Craters of the Moon

We're still on Day 3 of our road trip. We covered a lot of ground today, from Idaho Falls to Ketchum, with stops for geocaching and antique shops and photography, plus a few hours exploring Craters of the Moon national monument.

Drive far enough north of the interstate, and you start to find small towns and valleys and farmland, with a stunning backdrop: the mountain ranges of Central Idaho. I'm sure my jaw dropped when we crested what I thought was a small hill, and saw this huge drop into another wide valley, with a river winding its way through. On the other side of the valley, we headed east toward Craters of the Moon, passing world-famous Silver Creek, which many consider to be the ultimate test of a fly fisherman.

Idaho's Craters of the Moon is a remote national monument that you can read more about here. There's a tour route you can drive, with short walks and hikes along the way that explain the landscape and geology. The first stop was probably the best for seeing different types of lava up close and personal. I love the rich blue colors in this one.

Dave wanted to climb to the top of this cinder cone; I declined and stayed down below, taking photographs. There isn't a trail: you just head for the top. But you can see the wide disturbed streak that shows the most direct route. That itty-bitty white dot near the top was Dave's pale yellow shirt.

On the way out of the park, we took the Pilot four-wheeling on an abandoned dirt road that wound along the hillside just above a huge most-sunken lava tube. You can see it snaking through this photograph; the cracks show where it broke above the surface. (I'm sure there's a more accurate description; I'm just explaining how it looks to the casual eye.)

Our only reason for taking this road was to grab a geocache. But once we dropped down from the main road, we spotted the lava tube. You couldn't see it at all from the main road; it just blended in with the rest of the landscape. And we got another bonus: the hillside along the dirt road was covered in wildflowers. I think the harsh ground they grow in makes them even more beautiful. Nature has a will to survive that astounds me.

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