Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Fly Me To The Moon

Day 19: Sept 14, 2011

Craters of the Moon National Monument is truly a place that is unique to this continent. We were in a state of constant amazement from the time we woke up this morning, surrounded by black rock. We started in the Visitor Center with a film about the area, which got us oriented. The “lava lands” were familiar to the Shoshone Indians but to few others until around 1900, when sheer curiosity brought in people interested in geology. (The Oregon Trail pioneers worked their way around--it would have been impossible to get a wagon across this terrain.) The park is largely unspoiled, the campgrounds are almost never full, and it is so QUIET in so many places. Last night, except for a very occasional sound of a car passing on the highway (which is fairly close to the campground), we heard absolutely nothing.

Here's a photo of the "black campground".
Another thing I have to say this morning--it isn’t TOTALLY black. There are plants growing which give a green color in some areas. Even some trees called Limber Pine have grown in the area. There are a number of other small plants. So the color isn’t as pitch black as it appeared last night. But it’s pretty black for all that!
We spent about 4 hours on the 7 mile park loop road. There are paths through several areas, giving a view of lava flows from the North Crater. The estimate is that this volcano erupted only about 2,000 years ago! B’rei’sheet continuing into times of recorded history. Really amazing!
In the area called the Devil’s Garden, I became fascinated with the few plants that grow in the black cinders.
Then we had a wonderful ½ mile hike up “Inferno Cone” to get a view of cinder cones lined up along the Great Rift, which is a 52 mile fissure where lava would come up and form these cones. This is a photo of the Inferno Cone from the parking lot--we hiked up the left side (you can't see the whole thing. That's Mo on the far left. And @ to Aimee, how about "Inferno Cone" for an SL handle?)
This is a view of the Great Rift line. The foreground of the photo is the black cinder cone we were standing on.
The top of the cone was the big surprise--I expected plain black crunchy gravel again, but it was lush with shrubs, little flowers, and even a couple of large trees. The climb was one of those amazing experiences where there was an unexpected bonus which makes you simply marvel at the world. You can see the cone is all cinders; from the side we approached, none of the vegetation was visible. It was so cool.
And finally we took the short pathways to look inside the Spatter Cones. These are miniature volcanoes which throw their insides out like “splatter”--and are responsible for a lot of the chunky blocks which are all over the park. We even learned different names for the different types of lava rocks… these splatter chunks are called “aa” (it’s a Hawaiian name, pronounced ah-ah). Here's Joe standing inside one.
There was snow in the bottom of one of the cones--this is on way plants get moisture, is from these little pockets of snow. But nothing seemed to be growing down there, it was probably too deep and dark.

This park was definitely a 10 on the WOW Scale. I highly recommend it to everyone. Now I just have to find a way to get to Hawaii and see volcanoes actually erupting. But until then, this was really an amazing experience. My pictures, as usual, will not do it justice.

We left Craters of the Moon around 1:30 pm heading towards Lava Hot Springs in south-east Idaho. We made a brief stop to take my photo in front of the World’s Largest Potato--we were right in that town and I couldn’t resist something so silly. There was also the Potato Museum, but we didn’t go in; Joey said the whole concept seemed “a little bit au gratin.” LOL!! All the way along the road, btw, we are seeing volcanoes in the distance--once you get educated, you can’t miss it. They are such young volcanoes here, so they still have a distinguished cone shape and a flat crater top.

We passed Pocatello, which is nestled in a valley among the mountains, and as I write this, at Mo’s kitchen table, we are coming into Lava Hot Springs…

OK! So this is The Plan, as a friend of mine always says. We are now parked and hooked up at the KOA in Lava Hot Springs, about 50 feet away from the river, which is cascading just here. Our bedroom window will be looking right toward it. About a 5 minute walk from here, on a little pathway along the highway, is Idaho’s Famous Lava Hot Pools. We walked over there to take a look, and it looks fabulous. Five hot spring fed pools with 5 different temperatures in a garden setting. The garden has been carved into the lava walls of the site--we are perched on the side of an old volcano. In fact, I can see the jagged crags of rock sticking out of the mountain just ahead of us, on the other side of the roadway.

It is now 7pm. Joe is making dinner while I upload the blog, and the plan is to walk on the path after dinner to the hot spring pools, and spend the evening there (they are open until 11pm). And then we will walk home on the little path, which will undoubtedly be an adventure in itself. Luckily we have a brand new halogen flashlight . We are SO excited about the lava pools, and I am sorry I didn’t have my camera on our walk earlier to photograph the gardens--maybe I’ll do it in the morning. But for now--it’s been a volcanic day all the way around, and so amazing and awesome.


Ellory said...

I love catching up on your trip. I want to be a stowaway and your it with you.

Tom M said...

If Dr. Joe becomes missing just have the search party look for the guy with the funny suspenders.

Need to go back to look at Kathys "paper" logs but we think that we hit this place.

I've been following along daily but kathy needs to do a bit of catch up.