Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Varied Landscapes

Day 18: Sept. 13, 2011

We planned a long driving day for today, so we woke up early (i.e. when the alarms actually went off!) and were out of our campsite, lovely though it was, by about 8 a.m. Stopped for gas in the city of Bend, and then headed east out of the city. Almost as if we crossed an invisible line, we were in ranchland and sagebrush territory. If you look at the map, you will see that there is nothing between Bend and the town of Hines/Burns except about 130 miles. Well, there is NOTHING between them--as landscapes go, it was remarkable for its sameness. Not that we didn’t enjoy it--but it was simply amazing how much nothingness there can be along one road. And that includes traffic--there was almost none. We love that.

I joked with Joe that I could write the blog right then, as a little poem, and be finished already. It went like this:

We drove all day. Nothing else to say. We arrived okay. Now I’m hitting the hay.

The day wasn’t much different than that, actually, except for the details. Joe drove the first 2 hours and we stopped for gas in Hines. It’s a very small place. Burns was not much larger, although it had some fast food places and some kind of small strip shopping center. They are adjacent--really one town. Then it was my turn to drive. And the scenery changed: this time into wonderful mountains, curving roads, and lots of colors and volcanic outcroppings (we are experts at identifying these now). A river ran next to us for a while, cutting through the mountains. They weren’t huge mountains but they were remarkably pretty--lots of browns (we passed one which looked like it was made out of cocoa), some bright white (we aren’t sure what that was), and in one place, some bright reddish color. I would have taken lots of photos but unfortunately I was driving, and my co-pilot said he doesn’t do photos.
After the mountains, we encountered a lot of agricultural scenery, which culminated in Ontario, Oregon. The billboards on the sides of the barns announced that it was the Onion Capital of the World, and that they export 22,000 lbs of onions every year. The amazing part was, we could smell the onions as we drove past, even though we could see the tops still in the ground. I never went through a town which smelled like onions before.

We reached the end of the second 2 hours at the border of Oregon and Idaho. Someplace in Oregon we crossed into Mountain Time, so we lost an hour. I continued to drive for another couple of hours until somewhere past Boise, when we stopped for gas again and Joe took over. Southern Idaho also had a lot of absolute nothingness, but we were on the Interstate so we did have cars. We also saw a lot of farms, where intensive irrigation had allowed the nothingness to become fruitful. There was a line of mountains marching along to the north the entire way.
Finally we left the Interstate and headed northeast, and the mountains got closer. The landscape changed yet again, from the previous farms to range (we saw a lot of cattle out grazing, and at least one feedlot), but most noticeable was the lava flow poking up through the grasses. There was sage, and yellow flowers (we think that’s the sage blooming, but we aren’t sure), and yellow grasses in tufts, and black crunchy-looking rock everywhere.

We stopped for gas one last time (there is a theme here: you do NOT want to get caught short on gas when you are driving through so much nothingness!) and then we approached Craters of the Moon National Monument. All of a sudden, next to the road, the grasses totally disappeared and we were driving next to acres of black rock, which looked like giant cinders. It looked as if a huge fire had taken place, and all that was left was the solid black remnants. Not ash, just chunks everywhere. It was mindboggling. And then we saw the sign, that we had entered the park. As we drove, the landscape was simply like another world. On the right was all the black rock “cinders”, sometimes with lava piles sticking out of it. On the left was the same thing, but beyond that were the mountains, and between them were some green and yellow grasslands. That side was simply gorgeous.
We came to the park loop road entrance at about 7:45 and all around us was black. Not night yet--but the entire ground was black *everywhere*. The white RVs parked in the campground stood out as if they were spotlighted. We drove past the visitor center, which was closed, and went to choose a campsite. Opening the door, I could have sworn I smelled ash and burning, like a fireplace the next morning, but Joe says I am wrong and it doesn’t smell. He also insisted the stuff under our RV and all around us is too hard to smear soot in the RV. It is just a mind-game, I guess; because he’s right, the stuff is like very small black pebbles. It crunches when you walk on it--it is the only ingredient on the ground here! They paved some roads and walkways, but we are parked on this black stuff.
This park is simply like another world! Joe and I agreed, we don’t think it’s at all like what the moon surface is, so that’s kind of a misnomer. But it is absolutely black in this park and it’s like nothing we’ve ever seen before. There aren’t even any lights in the campground except from the windows of the campers--PITCH BLACK. We are very excited about exploring it tomorrow. [Note: The almost-full moon came out later when the clouds cleared up a little, so it was suddenly NOT pitch black. But it was an eerie landscape just the same.][Also note: we drove just over 500 miles today, so landscapes was pretty much all we saw! But we did thoroughly enjoy the drive.]

1 comment:

Tom M said...

Some how during our planning of the summer adventures we missed Craters of the Moon. Next time.