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Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Camping in Craters

Hi Blog! We played 9 holes of golf on Monday, August 19th.  When we came home, we learned the weather forecast had changed.  They are now calling for thunderstorms later in the week.  We had hoped to head up to Craters of the Moon National Monument and Preserve and spend a couple days hiking around.  Well, no time like the present.  We quickly gathered up all our camping gear, had a quick lunch, and hit the road.

The drive from Pocatello to Arco is about two hours.  The campground at the park is first come, first serve.  We did a quick drive through looking for some shade.  We were lucky enough to find this site with a few Limber pine trees.  While it wasn't much, it did keep us out of the direct sun.  Here is Kathy soaking up the shade.

After setting up camp and registering our site, we walked over to the Visitor's Center to acquainted with the park. Craters of the Moon encompasses three major lava fields surrounded by sagebrush steppe grasslands to cover a total area of 1,117 square miles. All three lava fields lie along the Great Rift of Idaho, with some of the best examples of open rift cracks in the world, including the deepest known on Earth at 800 feet. There are excellent examples of almost every variety of basaltic lava as well as tree molds (cavities left by lava-incinerated trees), lava tubes (a type of cave), and many other volcanic features.  Little did we know we set up our tent in the shadow of a cinder cone.

That evening we joined a ranger walk.  We learned the names for the two different types of lava.  Pahoehoe is very fluid, smooth and rope like, while 'a'a is thicker, slower and crumbles as it cools.  We learned from walking the North Crater Flow Trail that the tree in the photo below was over 1300 years old.  Scientists were able to date the last lava flows by carbon dating the charcoal that remained when the trees were destroyed.

It is hard to imagine the scale of this place.  Here is Dave standing next to a remnant of a volcano cone that was carried away on a river of lava.

Another of our stops was the Devils Orchard Nature Tail.  This trail was designed to give visitors an up-close look at how plants and animals are slowly colonizing the lava fields.

Cracks in the lava can trap blowing soil and rain, lichen spread first and decompose, then plants take root and then come the bugs, birds, small mammals and so on.

There are several wild fires burning in Idaho at this time.  The smoke and haze made for a very colorful sunset.

Tomorrow we hope to get off the nature trail and out into the wilderness.

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