Saturday, January 01, 2011

Hike to Some Flagstaff Craters in the Snow

Flagstaff is surrounded by volcanic cones and craters. There are approximately 600 of them in the San Francisco Volcanic Field alone. I listened to my wife who encouraged me to forgo a day of writing (indoors) and  go out with three friends and hike a bit around some craters (outdoors). She's very smart that way. Here are the photographs from our hike.

Our intention was to hike to the top of SP Crater but the drifts of snow were too large to crash through. So we looked to the north and found this crater with access. Views of SP Crater would be had from here.

Once on the side of our chosen crater we could look to the west and see SP. That's it with the partial shadow on its northern flank. SP Crater was recently dated at about 4,000 years old, quite a bit younger than a previous date from the 1970's. A resistant carapace of agglutinate - red hot spatter that welds on impact - can be seen capping its crest. A lava flow spilled from its northern base.....

.....and this is the distal end of that same flow, which is about 4 miles in length.

The views everywhere were spectacular. Here is a shot to the south showing the San Francisco Peaks strato-volcano in the left distance and Colton Crater with a deep shadow on the right background. The snow seemed to bring out the color and textures of the various flows and ash beds.
Looking to the west northwest is Mesa Butte, which erupted along a fault line of the same name. The picture is small but to the right of Mesa Butte in the far background in Red Butte, located just south of Grand Canyon's South Rim. The air quality was spectacular this New Year's day.

The crater we walked had wonderful rocks and wind-swept Mormon tea shrubs.

Here you can see the pyroclasts that were ejected from the vent during the eruption. The textures on the pyroclasts was quite fresh and I suspect that this crater might be similar in age to SP Crater. The lichens that grew on the rocks was brilliant orange and lime green.

The snow accentuated angular lines and inviting shapes. Not that far removed from the winter solstice, the shadows were long providing much contrast.

The crater was linear in outline from north to south and I suspect that the eruptions began as a curtain of fire along a fissure. There seemed to be a few cirques on either side of the elongation and I wonder if a few cones coalesced to make this single landform. Look at the San Francisco Peaks in the background, heavy with snow in this La NiƱa winter.

Another view of Mesa Butte. I want to hike this famously named crater next.

There must have been 500 Babbitt-owned cows near the water tank on the way out to the crater. That was one cold night for these cows.

1 comment:

  1. Not a bad way to spend your day. I was up on SP a few weeks ago without the snow and the view was fantastic. You're right the snow seems to add a greater sense of depth and richness to the landscape. Here's wishing you and Helen a great new year. Frank (MNA)


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