Sunset Crater (Field Study Part: 1)

Hello friends!

I’m super excited to switch gears a little and introduce something a little different! To give you guys some variety from the London posts I’ve been sharing, I’ve decided it’s time to rotate them with posts from a very different trip that I also took recently.

This past summer, along with spending my time overseas in a posh London flat, I spent two weeks ‘roughing it’ (sort of) across America. A group from local colleges got together for a field study science trip, and we hiked, camped and traveled all over the place! The trip was taxing, (as I am definitely a city girl) but also amazing. Along with all of this traveling, we were required to keep a Field Journal, and I’m looking forward to sharing that here on NTL (shortly, as soon as I scan them in!). I know that I definitely learned a lot, and maybe you’ll learn something new as well!  You don’t always have to travel very far to have life-changing adventures, and I hope that this series proves that,


The first couple days were spent traveling by bus from Rochester, Michigan to Sunset Crater National Monument in Arizona (which is more than 28 hours away). Traveling by bus is NOT the most glamorous way to travel…especially if you get motion sickness, like I didn’t realize I did. We made stops in Mt. Vernon, MO and Albuquerque, NM along the way, and by the time we got to Arizona, we were ready for some fresh air.


Confusingly, Sunset Crater National Monument was actually full of mountains (specifically, volcanoes), and looked absolutely nothing like I had imagined it would. We rolled into the park and were surrounded by gorgeous volcanoes covered with green trees, and incredible solidified lava fields and structures.


We learned how the volcanic mountains were formed by piles of cinder, and how it actually took thousands of years for the soil to become fertile. All the growth we were seeing was relatively new.


Unfortunately, on this trip I was battling a killer combination of cold/flu, motion sickness (that never really went away), and altitude sickness (which resulted in a bit of homesickness), but I didn’t let that stop me. We kicked off our trip with a bang and a 1.6 mile hike on Lenox Crater Volcano. If you’ve never been hiking, it’s so much harder than you might think. Because of the elevation and the altitude, every mile feels like three. I consider myself a fairly active person, but I had no clue, and was grossly under-prepared and under-conditioned. Those first few hikes really kicked my butt (did I mention that I had ‘forgotten’ to break in my new hiking boots?).


Pain and suffering aside, the breathtaking views made it all worth it. The trip was an incredible once-in-a-lifetime (or very few times in a lifetime) experience, and I can’t wait to share the rest with you.

And of course we ended the night with smores at the campsite!


Until next time,



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  1. Funny story about Sunset Crater (to me, anyway): Jeff and I were moving to Phoenix from Kalamazoo, sight-unseen, and we were FLAT BROKE. So when we saw the sign for Meteor Crator off I-40 we took the detour; but when we got there and saw that there was a fee to see this extraordinary work of nature, we didn’t go. That’s right — we drove quite far from our route, got TO Meteor Crator, and DID NOT see it. Lived in Arizona for five years and NEVER saw it, actually. Glad there’s Google Earth!

    1. Wow! That’s too bad! It was really amazing. That makes me think about all of the places in Michigan that I still haven’t seen yet. It’s kind of weird how people almost choose to avoid the awesome things that are right around them. I hope you get to see it some day, it’s pretty magnificent!

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