Sunday, April 15, 2018

Amboy Crater

J and L often think that all we need to do is to look in our own backyards for new adventures and exploration. We truly believe this, and a recent weekend outing proved that assertion to be true.

On the way home from Bullhead City, Arizona, J and L decided to venture off Interstate 40 westbound and strike out along a portion of old Route 66, near Amboy. Amboy was once a famous, or perhaps infamous, little burg that was once the stopping place for weary travelers traveling west toward California from places to the east - way east.

A relaxing respite from day and night travel; what better place to spend a few minutes, a few hours or even a night to catch up on energy spent on the road?

Harrison Ford cruising Amboy
But this blog is not about the town of Amboy, although the town is actually making quite a comeback. Roy's Diner is open seven days a week, as more and more tourists stop to take photos where numerous films and commercials were shot. As a matter of fact, the sign for the restaurant is a 1959 addition to the property, the same year the film, Journey to the Center of Earth was filmed, in part, in Amboy. Rutger Hauer's cult classic, The Hitcher was filmed here in 1986; and Brad Pitt and David Duchovny were hanging around Roy's during the filming of Kalifornia in 1993. Casting no aspersions on the place, most recently Amboy has served as the locations for more than a few B-rated horror flicks.

On a lighter note, the area served as the backdrop for Enrique Iglesias' music video Hero, as well as the cover art in 2008 for Rush's album Snakes & Arrows Live. And, local legend has it (and autographed photos in the diner tend to add credence) that Harrison Ford is a frequent visitor, landing his personal place at a nearby strip -- the oldest in California.
This story is about that - the Amboy Crater, let's go
Pretty impressive for a place in the middle of nowhere, little Amboy has quite a history but again, this is about the Amboy Crater.

Middle of nowhere - not quite - a lot happening in this part of Route 66
The Mojave Desert is an amazing source of research and exploration. The cinder cone of the Amboy Crater is believed to be about 80,000 years old with periodic eruptions ending ten thousand years ago. A very active part of the Mojave Desert has similar but not as definitive cones (areas sunken with remaining side walls of material encircling the actual eruption site) as the Amboy Crater.

That little volcanic area that erupted in the Mojave Desert is what placed Amboy on the historical map. While ten thousand years in geologic time is like yesterday, we are glad it wasn't yesterday since J and L live in the Mojave Desert; and that would be awkward and potentially life threatening. Seriously though, Southern California is known for earthquakes but not so much for the volcanic activity which once proliferated all around the Golden State. With tectonic plate shifting comes the chance of volcanoes erupting here and there and Southern California just happens to be in the 'here' area.
This baby isn't going to blow any time soon - we hope!

Of course, most if not all volcanoes in the Mojave Desert are inactive - which is simply a geologist's way of saying: "I don't think anything will blow up soon around here. Oh wait, I have a plane to catch."

Hundreds if not thousands of visitors come to this remote area to walk, hike, and explore the area which is like stepping back into time.

There is a short area of smooth walking but most is over level rocky trails
The actual material was layer upon layer spewed up out of the earth over eons and consists mainly of pahoehoe which is a Hawaiian term (Hawaiians being the notable volcano experts) for smooth or unbroken lava.

This basaltic lava has a smooth, billowy, undulating or ropy surface. That happens when the lava below the surface is still very fluid, like molasses, but the top is quickly congealing so the lava path has a chance to stretch out and become smoother, often forming tunnels. The temperatures at the time of formation are a cooling two thousand degrees Fahrenheit. No matter what, the surface around the crater is crammed with hardened rock that, to the naked eye, may not appear to be particularly smooth. But J and L aren't geologists and only look at things as they appear. Smooth and billowy - nope. Hardened and at one time dangerous to walk on - yep.

This looks pretty hard for both bipedal and quadrupedal creatures.
At the ridge line of the cone, nearly 250 feet above the rest of the lava-strewn valley, the views of the desert are amazing -- a delight for photographers and artists who want to capture the reality of a violent past to a peaceful present.

The moon, right?
Walking into the crater allows the explorer a chance to look around at a surface that could be compared to that of the moon. Sandy, rocks here and there, but most notable is the silence. Yes, the wind does blow but when it stops so does everything else for a moment. When that quietness engulfs the crater you feel as if you are on another world. This is definitely the place to go if the adventurer is out in the Mojave Desert driving down Route 66 and just happens to pass a sleepy depot known as Amboy. Stop and have a bite at Roy's but don't forget that strange-looking thing just south-west standing against the backdrop of the Mojave Desert. Take a stroll to the Amboy Crater and realize that stroll has now
brought you to where the past meets the future.

Pretty steep walls - makes the place quiet

As we've said many times, we relish the thought of seeing things in your own backyard. It can be fascinating as we found out by simply getting off of the state highway and taking a two lane road home.

Sit a spell and learn about the area of Amboy

A little time consuming? Perhaps, absolutely worth it when we realized we've experienced something thousands of drivers will never see driving westbound on Interstate 40 heading to the Pacific. Taking a philosophical page from Miriam Beard: "Travel is more than the seeing of sights; it is a change that goes on, deep and permanent, in the ideas of living."

That is the human spirit - go to the mountain and learn what is there to be learned. Just the experience is worth the travel.

Midnight, what better place to be than here?