craters, meteor types, and video simulaions. You can put your hands on a 1400 pound piece of the meteor responsible for this whole thing.
If you are in the Flagstaff area, its worth a stop even at $18/adult. This is a good add on to Sunset Crater or Wapitaki trips
Usery Mountain Park is at the border of Mesa and the desert. The park is part of the Maricopa County Park System. There are 30 miles of hiking trails, camping (tents or RV’s), and archery range. It does run $6 to get a car load in.
Every month there’s a full moon. Coincidentally, there’s a Range hike too. Be warned, during the winter there will be 200-300 sets of feet crunching sand and gravel. I only had 60 people with me tonite.
The hike itself is fairly level. A distance of about 2 miles should be easy for almost all who can hike. The landscape is typical for the Sonoran desert. Saguaro, chollas, and assorted cacti. Views of the mountains surrounding the park. It’s silver blue in the moonlight.
This is from the road sides along Saguaro Lake. The lake has several access points. It rests within the mountains. Several elevation changes and arroyos (dry river beds) give several different views and plants. The stately Saguaros are everywhere. The blooms are limited by rainfall. This is the second month of blooms here.
211 Million years ago, this was a tree. Today it’s an eighty foot long fossil. Now there are only a few hundred full size and thousands of partial tress here. For $20 pass that is good for a week you get this and the Painted Desert too.
The basics are during the rise of the dinosaurs life was a forest here. Shallow water with a prefect muddy low oxygen shallow waterway… add millions of years and here you are. This area resembles the Badlands with color. It’s in a barren open meadow landscape. Although fairly flat, the dry area and erosion of heavy winter moisture has made for a.surreal world.
There are multiple visit centers. Plenty of history here. Good displays of what preceeded Dinosaurs and the human impact. This spreads over 30 miles of pavement. Good for all ages. You walk among the petrified trees. People sit on a Triassiac tree for family pictures!
Ok eye candy below
This piece of paradise is an hour from Flagstaff and three hours south of the Grand Canyon. I40 runs through the Northern part and Holbrook, AZ had food half hour away.
Saguaro Lake is located 20 miles Northeast of Mesa, AZ. It’s has a marina and several boat ramps. And three roads into the area. There are marked trails for hiking, atv’s and horses. This is part of Tonto Forest area and daily passes are sold off site year round in places like Ft McDowell, Mesa, and Jake’s Corners
And being there at the beginning of March, there are wildflowers. The area is loaded with cacti and cholla.
An oasis in the High Desert. This impounded lake is surrounded by mountains and the stately Saguaro cacti. Located about an hour and a half out of Pheonix this is an unbelievable drive and set of short hikes.
Of course, those with a boat it’s prefect. I have only an inflatable kayak… The wife is funny about going out on a lake 350 feet deep in an inflatable craft. There are 3 boat ramps and they are about 120 get wide and quarter mile long. You can drive down them in a car, just stay out if the way.
There are several roads (some paved) that lead to the water. I mean to the waters edge. Which means be careful because you are alone here for the most part. But several places give you the chance to be alone. The Saguaro cacti are plentiful. The views great on grey days.
I can tell you there are cliff dwellings in a National Monument but they close at 4pm. I missed out today.
The Saguaro cacti take 75 years to start is first “arm”. The one above is probably in the 200-250 year range. It’s maybe 25-30 feet tall.
A grey day in Sedona looks better than a good day other places. A few miles west of the “Y” in Sedona is Dry Creek Road this leads to a bunch of trailheads. But for those who don’t want to walk in cold weather these pictures are all from the road.
If you hike stay on the trails and bring a friend. There are a ton of exposed areas. There were a few puma (mountain lion) prints asking my little solo hike. There were people at the trailhead on my return telling me this is bad place for heat illnesses. Bring water!
There are trails everywhere here outside of Payson, AZ. This is a stab in the dark hike. I left with no more than a distance and direction. The trail offers solitude.
The forest like most in the area have Ponderosa Pines, Alligator Cypress, and Sycamore through out the hike. The forest is open with tons of natural light.
While there were plenty of hoof prints from elk, wildlife around 11 AM was missing. But I did have a butterfly pose for me (actually sipping minerals out of wet soil). I’m not used to seeing them in November. Or as below, a wildflower.
The trail crosses a highway and continues as multiple trails to a small creek and a pasture, or across the state if you keep following the White diamonds. But I stopped at the meadow. Very relaxing but not for nature watching during the middle of the day