Saturday, October 16, 2010

Craters of the Moon – Day 2

We drove all that next day through the Idaho Mountains.  (Who knew Idaho had mountains? I thought it was all potatoes.)  Our first official stop was Craters of the Moon National Monument. 

For most of the drive, the mountain range was to the north of us while farms and a few sagebrush flats zoomed by on the south.  Suddenly, black rock formations began to jut out of the ground and immediately we were in the park.

There is a fissure in the land here that allowed lava to escape from the earth – the release of the lava prevented the upwelling of the earth, which is why its flat instead of a mountain at this location.  The last release was about 2,000 years ago and geologists predict there will be activity again the future.


We also met this half mountain that is barely visible in the picture.  (Note:  I normally do enhance some of the black and white in my photos to help bring features out.  I did not enhance this photo at all.)  This is Crescent Butte.  Pioneers on the Oregon Trail used to use this as a landmark to avoid the rough terrain left by the lava flows.  However, there is so much air pollution in the area that has floated in from more populated areas that this probably won’t be visible that much longer. 

That evening, we explored the lava tube caves.  Lava tubes are created when lava hardens over still free flowing lava that leaves behind an empty tube.  We had to have flashlights to enter the caves, which were awesome.  The Boy Scout cave was the longest and contained ice throughout about half the cave.  The walls were wet so they glowed iridescent in our lights.

The next morning, I was up with the sun again.  I played with some of the colors in the morning light with the brush landscape.  I love the soft tenderness in this photo – it makes me want to relax and breath in the warm morning light.

We did a hike up the north side of the park.  We started out climbing up what was sort of shaped like stairs but really made of cinder stones (that sink when you step on them) only to discover that we had unnecessarily climbed up.  We did see a snake because of it though. 

The ranger had warned us of mountain lions, moose, possibly blacks bears.  And oh yeah – bow hunters.  He also told us to just keep to the right at each of the forks, which we did.  However, after we had hiked about a half a mile out of the way – we realized that he had forgotten about this fork and we needed to go left at the first fork.  

We didn’t see any mountain lions – but we did see a snake (mentioned previously), a deer, eight elk (which we heard down a creek long before we saw them), three more deer, a lizard and about a million grasshoppers. 
That evening, we headed to the Sawtooth National Recreation Area.  We got there just with enough time to set up camp and get a fire going before the sun went down. 

We were headed down to the creek to get some water to put out the fire when we noticed a set of eyes just across from us.  We slowly backed up and watched the two sets of eyes watching us. Finally, we scraped dirt on to the fire and went to sleep with bear spray in hand – just in case.  In the brightness of morning, we think it was just a couple of deer.  It was a really eerie feeling though.

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