Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Craters of the Moon

DAY SEVENTEEN (Tues., July 9th): The first day of our special trip with Mimi. Amazingly, we were all packed and ready to go before 9am. Everything fit very nicely into the car. The back seat is divided so that you can put down half the seat for luggage, and Mimi can occupy the other half behind the driver. (Actually it's more like 2/3 - 1/3). Our itinerary took us on Route 26 into Idaho from Alpine, through Idaho Falls, and then on Route 20 to Arco, ID, on to Craters of the Moon National Monument,  and then on to Mountain Home, ID where we picked up I-84 and on to Boise, our destination for the day.

Our first stop - for gas and lunch - was at Arco, ID. Arco is famous - to some infamous - for being the first municipality in the world to be supplied electricity by a nuclear power plant. That happened on July 17, 1955. Today, the Idaho National Laboratory is located outside Arco, and it is probably the most advanced nuclear power research facility in the world. It employs over 4,000 people. It is a federally funded R&D facility operated by a private contractor. Who knows what goes on in there! It would probably make a good location for a James Bond movie.

When we stopped for gas we pulled up next to one of the longest cars I've ever seen - a 50-60's era Oldsmobile Ninety-Nine.  It was stupefying.

We ate lunch at Pickle's Place - one of our favorite stops - which features a giant green rocker out front.

From there it was on to Craters of the Moon National Monument. The very first thing that happened there was that a family saw our license plate and began yelling and jumping for joy. They had been "collecting" license plates since they had left home (Colorado, I think) a few days earlier, and they had found every state except Vermont, (even Hawaii and Alaska!!) and had sort of decided it was a lost cause to get all 50.  Then we drove up right next to them! We made their day.

It was appropriate that they found a Vermont license plate at Craters of The Moon N.M., because a Vermonter was responsible for its preservation. President Calvin Coolidge declared it a N.M. in 1924, "to preserve the unusual and weird volcanic formations". It was formed by successive volcanic eruptions and deposits of lava over a period of millions of years, but the most recent was only 2000 years ago!  They predict there will be another within the next 1000 years. There are two main types of lava- both have Hawaiian names - Pahoehoe (pa-ho'-ho) and A'a' (ah'-ah). The first flows swiftly like a river, the second more slowly,  like hot jello. A'a' when it cools is extremely rough and almost impossible to walk across (leave your dog at home - his feet will be raw and bleeding in minutes).

We made two short walks - the Devil's Garden walk, which has many striking formations and which features a commentary on how the Park Service is trying to preserve this fragile environment:

Lotsa lava

Note Mimi's pad - she used it to take pictures

Trees are made grotesque by the wind

Then we hiked up the Inferno Cone which is a huge pile of cinders, and is actually quite a steep climb up, but with a great view at the top. Amazingly, plants find ways to grow in this environment, and there was a sole tree at the top of the cone. The wind was welcome as we climbed the "cone" - it was 99 degrees! Mimi was a real trooper - she loved this place.

Mimi the trailblazer!

Welcome shade at the top

The way down

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