With our new bimonthly schedule for magazine releases it is hard to believe that the final part of last year’s vacation is just now being put out to readers. Still excited about our success at Holbrook we had one more day at Meteor Crater and it was finally time to run up the road and see it. We had planned to visit some other sites in the immediate area of the crater and had on our return from Holbrook checked off one of those. But we would try to see a couple others after visiting the crater today.
The crater opens at 8 AM and we were there not too much after that. The first rim hike was scheduled for 9:15 AM and we had enough time before that to go out and see the crater and get some first pictures. It had been longer between visits for me than in any other time since I became an adult. So I was eager to go around the corner of the building and get that first peek of the big hole. It never disappoints, I still find it breathtaking to stand on the edge of Meteor Crater. With my acrophobia Paul gets a kick out of watching me creep onto the platform that hangs out over the crater. I think I caught him taking pictures of me but am not sure. I hope he never shows them to anyone. But it is Meteor Crater and I suck up my fear and get out there to look around. We grabbed a lot of pictures from down low and then climbed to the telescope on the rim top. We took more pictures from there. Then we headed inside to wait for the rim hike to start. I had noticed that the trail is now black topped and takes a little different route. I think it is great that they have done this. It will make it much more accessible to people who before might have been hesitant to try the hike on the rough dirt trail. Yes it is a little intrusive to the natural look of the rim. But, in the end I think it will preserve the crater and allow more use without damage.
This was the original museum building on the rim. It burnt down back in the middle of the last century. We got a chance to talk to the guide before the hike since we were first to come and wait by the door. He asked where we were from and if we had been to the crater before. We told him “Los Angeles and yes we had been there many times.” He was a good guide, humorous and had all his facts correct. We got many more great pictures. I had a nice digital camera the last time we were there, but it had no zoom. This time I was equipped with my 18x zoom Nikon. It let me really reach out and touch the subjects I was photographing. The early morning shots were poorly illuminated in certain areas. But, as the time moved on the lighting got better and I could get nice close ups of every part of the opposite wall and crater floor.
Paul has a newer iPhone then I do. His has a rather wonderful camera in it. He was taking panoramas using an app that he had. One of them is show above. Technology has just gotten so much more advanced since I was at the crater last. Trying to do a good panorama shot was such a pain before. Now it is point and let the camera click. Now you can take seamless shots without any hassle as many as you want in a few seconds. The pictures can have as many layers as you want including a complete half sphere around where you are standing. We got more pictures after the rim hike and I took as many telephoto shots as I could think of. I never know when I might need a new one for an article or book. We returned inside and went through the museum. It is nice, but not a lot had changed since the last time we were there. We headed to the Subway for a sandwich and chips. After lunch it was souvenir time. I got a poster made from the old USGS aerial negative. I have made many prints from my copy of the negative. Unfortunately I no longer have a darkroom so there will not be any more pictures. I have thought about having the negatives scanned but they may be available as digital files directly from the USGS at this point I have not checked that out. The poster is very nice and I will use it somehow in connection with my display of Canyon Diablo meteorites and crater materials. It was finally time to bid the crater goodbye. We wanted some pictures from the dirt road on the west side of the crater. So I took the 4×4 down the road stopping every little bit to take more shots. Paul took a few panoramas over there. A truck came by to check on what we were doing while we were there. As it turned out the driver was the guide who had led our hike out on the north rim trail. He said he was out there to make sure we were not hunting meteorites. There are new signs prohibiting meteorites hunting since I was there last. These are all inclusive signs for all property owners not individual signs for each type of land parcel.
I went down the road far enough to try and get some shots of the buildings near the silica mine on the south slope. I got some pretty nice pictures but there was some loss of sharpness at over a mile from the subject on the extreme telephotos.
Even I had to eventually say I took all the pictures I needed and we headed back toward the RV park. We wanted to stop at the Nininger Museum ruin. But the road is now closed with a locked heavy swing arm steel gate. I was a little upset that I no longer had access to part of Route 66 as an American citizen. But if the ruin is on private property then I guess there is little we can do as a small group of people interested in the history of the structure. But, Paul and I did get down to one somewhat historic location. I had wanted to try and visit the site of Sunshine Station for many years. It was the railroad stop for the crater in the very early years. Volz’s trading post was there and he was the first man to do major selling of the Canyon Diablo irons. It was from Sunshine that the unsubstantiated shipping of irons to El Paso for smelting would have been done. We slipped off onto the dirt road the first afternoon returning from Holbrook. There was plenty of old junk and debris at the site. Long sections of rolled and riveted pipe the same as that at the crater lay around the location. More old weathered wood than I have seen in a while. Old footings and cut off steel bars continue their struggle to remain above the ground. I did not know the exact location of Volz’s trading post so I cannot say if the remains we saw were from it or just the railroad platform. Still it was another location removed from my “must go to someday” list.
A couple shots from the location of Sunshine Station near Meteor Crater. Lots of artifacts laying around testify there was something there for a long time. Now it is just an undercrossing of the railroad and nothing more. We were turning in the 4×4 the next day back at Flagstaff. We had planned to spend a night at Franconia and do some stargazing. But, the temperature that was to be warm in the high 80s had changed to a projected high nineties. We probably would not be able to get the motorhome to the strewnfield and would just park off I-40 a mile or so. This had been a vacation of many changes since we first planned it so another change did not bother either of us much. We made a mutual decision to drive on through to Barstow after dropping off the rental car in Flagstaff. It was a longer drive on Tuesday but we would have one of our Favorite RV parks to stay in and electricity and air conditioning. We would be near one of our favorite restaurants for dinner and we could have movie night one more time. We had arranged to return the car later in the day but that was when we were only driving to Franconia. We got up earlier and arrived at the rental car location at 8:10 just after they opened. We were back on the road a few minutes later. After the fabulous trip we had we were not very sad about it ending. But, we had a few more things to do before we said goodbye to Vacation 2012. We got to Barstow in the early afternoon and started relaxing in the shaded spot they assigned us to. We had noticed when we were working with the magnetic material collected from the Holbrook anthills a tremendous number of tiny glassy spheres. They ranged in size from only a few microns to over 300 microns. I had brought several of my geological sieves and we had sorted by size a small amount of the glass material. We decided that we needed digital microscopes to photograph the meteorites and spheres and that we should find someone to tell us about the material. Basically, we wanted to know if this was industrial waste or the remains of the smoke and dust cloud from the Holbrook fireball. It resembled in much detail the descriptions of micrometeorite particles and fallout debris from other events. But, to enlist help with our questions we needed to take some micrographs. We had not bought any toys in a long time so it was onto the internet for a search of all the best recommended digital microscopes. It took us about three hours to find one we really liked. It had a nice articulated stand that was sold separately. At an actual five megapixels it was a really great microscope. It was not long after we made the decision that two microscopes and stands were ordered for delivery in about five days. Since getting the microscopes we have had nothing but fun photographing all our Holbrooks and the glass spheres. Some of the pictures in the prior two articles were taken with the microscopes. Since then many of the photos in the gallery on meteorite.com were taken with it too.
Another of my Holbrook finds with a broken clay covered surface. Nice fusion crust with contraction cracks. Research we did upon getting home was difficult but we did find a couple mentions of the glassy spheres abundant at Holbrook. And just as we wondered they seem to be related to the railroad and the coal ash that the trains belched out for decades. There was so much it was hard to believe that it was from the meteorite fall and it was most abundant nearest the railroad tracks. So it took three articles to fully write on our vacation and it has been six months since we took the trip. But it was a fantastic time that needed the coverage. We have already begun planning for the next vacation. We have new cameras and are getting equipment together to do some astrophotography. We will not attempt to make it better than the last one. We just go and have fun and see the desert and try to find meteorites and gaze at the stars. Somehow it always works out that we have a great time.