The Mono craters are some of the youngest volcanoes on earth, looking ready to erupt at any moment. They range in age from 600 to 40,000 years old, and are classic examples of rhyolitic eruptions.
The closest and most accessible of these volcanoes is Panum crater, the one I attempt to climb and enter.
As I approach the base of the crater, I see a trail that seems to ascend the side and wrap around the great volcano. My hope is that this trail will lead me inside. Smooth rhyolite stones of all shapes and sizes are scattered everywhere. I touch the cold black stone and can feel the energy of the hot lava that it once was.
The trail abruptly ends halfway up the mountain though. I’m not brave enough to try and scale the rocks to the summit, and head back down.
I find another trail that appears to wind around the entire circumference of the crater. Full of spectacular morning views of Mono Lake and the surrounding valley, I happily start hiking again.
A small herd of deer are spotted a few hundred yards ahead of me. I try to become a stealthy tracker, and get closer than I thought I would before they pick up my scent and disappear into the brush. I circle the entirety of the crater, spotting my fellow companions occasionally, always keeping one eye on me as they forage for food.
Ironically, I find a hidden trail at the end of the one that encircles the outer rim of the crater. The long journey taken has rewarded myself to finally enter inside the young crater.
The black lava stones hold a power that coarses through my body like a lightning bolt.