The day we went to Wupatki National Monument, we had to drive through Sunset Crater National Monument. Of course, we had to stop there too! After we cooled down from our hike through Wupatki, we drove back up from the valley floor to Sunset Crater. Sunset Crater volcano is a cinder cone volcano that is about one thousand years old. It's named after the sunset because it has sunset colored cinders on top. Holy hotdogs, it was hot! After we studied the museum in the visitor center, we headed to the short lava trail. I was so hot that my face was turning bright pink; Raven laughed at me!
This is me with the volcano in the background. Because they were causing damage to the volcano, visitors are no longer allowed to hike on it. Raven's mom told us she hiked up it when she was little, but we had to view it from below. Still, it was pretty impressive! Imagine living nearby, like at Wupatki, and suddenly the ground starts to rumble- and then over the course of days, a big volcano grows! Yikes! The Junior Ranger booklet assured us that all the people in the area had time to leave before the lava flew, but I was a little skeptical.
Raven and I had fun hiking the lava trail and working on the Junior Ranger workbook. This is Raven by a huge fallen log. This was our fourth day together and we were already close buddies. We were still joking about not seeing any wildlife but a few flies and a faraway condor.
Here I am climbing around on some aa lava. (You say it "ah-ah." Like "ah-ah" it hurts!) There is another kind of lava called pohoehoe too. Aa lava is rough and broken, but pahoehoe is smooth and ropy. We also saw a feature called a "squeeze-up," where lava squeezed up through dried lava like toothpaste from a toothpaste tube. The area really reminded me of my trip to El Malpais National Monument because of all the lava.
After we finished our hike, we headed back to the Visitor Center. There were a bunch of other kids there also turning in their workbooks. Raven is a little shy, so she hung back until all the other kids had gone. Then, we ran up to the ranger to be sworn in. We were given Sunset Crater badges, but we also got a patch for kids who are junior rangers at both Sunset Crater and Wupatki. Cool!
Sunset Crater was a fun place to visit, but I recommend that you go when it is not a hundred degrees outside- yikes! I hope to go back someday when it's warmer and do some of the other trails. One of the highlights of the day happened while we drove back to our home base in Flagstaff- we saw a ground squirrel run across the road! Raven yelled so her mom would stop the car and we watched the little guy scurry across the road and up the hillside. We saw wildlife! Score!