Let’s pick back up with our adventures in the Sun Valley area, shall we?
We almost didn’t go to Craters of the Moon National Monument and Preserve. When I was researching our trip to Sun Valley I stumbled across reviews on TripAdvisor and mentioned it to the husband. At first he wasn’t too enthusiastic. He cautioned me that it was flat-splat in the middle of the desert. He remembered a trip there when he was a kid and said it was hot and not particularly interesting.
As the trip approached he suggested that we should go to Craters of the Moon. He thought that I would like it. So, I added it to the list.
On the evening of our third day we talked about what we wanted to do the next day. The topic of Craters came up. The husband reluctance reemerged. I told him that if he felt it wasn’t worth the hour and a half drive that we didn’t have to go. He thought about it a bit and finally said that we should go.
So, we did.
We’re both glad we did.
As we drove South through Hailey and Bellevue we spotted one of my favorite memories of the trip: a field of cows. Close to the road. With a single prong horn antelope in the middle of them, grazing just as busily as the cows. We were, unfortunately, going too fast for the picture and there was no pull-out in the area. It was a fantastic thing to see. That was one smart antelope.
There is evidence that the Northern Shoshone passed through the area now known as Craters of the Moon on their annual migration. In the 1850’s and 1860’s settlers following Goodales Cutoff of the Oregon Trail traveled along the Northern edge of the vast expanse of lava, but do not appear to have ventured into the area.
Federal geologists explored the area in 1901 and 1923. Also in the 1920’s a taxidermist and Idaho promoter, Robert Limbert, made three journeys through the lava. His lectures and articles helped to publicize the area and contributed to the establishment of a national monument there in 1924.
NASA used the area in 1969 to introduce the likes of Alan Shepard to basic volcanic geology as he prepared for his moon missions.
In 1970 Congress designated much of the national monument as wilderness, one of the first in the National Park System. The Wilderness Act of 1964 recognized wilderness as as “an area where the earth and its community of life are untrammeled by man, where man himself is a visitor who does not remain”. The Monument was expanded in 2000 to include an additional 495,000, bringing the total acreage of the Monument to 750,000 acres.
If you’d like to learn specifically about how all of this lava came to be I invite you to check out the National Park Service website here. They say it much more succinctly than I ever could.
The husband and I arrived at the visitors center mid-morning on a warm Wednesday in September. There weren’t a lot of people around. Just how we like it. We picked up a map and started making our way around the Loop Road. This seven-mile loop allows for plenty of stops at trails (most very short) that take you over, under and around a variety of volcanic features. We stopped at all of them. One thing I found interesting is that signs we were reading, out in the desert, describing the different types of lava before us, contained Hawaiian words for that lava. Pahoehoe and a’a are just a couple. But, it makes sense since our consistently active volcano is on the Big Island (went there a few years ago. Didn’t get to see lava flowing, but it’s pretty cool to see that caldera glowing in the night sky. Rather Indiana Jones-esque).
We were most impressed by the views from atop Inferno Cone, a short, steep 0.4 mile walk. From the top the valley spreads out before you on all sides. Big Cinder Butte, towering above the lava plain to the south, is one of the world’s largest basaltic cinder cones.
We stopped at a beside-the-road pull-out and enjoyed lunch at a picnic table under a shade tree. Our view? Lava fields…as far as the eye could see.
After lunch we headed to our final stop: Broken Top Trail. This 1.8 mile self-guided walk goes around a cinder cone with an opportunity to explore Buffalo Caves.
We were excited by the prospect of exploring a lava tube, but we didn’t truly understand what would be required. When we looked down at the entrance of the cave, which would require some serious ducking and scrambling to get into (though it looked like it opened up once you were inside), we both felt a little claustrophobic and chickened out. There are ranger tours of a different (and I suspect, larger) cave system two times a day, but we didn’t manage the timing right. That’s my one regret, as I think it would have been really cool.
Our explorations kept us in the park until almost 3 in the afternoon. We agreed that we would not have lingered as long, or explored as much, if it had been the height of summer and difficult to get around due to masses of people (if there’s such a thing at this rather remote park).
But, we only had to deal with one tour bus, and they only stopped a couple of places before moving on (we wondered where the tour originated from and where else it was going). And we found that many other people barely got out of their cars before hustling to the next view point. Their loss…our gain.
It was pretty much just us…and a random squirrel who appeared completely convinced that we were there to steal his nuts. 🙂
15 thoughts on “And then there was the day we went to the moon…”
Oh my goodness, I wonder if Goodale’s Cutoff is named for my Goodell/Goodale ancestors! Phoebe Goodell Judson (sometimes the family is called Goodale in records) and her family traveled from Ohio to, unbelievably, Grand Mound (a few miles from where I now live, though my branch is from Michigan until my parents moved here) in the 1800s. She wrote a book in her 90s called “A Pioneer’s Search for the Ideal Home” (which is a good read), and she and her husband founded the town of Lyndon (near the Canadian border). I never heard about a place on the crossing named for them, but I wonder….
Very interesting, Gretchen. According to the NPS site, Tim Goodale led an emigrant party from Fort Hall to Boise in 1862. The way it’s written it sounds like he may have already been living in the area. Perhaps you should do some poking around? Let me know if it turns out that you’re famous. 🙂
Hi Lanae! I just stopped over from #TheLeisureLink and found your blog for the first time. Nice to meet you. I love linkups because they introduce me to fellow bloggers that I might never meet unless something catches our eyes. I live in the southern California desert and never even heard of Craters of the Moon National Monument and Preserve. What an interesting area and your photos really helped to bring it alive. Thanks, now if I ever plan a visit close by I will have to check it out. ~Kathy
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Hi, Kathy! I think most have not heard of Craters of the Moon. It’s one of those places that you pretty much have to deliberately go to as it’s out in the middle of nowhere. 🙂
This reminds me of climbing Mount Teide in Tenerife – the terrain up there looks just like I imagine the moon to be. Beautiful pictures of your trip. It is interesting to hear how the area has a connection to preparations for moon missions. Lots of great little snippets of historical info included here. Don’t blame you for ducking out of the cave exploration – that would have been us too!
Thank you! Sounds like if I’ve gone to Craters of the Moon in Idaho I don’t have to spend the money to go to Tenerife. 😉 Cross that off my list!
What an interesting place! I’ve never heard of it before. Really nice pictures too.
Thanks! And, yes, a very interesting place…and not something one would expect in the middle of Idaho.
Hi Lanae! I just stopped over from #TheLeisureLink and found your blog for the first time. Great pictures – loved the squirrel! ~Paula R. 🙂
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Thanks, Paula! Yeah, that was one unhappy squirrel. I don’t know what he thought we were going to do, but he told us off in a dozen different languages.
Lanae, you always have a knack for taking such interesting photos! Perfect post for #TheLeisureLink!
Thanks, Terri! I’m enjoying participating in #TheLeisureLink
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This reminds me a lot like the Lava Lands and the lava fields at Newberry Crater in central Oregon. Have you been there? Really fascinating!
I looked to see where it was and I have been there, as a kid. My family has camped (and my parents continue to camp) extensively in Central Oregon…mostly in the Ochocos above Prineville.