Here was our driving route from last night's hotel to the Lunar Crater National Natural Landmark, which is a volcanic feature known as a maar located east of Tonopah.
We did not rush out of the hotel this morning, taking advantage of the Hi-Desert Inn's room to have a leisurely breakfast before checking out, refueling the minivan, and setting out east on US-6 on a drive that would take us almost halfway to Ely. US-6 is a high-speed highway here, with a speed limit of 70 mph, and vehicles still passing us even when I could maintain that speed.
As it happens, the turnoff for Lunar Crater is only a short distance from Moore's Station Road, which is how we left Project Faultless in July.
Kuma and I stand in front of the sign at the start of the road that leads south from US-6 to Lunar Crater.
The highway sign says that it is 9 miles from the turnoff. Google says it is about 6.5 miles. The odometer in my minivan makes it somewhere between these two figures.
The Lunar Crater Back Country Byway is a dirt road, and some online reviews make it sound like you need a tank, or least a high-clearance 4WD vehicle (like Lisa's Big Orange Van) to drive it. However, I was able to take the Astro there. The road is annoyingly wash-boarded, so at times I needed to slow down to 15 mph or less to keep from rattling our teeth (and the van's suspension) too much. In other parts, the road smoothed out, but that was because it got a bit soft, and in those cases it was wise to speed up, lest we risk getting bogged down.
After about 30 minutes, we found ourselves at the rim of the crater.
This site gets its name because in 1972, it was used to train Apollo 16 and 17 astronauts to recognize volcanic features that they expected to find on the moon. I had never heard of a maar before researching this trip, but there are apparently several of them in this area. Have a look on Google Maps for this area, and in the overview, you can see quite a few volcanic craters that are not quite so obvious from ground level. Lunar Crater is just the largest of them.
The road skirts the crater's edge for part, but not all, of its circumference, and we drove around it taking photos at different places.
Lisa took most of the photos on her Sony camera, but I took a few with my camera phone.
This led to this series of her taking photos of me taking photos of her.
These striking geological features to the east of the crater in the distance turned out rather nicely with the maximum zoom on the Sony, I thought.
We ate lunch here at the crater, but we had to do so from inside the minivan. The wind was swirling around us most of the time we were here, and I had to hold on to my hat to keep it from being sent flying off to Ely.
Just before we left, we hiked over to this bench and sat for a short time in the wind to contemplate the crater.
Assuming you can click through this and Flickr lets you see it, the above should be a panoramic video I took on my camera phone of the crater while standing near the bench from the previous photos.
The road continues south from the crater and apparently eventually runs back into the Extraterrestrial Highway (NV-375), but some sources suggest that the road gets more difficult to the south, so we decided to go back the way we came.
Between the two of us, we took a lot of photos. Click through any of these and you can explore the entire Lunar Crater album.
It seemed to take less time to get back to US-6 than it had taken to get out there. Lisa said that was because I'd gotten used to the road conditions and better at finding the less teeth-rattling sections of it. We set our course for Tonopah, and in pretty good time we were checking in to the Jim Butler Inn & Suites, where we are staying tonight.
Hotel reports will be forthcoming in a few days, but I wanted to get this tourism report written tonight. We enjoyed visiting this landmark, and we had the whole thing to ourselves for the hour we were there, as well as the drive from US-6 and back, except for meeting one car that was turning off US-6 just as we were coming back to the highway. This is of course a pretty out-of-the-way side trip (unless you happen to be driving US-6 from Tonopah to Ely or vice versa), but it was fun to visit. I thought it was an impressive site, and I'm glad we made the time to go see it.