of the previous post. Today we would have the chance to explore a little bit. We had spent the night at the Black Canyon Group Campground at Hole in the Wall within the Mojave National Preserve, but had arrived in the dark and couldn't see much. We awoke at an ungodly hour since the sun was our alarm clock (I had no idea the sun was rising so early these days). In the space of an hour, our group of 34 people would need to pack their gear, load the vans, eat a quick breakfast, and prepare their lunch.
Soon the danger is apparent. The hills to the east are covered by a rapidly moving ground-hugging cloud. The heat is not yet felt, but the sounds are heard. The animals try to escape to the west, but there is no escape; the cloud is moving at more than 100 miles per hour, faster than any animal can run. The animals are overwhelmed and incinerated. The entire landscape is buried a few hundred feet deep in powdery ash and chunks of rock carried along in the inferno. The rock was so hot as it landed that it hardened into solid rock immediately, becoming a welded tuff.
In your mind anyway, you have just witnessed something that no modern human has ever seen, the eruption of a giant rhyolite caldera, a literal civilization ender. Similar eruptions produced the depressions at Yellowstone National Park, Jemez Caldera in New Mexico, and Long Valley Caldera at Mammoth Lakes, California. The layers of ash are called the Peach Springs tuff. Another way of understanding the scope of this eruption is to realize that the village of Peach Springs from which the tuff takes its name is about one hundred miles to the east.
Providence Mountains State Recreational Area is only a few miles away, with the beautiful jewel of Mitchell Caverns as a main attraction. It was the first casulty of the state's stupid policy of closing state parks instead of promoting them. There are some last second machinations going on to try and keep most of the parks open, but it is too late for Providence Mountains; the last two rangers retired, and expensive repairs to the water system were needed. They closed the park last year. They abandoned it, and the worst has already happened: vandals have done grevious damage to the park facilities.
I noticed some dry blood on the rocks while I was in the slot canyon. I thought maybe an owl was a bit sloppy while consuming the night's catch, but when I got back to the parking area, I found that the blood actually belonged to one of my students. The day was getting complicated...