Craters of the Moon National Monument

The campground at Craters of the Moon National Monument was under renovation, and so we spent last night in Arco, Idaho, a small town with a population of about 900-plus. There isn't much to say about Arco, but I'll tell you a little bit about it at the end.

This morning we had breakfast at a local cafe, and then drove the 19 miles to Craters of the Moon. Along the way we noticed the snow on the mountains toward the back of the next image and this old homestead, built on a rock foundation.

Further on, we came to the park entrance. The visitor's center is just off the main highway, and we stopped in there yesterday. 

Today we bypassed the visitor's center and headed straight out on the loop drive, marked blue in the image below.

The pamphlet from the national park service tells us that, despite its name, craters on the actual moon result from meteorite impacts, not volcanic activity. The national monument is definitely volcanic in origin. The lava here issued not from one volcano, but from a series of deep fissures, known collectively as the Great Rift, that cross the Snake River Plain. Beginning 15,000 years ago, lava welled up from the Great Rift to produce this vast ocean of rock. The most recent eruption occurred a mere 2,000 years ago, and geologists believe that future events are likely.

Many of the signs along the trails used images of the active volcano region in Hawaii to illustrate their point. Here's a pretty good example of hot lava pooling and folding in on itself.

Below the next image is the accompanying sign explaining how these remnants of cinder cones were actually "rafted" here on hot lava flows.

I took this next picture because of the animal tracks in the "cinders" below the tree. We didn't see any wildlife, but there is evidence that critters make their home here.

Here, we climbed to the top of Big Cinder Butte, which was quite a climb. I've marked with an arrow where some other people are located to give you some idea of the scale. This image doesn't do justice to the actual slope of this path, however, and we were huffing and puffing to make it to the top, stopping to rest and catch our breath. We lowlanders don't do so well at 6,000 feet. Also, I noted that my Fitbit logged 23 floors on this climb.

It was well worth it, however, to see these beautiful views from the top. I've taken a couple of panoramas. Remember that you can click on the image to make it larger.

To the right of the image above was this tree, hanging on by its roots and leaning precariously.

Walking to the right of the tree, this was the view.

Off in the distance, you can see this row of "spatter cones" and that was our next stop.

The smooth areas were covered with what most of us would think of as gravel, but the park described it as "cinders".

In those areas, there were clumps of the greenery below, no doubt happy for the recent rains.

As we walked back down the hill, I snapped this image of our red truck in the parking lot below.

From there, we headed off to the next turn off on the loop drive.

The trail was again steep, but shorter this time.

Just around the bend at the top, we could look down into the opening of the cone.

As you might expect, the lava is porous

and I had Mike put his hand into one of the holes for scale.

The park is vast, and these pictures don't really do it justice. You really have to see it in person. After leaving the park, we stopped at a pullout we'd seen earlier. There we found this sign. I've added a panorama below so that you can see the cones listed in the sign. 

This is what caused us to stop. We weren't sure what we were looking at until we read the sign below.

Interesting, huh? It makes me wonder what makes an artist choose a particular art, but there you go. Obviously, this was quite a project.

From there we headed back to Arco. We needed to pick up a few things at the local grocery store and to fill our truck with diesel. I told you I'd say something about Arco, which (and I'm being kind here) is kind of a nothing town...practically a ghost town if you look at some of the structures. Nevertheless, it has secured its place in history.

Also, there's this. In the image below, you see Graduation Hill. Each year the graduating seniors of the local high school climb the mountain to add their year. Although the link I've given you claims they go back to 1929, we saw the year '22 as well, and so they go back farther than that. This was pictured in USA today sometime back.

I zoomed in on this image where my class added its year just so I could jump out of my chair and yell SENIORS RULE!!! Only, you know me well enough to know I'm talking about a different kind of "Senior" these days...the kind that gets into the national parks and monuments for free.

Tomorrow, we'll head on to Swan Valley, almost to the eastern border of Idaho, where my friend and quilting buddy Marei lives with her hubby Bill. Bill retired last year, I think, and they've been feathering their nest in the beautiful little community of Swan Valley just an hour or so away from the Grand Tetons. We visited Marei for just a couple of hours a few years ago before Bill arrived on the scene. Since then, they've made a lot of improvements to their place, FishQuilt Farm. Bill is a fly fisherman, and he and Mike have a fishing trip planned on Thursday. Marei and I will hang back and gab. Also, we'll be going to her guild meeting on Thursday evening.

As always, I'm never sure if we'll have cell or internet service, so just sit tight, and I'll be back in a few days if not sooner.

11 comments from clever and witty friends:

Quilting Babcia said...

I visited Craters of the Moon many many years ago, and it was fascinating. So nice to see photos again since I don't have any from way back when. That sculpture looked like a dinosaur skeleton rising out of the earth - so much for my sense of artistic appreciation, or lack thereof, lol!

WoolenSails said...

I was catching up with your trip, you do visit the most beautiful and the most unusual places, fun to follow along.


Brown Family said...

I do not think I had ever heard of this park. What an interesting place! Thanks for sharing all the photos and information.

Vroomans' Quilts said...

Interesting park - I thought the sculpture was dino bones too

Shelley: the Dread Pirate Rodgers said...

I thoroughly enjoyed your travelogue. My husband and I (and kids when they were living with us as kids) prefer those destinations to resorts. The history of the areas is always fascinating.

The "Lava Beds National Monument" in northern California also has *immense* lava tubes ... some that you can actually walk through. Though stark and sere, the campground there is peaceful in its own way. If you're ever in the area, you might think to check it out.

Do you bring along any handwork projects to work on while you are traveling?

Nellie Duclos said...

Glad to see your enjoying the beautiful sites our country has to offer. I don't know how to tell you this, but we're going to have to put Gus down. My husband took him for his chemo treatment today and the doctor called to say that he had lost another pound. He did a sonogram and the cancer has spread to his lymph nodes. My husband made a appointment with our regular vet for Friday, where we will take him. We are both "bummed" My husband doesn't feel like eating. We've had him for 12 years, so he called both of our daughters to tell them. He's such a good cat, I'm tearing up as I write this.

Kate said...

Craters has got to be the most under appreciated national park - the parking lot wasn't that much more full when we went in summer! And don't feel bad about huffing and puffing, I was too and I was in running shape. Elevation is much harder! Did you make it back to the caves?

Barbara said...

Rosemary, please email me with your email address. You are no reply, and so I can't respond. Threecatsranch at gmail dot com

Lyndsey said...

That is a fabulous national park. Love your panoramic views.

quiltzyx said...

What an interesting and amazing spot! Thanks for the wonderful pics & history. :)

Claire said...

Craters is one of my favorite National Parks. I found it by accident one year when I was planning a road trip. I wanted a day of rest between driving days about there and looked to see what was available. The interpretation is extremely helpful between the film and ranger talks and signage. Nice to see images of it again.