Wednesday, September 18, 2013

The Craters Of The Moon National Monument

Today we drove from Arco, Idaho over to The Craters Of The Moon National Monument which is about 18 miles from Arco. We stopped first at an overlook which looked mainly like a moonscape except for a few trees. 

We thought this looked like a moonscape until later!

Then we headed over to the Visitor Center where we checked out the exhibits and watched a short video about the formation of the National Monument.

Visitor Center
Exhibit inside the Visitor Center
Then we were off on the loop road in the park. It has various stops along the way where you can take short or long hikes to see various geological formations. Our first hike was the North Crater Flow Trail. It is a short .3 mile walk that crosses one of the youngest flows in the monument. On this trail we saw pressure ridges and squeeze ups and a young and old cones and crater fragments. 

The start of the path

It is cold and super windy

North Crater Lava Flow

Closeup of some of the lava

Pressure Ridges

Old Cone

New Cone

Rough Jagged Lava called aa (ah ah)

Crater Fragments

Squeeze Ups

Pahookua Lava Flow (pe-hoy-hoy)
 Lava flows that are smooth or ropy are called Pahoehoe.

I wonder how long that little one will last!

Lee heading back up the trail
 After this short hike, we got back in the truck heading to the next hiking spot but on the way we spotted this hill full of these small flowers so we stopped to get a picture of them.

Closeup of the Dwarf Buckwheat blooming all over the hillside

All those small white flowers are Dwarf Buckwheats.

Another flower at the edges of the road

Our truck parked across from the hill of small flowers

After we took a few pictures, we headed for the next stop which was Devil's Orchard. At this stop island-like lave fragments stand in a sea of cinders. We took the .5 mile hike through other weird features of lava. There were a lot of information signs along the path that talked about the human impact on this landmark and also how the park is being protected today.

 The first thing we came across was a spot where visitors had broken through a lava flow by walking on it. It left a cave of sorts under the break.

We ran across an iridescent grasshopper so Lee took a picture of him. 

Then we saw patches of lichen on various rocks as we walked and signs told us that lichen is the first to come to life and the first to die from air pollution. There were signs of some air pollution that killed some lichen which is amazing since there really isn't any factories around the area. 

Golden-mantled Ground Squirrel

We went back to the truck again and drove to the Inferno Cone. We parked the truck right in front of a really nice view and right next to the Inferno Cone so we decided it was a good place to have lunch. I packed some egg salad sandwiches and peach yogurt for lunch. We were both starving by the time we ate. We decided not to climb the Inferno Cone as you walked up and down on cinders. It wasn't really a path. We decided to save our energy for the next hike. 

Inferno Cone is the black hill on the right (all cinders)

Round Knoll Kepuka

We then drove on to the Tree Molds Wilderness area but the only thing we did there was to use the rest room stop.  

Then we are onto the Spatter Cones and Big Craters Area. The spatters are like miniature volcanoes. We walked up to one of them and looked down into the huge hole that it left. We took a few pictures of the Spatter Cones in the area.

Hole formed in the lava

Splatter Cone

Inside of the Splatter Cone
Splatter Cones
 Then we hiked up a steep one-half mile path to a huge crater where we looked down into what used to be a volcano. I was glad we saved our energy for this one!

The first part of the hike was paved but straight up

Lee on top of the mountain
 The last part of the hike is on cinders.

Inside the Volcano

The ground is all cinder

Inside the Volcano

View from the top of the volcano

Closeup of lava

Another closeup of lava

Okay, this may be a moonscape!

Lava Tubes

Lava Tubes

Caves Trail

Looks like wood

We jumped back into the truck and headed for the Cave Area where we took a longer trail that led to Dewdrop Cave.

Dewdrop Cave

 and then we hiked over to Indian Tunnel. 

Pit Area

Pit Area

Warning at the Indian Tunnel

Indian Tunnel

Indian Tunnel

Indian Tunnel
Roof of Indian Tunnel

Indian Tunnel

We were hiking across a lava field and the wind was just ripping across the area. We had our hiking sticks and I was glad because sometimes it was the only thing that kept me on the path because the wind was so strong. We decided not to hike over to Boy Scout and Beauty caves. We kind of feel like if you aren't going to explore the cave, the entrances look pretty much the same. Here you need a permit to explore the caves but since neither Lee or I like confined dark spaces, it just isn't our thing! 

Not sure what kind of bird he is - he is really little

Once we fought the wind for about 45 minutes, we were ready to call it a day so we headed back to Arco. Again today we were watching storm clouds over the mountains on the way home but we just went through a few drops of rain. There was one area where we could see snow falling on the mountain tops. Glad it was up there and not where we were! 

Once we got to Arco, Lee filled up with fuel. Then we saw Pickle's Place which was close to the filling station. Someone told us to stop there and we can't remember who now, but we can thank them because it was really quite good. Lee had a hamburger and onion rings and I had patty melt and potato salad. The potato salad was the best restaurant potato salad that I've ever eaten. Then they had these huge cinnamon rolls in their display case so we ended up taking two of those home for breakfast tomorrow. Oh, I am being bad. Hope the scale doesn't show it. I'm hoping all the hiking helps!!

Cinnamon Rolls

Closeup of the Mountain Above Arco

As we drove through downtown Arco, we saw a building that has a huge sign on it "ARCO, IDAHO - THE FIRST CITY IN THE WORLD TO BE LIT BY ATOMIC POWER" so we had to get a picture of that. 

Then it was back to the campground to try to pick from Lee's 208 pictures and my 204 pictures that were taken today. Yikes!

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