Saturday, December 13, 2008

Craters of the Moon

images from Craters of the Moon National Monument, central Idaho

a stark beauty
sea of sky
volcanic spatter

The day windy and cold, at this high altitude. Clouds moving fast, clearing, then regathering over the mountain ranges fading off to the north. South, nothing. Absolutely nothing but lava fields and basalt desert until one reaches the cliffs of the Snake River Valley, the big river carving a long curve through the volcanic rock. The highway follows the curve of the river, overlooking the abyss. Hwy. 20 goes right to the National Monument, a straight line across nothing, just one or two little towns, a lot of cattle, a lot of sky, and only one or two turns in the road. When you get to the outskirts of the Park, suddenly there are basalt flow fields everywhere, black under the sun. Bright flowering sage and chamisa scatter yellow and white frosting across the black stone slopes. Under these slopes, lava tubes. Rocks so sharp they eat up your sneakers in an afternoon of off-trail hiking. Your feet bloody in your socks. A thousand pinpricks, death by a thousand cuts.

vugs whorls silent windows
holes in flowstone
cavities of air in liquid rock

Because of the season, and the construction going on in the campgrounds, the Park offered free overnight camping in designated parking lots around the Park's long loop of road. I was tempted to spend the night, as many were doing. But it was so windy and cold, I knew that I would have an uncomfortable camp if I stayed, and end up sleeping in the truck, if the wind tore down my tent.

lone pine
on crater's shoulder:

I was tempted to camp the night anyway, but as the sun approached the horizon, thin clouds covered the Western skies, and it got suddenly cold. There was an hour or so of light left, so I drove on east towards Wyoming. The roads were long and straight and lightly-traveled. No one obeyed the speed limits, they just forged ahead at full speed. I made it as far as Idaho Falls before finding a hotel for the night. In the early morning it snowed, and the next day, as I drove up the Snake River canyon to Wyoming, it rained all morning.

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