Geeking Out at Meteor Crater, Arizona [GUEST POST]

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Over the past year and a half, Outbound Adventurer has had a number of influences, but none has been quite so consistent, or quite so motivating, as that of Marie Parks of Ardent Camper. Over the years she’s stepped into a variety of roles, from hiking buddy to cheerleader to geeky enthusiast.

As a full-time RVer trekking across the United States, she has an incredible passion for the great outdoors and never says no to a new adventure. We’re excited to share one of her nerdy tales from the road and hope you enjoy learning all about Meteor Crater in Arizona!

Geeking Out at Meteor Crater, Arizona, a guest post by Ardent Camper

This was not my first crater.

That honor goes to the Civil War battlefield in Petersburg, Virginia. There, Union soldiers exploded a mine under the Confederate troops, creating a devastating gap in their line. The hole in the ground can still be seen today.

The second was at Nicaragua’s Masaya Volcano National Park. There, we peered into the maw of Masaya, itself, an active volcano that constantly spews sulfuric fumes so noxious visitors can only stay a few minutes.

Masaya Volcano with Ardent Camper
Brief grin for the camera, then back to coughing!
But this was my first meteor crater. And, boy, was it a memorable one.

Coming In for Landing

After taking our RV west from New Mexico into Arizona, we stopped near Winslow, a small city on historic Route 66.
We had chosen the spot based on its proximity to Homolovi State Park—an impressive archaeological site that is sacred to the Hopi people—and Petrified Forest National Park.
Winslow and the land around it are unassuming. It’s easy to imagine that, without these landmarks and the prehistoric cosmic event that continues to attract tourists and scientists every year, the area would be incredibly quiet.
Meteor Crater AZ Ardent Camper cow
Is this Arizona or Texas?

Then, as you approach Meteor Crater, what looks like a small mountain rises in front of you.

It’s actually the rim of the crater: the countless tons of rock and dirt pushed upward by the powerful impact. It tops out at 148 feet above the surrounding land.

A Diverse History

We reached the visitor center and were greeted by a test capsule used by NASA’s Apollo crews. The astronauts trained here because it was deemed relatively similar to the moon’s cratered surface.

Meteor Crater AZ NASA Apollo Test Capsule
It’s even smaller than our RV!

Once inside, we watched a brief film about the meteor, how it formed the crater, and the scientific importance of the site.

Not only is Arizona’s Meteor Crater the best preserved crater of its type in the world, but it’s where scientists first verified the existence of craters caused by meteors, as opposed to volcanoes or other forces. Like Union gunpowder.

Even if you don’t take a guided tour (included in admission), there is a self-guided tour with three observation decks outfitted with telescopes.

Meteor Crater AZ Marie Standing on Rim
View from the top of the observation deck.

Incomprehensible Magnitude

Only from atop of its rim can the crater’s scale start to be appreciated.

Meteor Crater was created 50,000 years ago (that’s in the time of the woolly mammoths) by a meteor 160 feet across zipping towards the ground at somewhere between 28,000 and 45,000 miles per hour. But, I mean, really, what’s the difference at that speed?

Meteor Crater is 570 feet deep and more than 7/10ths of a mile across. In comparison, the Washington Monument is 555 feet tall.

Walking around its circumference (2.4 miles) is almost the equivalent of walking around the campus of my alma mater, Rice University.

In the base of the crater, you could fit 20 football fields, and its sloping walls could accommodate 2 million cheering fans.

It’s almost impossible to convey this digitally, but here are some photos that might help.

This is a view of the crater from the rim.

Meteor Crater AZ Viewed from the Rim
There’s another observation deck pictured here

Look for a patch of white in the floor of the crater.

This area is a sectioned-off old mine shaft used to dig for the meteorite. Turns out most of the meteorite was vaporized in the impact, so there wasn’t much to find.

The next shot is zoomed in on the mine shaft.

Meteor Crater AZ Zoomed on Mine Shaft
Still mighty far away

See a bit of color in the right corner of the fence around the mine shaft?

Look through a telescope, and this is what you see.

Meteor Crater AZ Astronaut Telescope
Hi there!

The flag is 3’x5′, and the astronaut is 6′ tall.

For another idea of scale, here’s the label on another telescope.

Meteor Crater AZ House Size Rock
The big one. Relatively speaking.

Even More to Discover

After checking out the view from the observation decks, we headed inside to the exhibit hall. There are plenty of cool interactives to accompany information about Meteor Crater and meteorites throughout our solar system.
Great for kids and kids-at-heart
Great for kids and kids-at-heart
With our stay at Meteor Crater’s RV park, we each got $2 off admission. Considering the full price was $18 per adult, this didn’t put much of a dent in the cost. The steep price was the only aspect of Meteor Crater that disappointed us.
Meteor Crater AZ Humphreys Peak Flagstaff
View from Meteor Crater to the west: the tallest mountain in Arizona, Humphreys Peak
All in all, we had a great time and are glad we had the chance to see this impressive site, where scientists’ understanding of impact craters caused by meteorites was born.

Marie-Ardent-CamperMarie Parks is a full-time traveler who works remotely on the road. She and her husband sold their house in 2014, bought an RV and haven’t looked back. Their blog, Ardent Camper, chronicles their journey and provides inspiration and instruction for people interested in shedding their rooted life and going nomadic.

In addition to following their blog, you can also connect with them on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest and Instagram.

Interested in guest posting for Outbound Adventurer? Send a letter of inquiry to admin [at] outboundadventurer [dot] com.

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