Yes, I went there. No, it isn’t on the moon. Disappointing, but I travel on a budget, and have you seen the prices to ferry your car over there? It’s ridiculous! What’s more, I’ve heard that there aren’t many services over there, and the roads aren’t maintained well, so you might want to bring an extra tank of gas if you do go.
Anyways, usual warning. Red/cyan 3D glasses are needed to view the photos in this post.
These craters of the Moon are in Idaho, which is apparently part of the Moon now? I don’t know; I don’t follow American politics. It’s a park; the full name is Craters of the Moon National Monument & Preserve. In my opinion, it is one of the USA’s great underrated parks(keep in mind, my opinion is usually wrong, but I don’t think I am in this case).
I visited Craters of the Moon back in the ancient days of 2011, then again in 2012(that was BEFORE the Mayan apocalypse, for those who are wondering) and a third time in 2017. In 2017, the park wasn’t on my itinerary, but it was close to something that I REALLY wanted to see.. something also ‘Moon’-related. I won’t get into that event; it was pretty obscure… I doubt anyone will have heard of it.
Craters of the Moon National Monument and Preserve is… y’know what? I’m not going to type that name over and over again. Starting over…
CotM is along US route 93 in Idaho. The park protects a vast lava field, with lava beds dating from 15000 to 2000 years ago. it isn’t active right now, but there’s a good chance it will be again in the future, so maybe sooner is better than later for a visit. The region is fairly dry and arid, so the vegetation has retaken the area very slowly. Just outside the park, craters can be seen alongside the road, from where hollowed out lava tubes collapsed centuries ago.
Inside the park, the lava looks ‘fresher’; parts of the ground are still blackened ash, with vegetation becoming more sparse.
Along some of the trails, the lava looks freshly cracked and broken.
Erosion has been slow enough that in many places, the original features of the lava are still intact. It looks ropy, like the fossilized tentacles of an ancient horror from beyond the stars… wait…where did the ‘Moon’ name come from again?
To be fair, the ‘Moon’ title is kind of fitting, as the landscape looks truly barren and alien.
Of course, you can’t have lava field without having volcanoes, and CotM has plenty of those.
For some, a trail can bring any tourist right to the top.
The largest volcano in the park, called the ‘Inferno Cone’, offers a spectacular view over the lava fields. A lone tree has grown on the top of the volcano, on the eastern side of the cone.
Most of the actual trees in the park look very worn; maybe a lava bed in a flat, dry and windy region isn’t the best location for a large tree to grow.
There is one more feature to mention about the park; I hinted at it way at the beginning. “Hollowed out lava tubes”. Much of the lava in the region flowed through ‘lava tubes’- the lava hardened on the outside, but kept flowing inside. In some of the tubes, the lava drained out, leaving the tube hollow. Many collapsed over the centuries, leaving a depression…
…or maybe a small hollow in the rock…
but a few are still intact, more or less.
does anyone not understand what I’m going for here?
In other words, CotM has caves! and these caves can be visited without being on a tour; just walk to the entrance and go in. Maybe don’t wear sandles or shorts, as the rock is rough and you’ll have to do a bit of scrambling and crawling to explore the caves, but you can go at your own pace doing it.
The caves are great for exploring on a hot day, as they are much cooler than above-ground (in both senses of the word ‘cool’). For instance: this isn’t a great photo, (because it was a cave, and therefore dark, and therefore my camera at the time was borderline useless), but when I visited in late June 2012, there was still snow and ice in the depths of some of the caves.
Not all of the caves have separate entrances and exits; this one didn’t. That probably reduces the air currents, and lets the winter precipitation last longer. I had to climb out of the cave the way I came, and a tick climbed out with me, because they apparently like exploring the caves too. And OH! What fun we had! Me and Tickey had many adventures together throughout the vibrant and mysterious lands of America, or at least until I found a medical clinic in a nearby town.
… but that’s a story for another time, or perhaps never. Probably the latter.
The above 2D photos were taken with a Canon SX130 IS camera; the 3D photos were taken with dual Samsung ES25 cameras