The hike along the Ubehebe Crater rim trail was great fun. The trail was mild, about 1.5 miles long, with a great view throughout. The whole time you trek on black lava surface.
The photo was taken from the highest part of the rim, the south rim. This is also the steepest part of the crater, so watch your footings. In the left of the photo is the parking area. You can also see the trail to the bottom of the crater. That would be another interesting hike but I didn't try.
Ubehebe Crater turned out to be the hightlight of my visit to Death Valley. The landscape was one of a kind, and the hike was interesting. The attached is an aerial photo of the Ubehebe Crater, reproduced from an interpretive display at the parking lot. You can clearly see Ubehebe and the smaller craters next to it. Also all the rim trails are in your line of sight.
The bottom of Mini Crater shows a different color (brown dirt) from the crater itself (black lava). A thin layer of brown dirt was carried down by the rain, then dried and cracked by the sun. Around the rim walls new plants start to grow from the harsh, barren lava land.
The photo shows Ubehebe Crater as seen from the parking lot. It's a volcanic crater, not an impact crater. It measures half a mile wide, and about 750 feet deep from the deepest part. The explosion was estimated to have happened about 1,000 years ago, making it very young in geological time.
With a circumference of 1.5 miles, Ubehebe Crater sits in the Northern third of the Park. Although the hike around the rim is a good because you can look back at all the fools who never leave the parking lot, the hike to bottom of the crater altogether different. Again devoid of people, I set out for the bottom of the crater 500 feet below the rim after hiking around the massive crater. With the sound of Crystal Method's "Vegas" blaring in my headphones, I scrambled down lose volcanic rock that gave way under foot.
The heat of the day was on me as I reached the crater floor and complete silence came over me as track three ended. I felt absolute peace, absolute quiet and then a slight breeze swept over me as the oscillating sounds of a keyboard on the next track (Higher Roller) started to play...then the words..."this transmission is coming to you"..."this transmission is coming to you"..."we've got it"..."this transmission is coming to you"...."we've got it"....."we've got it"..."alright you are go"...."alright you are go"...."alright you are go"...."ah, we see the Earth now"..."we've got it"....."ah, we see the Earth now"
As track five continued, I started having that out-of-body experience sort of feeling, like I was on another planet. My second thought was, man, I wish I had some weed. That moment at the bottom of Ubehebe Crater was one of the most peaceful and inspirational moments in my life. A natural high induced by the combination of music and sight of the landscape before me, standing at the bottom of this massive crater, formed thousands of years ago, the warm November sun light on my face, the music resonating in my headphones, the timing of track four, the sense of accomplishment hiking to the bottom, the emptiness of Death Valley, the absence of other people; all of that combined to make a moment in my life that defines the feeling one gets about travel to remote places. It makes you feel like you're the only the person on Earth...and you are small, very small...
The Ubehebe Crater is situated in the north of the Valley and it's quite a drive to get there. But if you plan to see Scotty's Castle then Ubehebe is only 8 miles away from the castle. The crater was formed by a massive vulcanic steam explosion a few thousand years ago. There is a trail to the bottom of the cone.
Ubehebe Crater is thought to be the result of a relatively recent cryptovolcanic eruption. It formed probably a few thousand years ago when magma rose close to the earths surface and caused ground water to flash into steam. It must have been quite an explosion as the crater is 2,000 feet across and 750 feet deep. It's possible to hike down into the crater.
There was a great smattering of plantlife along the trail into the crater. That was a great surprise! No matter where one goes, life persists...
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