Amboy Crater
Amboy Crater National Natural Landmark (Photo:

Because it's there

| Ever since the first time I took the back-roads route to Las Vegas I've been intrigued by a perfectly shaped volcanic cone just off the National Trails Highway (old US Route 66) near Amboy, CA. It sits in a vast lava bed surrounded by many much-smaller, imperfectly shaped cones. You can't miss it, and you can't help wondering what's inside.

Yesterday being a perfect spring day, Réal and I went for a drive and a hike to check it out, fortified by a hearty breakfast at the Carousel Cafe in Twentynine Palms.

Trail across the lava bed. Here it was more a divided highway.

From the parking area off the highway to the crater is just over a mile, following a marked and well-trodden trail. As the raven flies, it's maybe half that distance. Much of the distance is due to winding around ridges and piles of lava flow. When you get around to the west side of the crater, where part of the wall was blown out by an explosive eruption, the trail rises steeply to the opening, bringing into question the wisdom of those hash browns.

overhead view
Overhead view (Google Earth)

But it was worth every grunt and groan. Inside the crater are two lava dams forming a crater within a crater within a crater, if you will. Footing was a little treacherous, since the whole structure is a big pile of cinders, tending to shift under foot. The cone is 250 feet high and a mile in circumference — a big pile of cinders, indeed.

While we were on the way back to the parking lot, a tribe of young people arrived on their way up. We explained that there had been three of us, but we'd had to sacrifice one to the volcano. The leader of the group seemed to think that might be a good idea in their own case.

We had been a bit late leaving Palm Springs because I had to search for my cell phone. I was sure I had carried it out to the garage, but when I went to put it in its normal spot, I couldn't find it. I did what any sensible person will do while looking for an errant cell phone — I called it. This was all the more frustrating because I could hear it but still not see it. After several searches I eventually found it underneath the car where it had bounced (soundlessly due to a piece of carpeting on the garage floor) when I dropped it opening the car door.

This little incident became all the more amusing when, hiking back to the car, Réal espied his own cell phone lying on the trail where he had dropped it after taking it out to check the number of bars he had. Go figure — out in the middle of absolutely nowhere, we both had 5 bars!

The Palms
The Palms Restaurant and Bar

Along Amboy Road east of Twentynine Palms sits a picturesque establishment called The Palms Restaurant, surrounded by — nothing. Whenever I have gone past it, however, there have always been vehicles parked in front, provoking no little curiosity. Being thirsty from our exertions, we decided to stop and check the place out.

Gabby Hayes
Gabby Hayes as the grizzled old prospector

Oh, my. I've since discovered that the place has a website promising "Wonder Valley's finest food, including Saturday Night Specials and Breakfast on Sunday--and also, offers a full selection of beer, wine and spirits." I might not put it the same way. Let's just note that the proprietor looked like that character in every old Western movie, the grizzled prospector, and observe that the band for Saturday night live music sits inside a screened cage.

View slideshow

Last updated on Apr 13, 2018



Recent Articles