Tag Archives: meteor

Meteor Crater Natural Landmark


I took this photo on the road to the Meteor Crater Natural Landmark complex the first time I tried to visit in 2015.

I’d planned to visit Meteor Crater Natural Landmark once before. I’d taken exit 233 and driven nearly 6 miles to the parking lot. I’d even gone into the visitor center, but when I saw the price of admission, I turned around and left.

I’d budgeted $10 to see this roadside attraction. I probably would have splurged and spent $12, but when I saw the price of admission was $18, I went back to my van and got back on the road. I doubted looking at a crater would be worth $18.

The Lady of the House thought this story was hilarious.

She’d never seen the meteor crater either, but her son, The Boy (now a grown man in his 20s), had visited some years ago on a field trip. The Boy had been quite impressed by the crater during a time in his life when he was not easily impressed. (Upon visiting the Grand Canyon as a child, all The Boy could say was, I hate this stupid Grand Canyon; his favorite part of the trip was the ride on a shuttle bus from the parking lot to a scenic viewpoint.)

He just kept talking about how big it was, The Lady said of her son after his visit to Meteor Crater Natural Landmark.

The crater wasn’t originally on our trip itinerary. We hadn’t planned to be on I-40 at all, but waiting for my van’s water pump to be replaced delayed us by four days. We cut the New Mexico portion of our trip out entirely, which meant we had to get to Utah by a different route.

Since we’d be on I-40, The Lady really wanted to see the meteor crater.

You pay the $10 you budgeted when you stopped before, The Lady told me, and I’ll pay the $8 difference.

I told her it was a deal.

The Meteor Crater website said guided tours were available. I called the Meteor Crater office and found out the guided tours were included in the price of admission. I always like to take a guided tour if it doesn’t cost extra. I find I learn more from a tour guide than I do if I’m left to my own devices reading informational placards.

The night before our visit to the crater, we boondocked off I-40 between Flagstaff and Winslow, just outside Walnut Canyon National Monument. We’d hoped to arrive at the crater in time for the first tour at 9:15 in the morning, but we were running late. In retrospect, we were glad we’d missed the first tour because when we arrived, we still had time to use the (clean) restroom, buy a few souvenirs in the (well-lit, neatly arranged, not overpriced) gift shop, and watch the (entertaining, informative) short documentary IMPACT! The Mystery of Meteor Crater.

This photo shows the entrance to the Meteor Crater Natural Landmark complex.

Before we did any of those things, we had to pay the admission fee.

The worker who greeted us at the door was all smiles. She welcomed us and pointed to the sign above the box office where she said we’d see the prices listed. We already knew the prices (they’re on the internet, as The Lady said to me later, thus a matter of public record), so when The Lady walked up to the box office, she chirped Two, please! and didn’t balk when the ticket seller asked for $36.

A young couple walked in right behind us. I’d noticed them in the parking lot. They looked like neo-hippies, or at least the man did. He had long hair and a big beard and wore baggie pants that probably allowed him to do the sun salutation in the morning and wrap his legs around a djembe at the drum circle at night. The woman looked less like a hippie and more like a Whole Foods athletic urbanite in a tank top and those hiking leggings that are in fashion with women who engage in outdoor sports.

The fellow was talking to the greeter. I wasn’t following their conversation, but I heard the fellow say $18? in surprise. He lady friend echoed $18? in pure disbelief. I thought it was really funny that the couple was having the same reaction I’d had during my first brief visit.

The greeter must have confirmed the $18 admission fee. Then the fellow seemed to be asking if there were a place they could look at the crater for free; I’d had that same thought during my first visit. The greeter must have told them there was no free viewing because the couple left the building.

The Lady and I, however, went deeper into the building. Then we went out a door, up some steps, past the under-construction Astronaut Park, and into another door. We were now in the area housing the Discovery Center, the restrooms, the Subway restaurant, the gift shop, and the theater.

I guess they wanted to get their money’s worth on that graphic, The Lady said.It was on everything from road signs to restroom signs.

First stop: Restrooms.

Second stop: Gift shop where I bought postcards and The Lady bought The Boy a souvenir t-shirt to replace the one he’d bought during his visit and outgrown.

Third stop: Theater where we watched the informative short documentary IMPACT! The Mystery of Meteor Crater.

After the movie was over, it was time for a tour. We fell in with Jake, our tour guide, who took us right out to the edge of the meteor crater. I was glad we’d opted for the tour because visitors don’t get nearly as close without a guide. I was glad the weather was good too because tours are cancelled due to bad weather, including high wind speeds. I was also glad The Lady and I were visiting in spring because in the hot Arizona summer the tours are cut short.

While visitors can see the crater from the observation area (including through a big glass window for the days it’s too hot and/or too windy to go outside) and can get close-up looks through the free telescope views, no one goes out to the edge of the crater without a guide. I’m sure it would be a huge liability issue to have people standing so close to the edge and perhaps trying to climb down into the crater. The people who own the crater (yes, it’s privately owned) must feel safer having a guide keep an eye on people who go where there are no barriers.

We walked out on a short paved path, and there it was to our left—Meteor Crater. The Boy was right; it was big. Other words that came to mind when I saw the crater were huge, massive, immense, and fantastic, yet it’s difficult to put into words or even capture in photographs just how stupendous the crater really is.

We learned from the movie that the floor of the crater is large enough to house 20 football games being played at the same time, while the sloping sides of the crater could accommodate stands big enough to seat 2 million fans. That’s difficult to imagine, even while I was standing right there looking at the crater.

I didn’t quite begin to understand how big the crater is until I looked through one of the observation telescopes. Looking through the telescope, I could see the floor of the crater where a 6’ tall (I later read) cutout of an astronaut stood in front of a chain link fence. The cutout and the fence both looked itty bitty, even through the telescope.

I learned the following information from a brochure we received at the ticket counter: From the viewing platform,

the floor of the crater is 550 feet deep, equivalent to a 60 story building.

The crater is over 4,000 feet across and 2.4 miles in circumference.


Jake the tour guide was very friendly and knowledgeable. He talked about the impact of the meteor that had

The Lady dances with (a cardboard cutout of) an astronaut in the Discovery Center.

created the crater and the process by which the theory that the crater was made by a meteor (not a volcano as originally thought) was proven. The Lady really enjoyed the second stop on our tour—The Rock Table—where Jake did a show-n-tell of how the meteor impacted (my pun—totally intended) the geology of the area surrounding the crater.

After the tour ended, The Lady and I made a quick pass through the Discovery Center. This area had a lot of

information about meteors and space. There were interactive exhibits, like the one letting the visitor lift an earth rock and comparably sized piece of a meteorite to show the difference in their weights. The Discovery Center seemed to do a good job explaining scientific information in ways kids could understand, while still keeping  the exhibits interesting for adults. I wasn’t so excited about the Discovery Center that day after being out in the sun and the wind during our tour, and knowing I still had hours of driving ahead of me, we kept our visit short. However, the Center must be very popular on days when it’s too windy to go outside or during the summer when the heat cuts the tours short.

You’re probably wondering if the entire experience is worth the $18 admission fee. Folks do get a lot for the price of admission, including the guided tour, the opportunity to view the movie, free use of the telescopic viewers, and access to the Discovery Center. Once you’re in, you’re not nickeled and dimed to death. Also, visitors are allowed to bring in water and snacks, or get their hands stamps for reentry and go out to their vehicles to eat and drink. Every part of the operation The Lady and I saw was clean and well-maintained, so no one is slacking on maintenance in order to line pockets. Finally, all of the employees I encountered (including the clerks in the gift shop) were friendly and seemed happy, so I suspect the workers are being paid decent wages. I’m always happy when workers are earning decent money.

So while I can’t say an $18 admission fee is in my budget, I do think the people who pay that amount get good value for their money. For folks interested in space and heavenly bodies in general and meteors and the impact they’ve had on earth in particular, as well as those interested in geology and the history of the earth, Meteor Crater Natural Landmark would be a very interesting attraction. I’m glad I went, and I appreciate The Lady subsidizing my admission fee, but I wouldn’t encourage travelers on tight budgets to give up something else to visit here unless they were huge fans of meteors and the craters they leave behind.

This photo does no justice to how deep and wide Meteor Crater really is.

I took all the photos in this post.

Birth Control


The family arrived first—Mom, Dad, and three kids, ages probably 11, 9, and 18 months. The little one was toddling, not talking. Mom and Dad spoke with accents I couldn’t place, but the kids sounded full-on American. The story I made up about the family was that Mom and Dad were immigrants, but the kids were born in the U.S.A. and learned to speak here.

I liked the family even though the parents had a lot of questions. The oldest child—a girl—was quiet and seemed shy, but the middle kid—a curly-haired blond boy—was friendly, with a ready smile. Mom was funny, while Dad was earnest. They all seemed to dote on the baby, who toddled around on his short, chunky legs all through the questioning and check-in.

The young couple arrived later. They’d made reservations in advance. They were both somewhere in their mid-20s to early 30s, and the man, thin with tattoos on his hands and forearms, was driving the car, a Lexus. The woman had short hair that was obviously bleached.

They immediately had needs. They’d hoped for a bit more privacy. Could they move to a different site? I did my best to accommodate them. I wanted to like them, but I really didn’t.

The arrivals were on Friday afternoon, after I’d finished working at the parking lot. After everyone was checked in, I ate my dinner and hunkered down in my van. As usual, I was asleep before 9pm.

Also as usual, I was awake and moving early the next morning. I’d already cleaned the restrooms and was cooking my breakfast when the young man with the tattoos strode into my campsite.

I said good morning and he said something along the lines of How ya doin’?

I said I was doing great, that I’d had a good night’s sleep…

He interrupted to say I was lucky, that he hadn’t had a good night’s sleep.

I ask him if the cold had kept him awake. (People from the hot lowlands aren’t always prepared for the chilly mountain nights.)

He said the baby had kept him up all night. He said the baby had cried for two hours straight. He said the baby had cried every half hour.


I hadn’t heard the baby cry even once, not even with the back and side windows of the van open all night.

The young man with the tattoos asked me if the family with the baby were staying another night. I told him they’d been undecided about how many nights they wanted to stay when they checked in, but I’d know their plans for the night later in the morning. He said if the baby were staying, he might find another place to sleep. I don‘t know if he was hoping I’d offer him a refund if he decided to leave or if he wanted me to tell him his reservation was transferable to another campground. (Reservations aren’t transferable between campgrounds, and I’m not authorized to give anyone a refund, EVER, so I didn’t make him either of those offers.) All I offered was to let him know if the family with the baby decided to stay another night.

After I’d eaten and cleaned up the breakfast dishes, I talked to the family with the baby about their plans. They had decided to stay another night. As soon as I left their campsite, I told the man with the tattoos of their decision.

When I got back from the parking lot around 3:30, the Lexus was parked on the campsite of the man with the tattoos, and the tent was still set up, two indications that they’d decided to stay.

I went about my life, did my paperwork, ate my dinner. There was a lot of activity in the campground, kids running around, music playing. It wasn’t dark out when I got in the van, and I was probably asleep before 9pm again.

Sometime later, I awoke to a light knock on my van. At first I thought I’d dreamed the knock, but when I said Yes? someone outside responded.

My solar lantern had run out of power before I fell asleep, so I had to grope around in the dark to find clothes to put on. When I opened my curtain, I saw the women with the short bleached hair standing outside my van.

She said they didn’t know what to do. The baby was crying again, and she and the man with the tattoos couldn’t sleep. (At no time during our conversation did I hear the baby cry.) She said the baby had kept them up the night before and was now keeping them awake again. She said they wanted to be polite, but didn’t know what to do.

I told her I wasn’t sure what to do either, as I’d never had a crying baby in my campground or in my personal life.

She said she and the man with the tattoos didn’t have kids either. As I suspected!

She suggested the parent(s) sit in the car with the crying baby.

I said I would speak to the parents, although I had no idea what I was going to say. I was fairly certain

  1. The parents knew the baby was crying
  2. The parents didn’t enjoy being kept awake by the baby’s crying
  3. The parents were doing everything in their power to stop the baby’s crying and get him to sleep

I had no idea if it were within my rights as a camp host to ask the parents to shut their crying baby in a car because he was keeping other campers awake. The whole situation reminded me of that episode of M*A*S*H where Hawkeye is on a packed bus and they’re in danger of the enemy finding them and one lady has a noisy chicken and Hawkeye pressures her to silence it so she smothers it, only it wasn’t a chicken, it was a baby, but Hawkeye represses the truth until the kindly psychiatrist gets Hawkeye to face the truth so his healing can begin. (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Goodbye,_Farewell_and_Amen)

In any case, the woman with the short bleached hair left, and I put on my uniform. (I’m not big on uniforms, but nothing says official business like brown polyester blend pants.) When I looked at my watch, it was 12:40 in the morning. I dug around and found a flashlight so I could find my way in the dark. At no time during my preparations did I hear the baby make any noise.

astronomy, comet, constellationWhen I stepped out of m van, the sky was lovely. Within the frame made by the tops of the tall trees, I saw stars filling the heavens. As I looked up, a meteor shot across the sky. Wow! I don’t think I’d been outside late at night since I got to my campground, so it was a real blessing to be there at precisely the right moment to witness the shooting star.


I didn’t hear the baby crying, and I thought it would be silly to go onto the family’s campsite to ask them to quiet their silent baby. What if the baby had just passed out for the night, and I woke him? What if the young couple were crazy and hallucinating a baby crying? I didn’t think I should say anything unless I heard the baby cry with my own ears.


I sat down near the restrooms and listened while enjoying the starry sky. I didn’t hear a single sound coming from a human of any age. I sat there for fifteen minutes and listened to the silence of the night. Then I decided to go back to my van and go to bed.

I closed the door of the van as quietly as I could because I didn’t want to wake the (hopefully) sleeping baby. I got out of my uniform and back into my bed. Of course, I was wide awake, but I just lay there, waiting for the baby to cry.

It was so quiet, I could hear a car pass on the road on the other side of the trees surrounding the campground. affection, baby, birthThe baby must have heard it too, because he let out one long wail. Then he fell silent, and that was the last I heard of him until morning.

The baby did start howling, screaming, wailing, crying around seven in the morning. It wasn’t continual, but it was consistent. I thought I heard the young man with the tattoos shout his disbelief and frustration with the kid, but I could have misinterpreted what I heard, if it was actually the young man with the tattoos I heard shouting. I was supersensitive, afraid he was going to march over to me and accuse me of not having done anything the night before or demand I do something to stop the current baby noise. He didn’t come over, and he didn’t pack up and leave, so things must not have been too bad for him.

I went to the parking lot as early as I could, eager to escape any conflict that might be brewing. When I returned to the campground around three o’clock, I was met with blissful silence. Everyone had cleared out (check-out time is noon), except for the folks on site #1 who were staying over one more night.

As I was eating my dinner, the woman from site #1 came over to ask some questions about the route they should take to their next destination. I asked her if she’d heard the baby cry, and she said yes. She told me she is a nanny in Berkley, and while she loves the kids she works with, she had been looking forward to time away from children. She seemed to be taking a just my luck attitude to the inclusion of a crying baby during the first leg of her vacation. She wondered if she’d have to deal with kids during her whole trip.

I told her I didn’t think the crying baby had any sort of karmic retribution aimed at her. I told her I thought the universe had sent the crying baby as a means of birth control for the tattooed man and the short haired women, as they were obviously not ready to deal with being up all night with a child of their own. The nanny laughed, but I hope the crying baby did his job and kept those two from reproducing. They just didn’t seem ready for the annoyances of parenthood.

Images courtesy of https://www.pexels.com/photo/astronomy-comet-constellation-cosmos-631477/ and https://www.pexels.com/photo/affection-baby-birth-black-and-white-266055/.