This was our day for un-packaged travel.
After the standard-issue buffet breakfast (this was the last such thing included in our package) we headed off to Meteor Crater, about 65 miles east of Williams. This is a place I’d wanted to see for a long time. I had thought I’d read about it as a kid, but according to what we heard while we were there, it wasn’t officially recognized as having been caused by a meteor impact till the 60s. Hmm.
At any rate, the prairie scenery along the way was spectacular. There was a winter storm swirling around us, and the combination of wide open spaces, distant mesas and clouds… well, I just hope my tape of the trip turned out, that’s all I can say, because there’s no good way to describe it. At one point, the tape captured the radio broadcasting in Navajo, too.
Since it was cold and extremely windy with snow in the air, there weren’t many other people at the crater, which suited us just fine. We started out by listening to a brief presentation from a Navajo guide (who introduced himself to us in proper Navajo fashion, naming his “born to” and “born for” clans) and then watched a film about the creation of the crater and the white-peoples’ explorations in it. I was surprised to hear that the crater and surrounding area are all privately owned, and not a national park.
Then we got to see the crater itself. I have watched many a show on the Discovery Channel (et al) where some geologist or other sits on the rim and talks about meteor impacts and dinosaur extinctions and so forth, but the reality of the place just can’t be captured in something like that. The crater is so big that you just have no sense of perspective at all (something I have found is very common on wide Western vistas of all kinds). At the observation platform, they have several telescopes set up in fixed positions so you can see various landmarks. One of the scopes was pointed at a 6′ tall mannequin in the bottom of the crater. It took me quite a while to pick it out down there without the telescope, but once I did, then I began to be able to put things in perspective.
Although we were down below the rim of the crater and thus somewhat sheltered from the winds (and thus not quite as cold) we still couldn’t stay outside for all that long. We took still photos and video of everything and then headed inside to the museum, which had various space- and meteor-related exhibits, a place where you could stand in front of a photo mural so someone could take a picture of you appearing to be in the bottom of the crater (we passed on that), some interactive exhibits showing where meteor craters are visible on Earth today, and the largest chunk of the original meteorite that’s ever been found (not all that large, but because it’s nickel-iron, over a thousand pounds worth!) After we’d browsed and pushed buttons to our hearts’ content, we walked over to the visitor center’s Subway restaurant for lunch.
And then we browsed the gift shop, where the prices are surprisingly low. Of course, they do charge a fairly stiff admission fee, so maybe that’s why. I got a chunk of fossilized Triceratops bone and a tiny Trilobite in matrix, so I managed to “collect” my two favorite fossils. F’zer bought a beautiful slice of polished agate and a stand to display it, and we also bought a geode that we’ll be able to crack open ourselves one of these days. The shop also had various desert plant seeds for sale and I was going to buy some saguaro cactus seeds but I forgot. Drat.
On the way back to Williams we took a side trip through Flagstaff, which is one place on our list of possible retirement relocations. We spotted the sign for the Lowell Observatory and decided to stop off there, too. I’m glad we did that. Even though it was freezing cold and icy outside, we managed to catch the last guided tour of the day, and we and one other couple had the guide all to ourselves. We saw the wooden telescope domes, and the scopes inside (one was the scope that Clyde Tombaugh used to discover Pluto) and also an exhibit inside another domed building that included replicas of Tombaugh’s original photographic plates and a blink comparator (I hope I’ve got that term right) where you could see the moving dot that turned out to be Pluto.
And then we headed home through darkening skies, had dinner at a local Williams cafe (the town has a surprisingly wide variety of restaurants) and snuggled into bed once again.Hope you'll recommend my posts via your favorite social media. Just don't copy the material as your own.