Growing up, I never payed much attention to cinder cones, a type of volcano that surrounded my hometown of Flagstaff, Arizona. They always seemed like an uninteresting buildup of red, rocky material. Even though I learned a little bit about them in my introductory geology classes, they seemed simple and uninteresting. Little did I know that a single hike up the side of a cinder cone built 76 thousand years ago would change my perspective on them.
Sitting under the hot, blistering sun, my classmates and I drew and described the layers of a large rocky outcrop of what appeared to be the same material. All of it was a blinding tan/white and contained small to large pieces of dark rock. I would soon find out that there were small differences in each layer that signifies a change in how the volcano was erupting. As I found out more about this wall of rock we were attempting to recreate, I found I was most interested in how the ash, pumice and rock fragments came to be where they are. Two of the main ways the material was deposited are by pyroclastic surges and pyroclastic flows.
Channeling my inner Spartan, I hiked up the steep slopes of the saddle between Mesa Vouno and Mon Profitas Ilias, leading to Ancient Thera. The 1.39 mile uphill trek took a while, with a copious amount of breaks to drink water and to rest. The sun beat down on me with a pressure only intensified by the humidity of the area. I felt extremely accomplished once I reached the top, I was able to look down on a large expanse of land and ocean. This is what the Spartans did every day for water in 700 BC. I was not only amazed by the view, but by the geologic processes that brought this rock that I stood on, that the Spartans stood on, hundreds of feet above the sea.