I don’t want to brag or anything, but I hiked inside a volcano today.
We packed up the Covered Wagon with a few days of food and clothes, and when we finished with work, we drove a long, long way. Then, when we woke up, we drove for even more whiles. When Mom finally let me out to sniff around, I was expecting something really awesome like mountains, or Dr. Seuss trees, or rocks that looked like they were covered in wrapping paper. But when I looked around, all I could see were naked mountains in the distance, and all around us was ugly, empty sand, black sponge-rocks and a great, big, ugly, black pile of dirt hundreds of feet high. “We drove all that way for this?!” I asked, sniffing around for pee, or food, or a critter, or anything interesting at all.
“We’re going to hike to a crater!” Mom said.
“A crater?! Like from a meteor from space?!” I looked around at the flatness around me with new eyes. Maybe this was where the crater was that bombed the dinosaurs. Maybe this crater was SO BIG that the edges of it just looked like mountains.
“No, not that kind of crater. A volcano crater.”
“Well that sounds exciting too!” I said, still looking around for where the excitement was hiding in all this boringness. “I can’t wait to know what lava smells like! Where’s the volcano? It must be very far away, because I can’t see it.”
“It’s right there,” Mom said, pointing toward the enormous pile of black dirt.
“What? Behind the dirt?”
“It is the dirt pile. Well, it’s called a cinder cone, so I guess they’re cinders.”
“Trapezoid, Mom,” I corrected her. “That shape is called a trapezoid. But where’s the lava?”
“There is no lava. That’s why we get to go inside.”
This all sounded like a bunch of nonsense to me, but we’d come all this way, and when the leash comes off after a long wagon ride, I’ll run around anywhere, even somewhere as boring and spongey as a giant kitchen sink. After no time at all, we came to a bus stop in the middle of the sand. The bus stop had a bench and a sort of roof, and a sign warning me that because of the extreme heat, hiking wasn’t recommended. “Mom, when we get into the lava in the middle of the volcano, how are we going to not catch on fire?” I asked.
“I told you. There’s no lava in the volcano. The volcano hasn’t erupted in millions of years.”
“This must be the world’s oldest bus stop then,” I said with new respect for the ancient bus stop architects. It was in very good shape.
“This isn’t a bus stop, it’s for people who are too hot and need to sit down. It gets very hot here during the summer.”
“Do you think it gets hot because the lava is coming back and it’s getting ready for another eruption?” I asked, noticing that it was much warmer here than it was at home. But Mom said it didn’t work that way.
We hiked all the way to the tinder trapezoid, which was less than a mile but had 3 bus stops on the way. The black sponge-rocks were everywhere, and in between there was nothing but sand and those wiry desert bushes. NOTHING else. I sniffed around in all the places until I figured out that they all smelled the same. From then on I stood with my nose in the air smelling the scenery and letting the wind flapped through my ears and my grin as I waited for Mom to catch up.
As we got closer to the tinder trapezoid I was surprised to find that it wasn’t made of dirt, but millions and millions of the black sponge-rocks piled up and stuck together. And we could climb up it. We climbed until we got to a notch, and stepped into what seemed like a huge stadium for rocks, and I was the rock star. All around me the sides of the stadium climbed up like a bowl taller than a medium-sized building.
“This is it,” Mom said. “You’re inside a volcano.”
“Volcano? This is more like a bull ring. Where’s the lava?”
“It turned into all of those spiky rocks…” Mom has such an active imagination, but sometimes I wonder if it is really good for her to live in such a fantasy world all the time.
“You’re full of it, Mom. Everyone knows that lava is light-up, and that it looks like the melted chocolate in the candy commercials, not Super Mario bad guys.”
We climbed up to the top of the stadium, and walked around the lip of the bowl until we had walked around the whole volcano. Sometimes it kind of looked like we were on a big tinder balance beam, but luckily I have stupendous coordination and terrific balance so we weren’t in danger. All around we could see where the sponge rocks were waiting outside the tinder trapezoid to get into the stadium, and then the sandy desert, and then Route 66, and beyond that the mountains at the end of the world.
In the woods you always see the same stuff: trees, rocks, dirt, water… over and over in lots of different combinations. But the desert has so many different surprises that woodland and mountain people couldn’t even imagine, like striped rocks, and mitten gods, and canyons, and volcanoes. “Mom, can we stay in the desert for just a little longer before we drive all the way home?” I asked.
“Actually,” Mom said, “I have a little surprise for you…”
“We’re moving to the desert?!” I squealed mannishly.
“No, I don’t think you would appreciate that in the summertime.” Oh yeah, the volcano eruptions. “But we’re going to stay in the desert a little longer. We’re going to explore the desert all the way to New Mexico.”
OMG! We’re going to go stay in the desert in a car-house and be outlaws just like my favorite superhero: Walter White!!!
Oscar the Lavapooch
PS Also, this: