Thursday, June 15, 2006
Leave Challis Hot Springs RV Park @ 10:11 a.m. Mountain Time
Arrive Craters of the Moon National Monument @ 2:00 p.m. Mountain Time
Routes Traveled: U. S. 93 (Salmon River Scenic Byway)/U. S. 23
Miles: 106 miles
NOTE: The photos (below) surrounded by a color border are hyperlinks; clicking on the photo will take you to another website, Flickr, where you can see the photos in greater detail. Please do so; I keep them small to reduce bandwidth and download time.
Sometimes in the early moments of a new day at the cabin, I'll open my eyes, flip on to my stomach and peek through the window over our bed, wondering if nature has a surprise
waiting outside. Every once in a while, she does; and waking up in the trailer at Challis was one of those times. Seconds after opening my eyes I glanced at my watch noting it was not quite 7:30 a.m. and Sam was still resting beside me. The trailer was glowing, filledwith the essence of the morning. I was struck by a curious thought, so I rolled out of bed and peeked out the window through the metal blinds. With wide-eyed excitement I gasped with delight, beckoning Sam to take a look, then hopped out of bed, grabbed my camera and ever so slowly opened the trailer door, knowing full well those large ears heard every sound I made, yet hoping my actions would not frighten them off. The pair saw me and yet lingered; I felt grateful for the moment. It was a perfect start for a beautiful day.
I took a quick shower while Sam got our morning coffee brewing, then Sam showered while I fixed us a breakfast of bacon, eggs and hash browns. I washed up the dishes and we hit the road again. It sounds like we rushed through the morning, but actually three hours passed from the time we woke up until we pulled out of the RV park. Neither of us felt rushed, we took our time working at a relaxed pace, relishing every second; it is these quiet moments of daily life that draw us together...moments that require no words...just quiet harmony. Moments I cherish.
During my final semester at college, I discovered geology and even seriously contemplated switching majors, from Business Management to Geology. With graduation only months away, I wondered if I was pursuing the wrong field of work; working outside versus in an office really appealed to me. But my head for business won in the end, and for fun I let the budding geologist come out to play every now and then. What better time than during vacation, and I soon realized this trip would hold many geological delights!
First stop, Mount Borah, Idaho's tallest peak and the site of the 1983 Borah Peak earthquake. Even though it was a clear, blue sky day, we never saw the top of Borah; the peak was shrouded in a blanket of fog. We did, however, spend a bit of time reading all the information kiosks before heading back down the road. AOL Pictures 1-4 above
Along the way we stopped for fuel in the town of Arco and before we pulled into the station we noticed the hillside was covered with painted numbers; sets of two digits, each designating itself as a permanent reminder of some high school senior class; it is an annual rite of passage at home, the difference being the same place on the hill side is used over and over. I had a horrible head ache about that time and headed into the convenience store in search of relief, then we headed back down the road. Moments later we passed another gas station and were amazed at the diesel price of $3.29 per gallon, we had just paid $2.99 per gallon just one block away. Unusual business practice in a small town to have two competing companies with a $.30 per gallon price variance only one small block away from each other. And yet the oil companies claim there is no price gouging. Really. AOL Pictures 5-7 above
Less than a mile from the entrance to Crater's of the Moon National Monument we were stopped by road construction, the bane of all summer travelers. The wait to continue gave us time to take in the unique lava bed landscape on both sides of the highway. The mercury was climbing, ripples of heat danced above the land and I wondered where the volcano was that created this. The flagger finally motioned us on, and minutes later we drove through the park gates.
The campground is located at the entrance to the park and right off we found a pull-through space and got settled in. Camping on a lava bed...what a concept and like no other campground or RV park we ever stayed. There were very few trees, no electrical hook-ups and I wondered how we would fare in the heat. Temps were in the high 90s, but a constant breeze brought some relief. We were completely surrounded by rocks...red, black, hard, sharp reminders of Idaho's geologic past. These rocks absorbed the heat like natural radiators. After a bite to eat for lunch we debated between riding our bikes or driving around the park's 6 mile loop. In the end we opted for driving, given the heat, altitude, and our lack of familiarity with the terrain. AOL Pictures 8 above
First activity was a hike up a cinder cone, and half way into the .2 miles hike I was thinking of how glad I am that I quit smoking. But the views from the top was spectacular. The day was clear and the earth spread out before us in every direction. I was breathless from the hike and the sights; it was like nothing I've ever seen before.
We visited Mount St. Helen's National Monument in 2002, but the landscape created by that event was far removed from this ground. St. Helen's created lahars, or mud flows, from the deep snow and ice at the mountain's peak. The volcanic activity laid before me was more akin to the landscape typical of Hawaiian volcanoes. I found myself amazed that two distinctly different volcanic events occurred so near my home (albeit one was long before my time). A constant reminder of how the earth is always changing. AOL Pictures 9-12 above
Further into the park we hiked a four mile trail to see several 'tree molds'; a feature marking the place where trees once stood prior to the lava flow. Consumed by the fiery lava the trees burned; as the lava cooled the trees turned to ash, leaving only a gaping hole in the ground. In one we could see the bark patterns and limbs impressed into the lava. The place was so barren and yet some plants actually thrived. There was little wildlife, due to the lack of rainfall in the region (annual rainfall is zip, zero, nada), but we saw several different species of birds. I was particularly interested in photographing the mountain blue birds (Idaho's state bird), but they seem to be timid creatures and never let me near enough to get a good clear shot.
We spent almost three hours exploring the park, returning to our trailer for dinner late in the afternoon. The wind blew constantly, a warm breath gusting across the heated lava bed. By late evening the campground filled with families in trailers, motor homes, and tents; we ate dinner with the sound ofchildren playing in the background, took a slow stroll to check out all the RV's, then nestled down for the night.
And for the first time in months I enjoyed a very restful sleep. :)
Explore it yourself!
Borah Peak/Challis Earthquake site: Idaho Geologic Survey, Visit Idaho, U. S. Geological Survey, Idaho Summits, Lunar and Planetary Institute (awesome photos of the scarp!)
Craters of the Moon: Wikipedia (has some VERY cool satellite images!), Bureau of Land Management, GORP site, National Park Service site, Geology Fieldnotes, LLBean site, Volcano World, U. S. Geological Survey, Visit Idaho