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The trail starts in the parking lot and is a climb of about 160 feet on a mountain of cinders. It is a strenuous half mile. Take sturdy shoes, water, and wear sun protection.
The Big Craters hiking trail ascends a cinder cone complex with a nested set of vents around 2,400 years old. Cinder cones are built up explosively, much as a shaken pop bottle explodes when the lid is removed. The cinders are the result of this frothy lava. Since they cooled so quickly, a glass formed on the surface that operates much like a glass prism in separating the colors.
The Big Craters cinder cone complex consists of at least 9 nested vents and cones. In fact, one of the smallest of the bunch can be seen at the coordinates listed in the bottom of a larger cinder cone. Also visible are swipes of red and black running up the cinder cone walls. Where did these colors originate? The lava rock is rich in iron, and if steam from the eruption were to bathe certain parts of the cinder cone, those cinders would, in fact, rust. What you see is hematite, an iron oxide. This is the same effect you would see on a bike that rusted when left out in the rain.
Inside the crater designated by the coordinates on the far left side, some bathtub rings left by the lava are visible. At one point, the lava was as high as that outcrop of rocks towards the bottom of the crater. Eventually that lava drained or was sprayed up with the rest of the explosion.
To earn credit for this EarthCache, e-mail your answer to the question below and indicate how many people were in your party.
Q. The opposite crater rim (NE) is taller than the rim at the coordinates indicated. Why might one side be taller?
The Blue Dragon flow, 2,100 years old, had multiple vents including those at the base of Big Craters on the south and east sides. The Big Craters flows erupted from a fissure on the north side between Big Craters and North Crater.
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