Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Craters of the Moon National Monument

This post is a day behind due to lack of connectivity at the National Monument.


I got my very first Pacific Northwest stamp today!  Hard to believe I’ve gotten this far in life without visiting this region of the U.S. 


That’s how Calvin Coolidge described this place.  I guess the word freaky wasn’t presidential enough.  

Miles from nowhere in Idaho's Snake River Valley, the National Park Service protects 750,000 acres of this unique landscape brought forth by volcanic forces.   

There are 5 trails throughout the preserve winding among the formations. 

I’ve got to say this is the second most peculiar terrain I’ve ever hiked.  (First would be the dunes at Whites Sands National Monument).  As you can see, the trail to the summit is steep, but not impossibly so; however, the strong gusting winds presented a challenge to remaining upright.  The wind was so strong I had to take my earrings off because they were beating against my face.  Of course, I end up losing one.   

The views from the top are worth it. 

Scattered throughout the preserve are signs describing the forces that birthed this otherworldly landscape.  Interestingly, this vast lava field emanated not from one volcano, but from a series of deep fissures that cross the Snake River Plains.  The most recent (though probably not the last) eruption was 2,000 years ago. 

Cinder Cone Fragments:  

Think icebergs in a sea of lava.  They are scattered throughout the preserve.

Spatter Cones:  

These are miniature volcanoes – some of the rarest volcanic features on earth.

Lava Flow Campground

This is my first campground stay of the trip, but how can one resist the chance to sleep in a lava field?  At $10 a night (first- come first-served) there are no hookups or showers but …. the scenery is remarkable.

I’m hoping for a big star show tonight given the 4,500 foot altitude, low humidity, quarter-moon, and complete absence of artificial lights.   [Update: Sigh.  It was not to be.  A heavy cloud cover moved in at sunset]. 

Tomorrow I head toward Boise.  After that …… Oregon at last!


  1. Very cool looking place! It's a park I had not really thought about, but I'm now going to add it to the list!

    1. If you are like me, that list keeps getting longer!

  2. Looks like the park was aptly named. I could close my eyes and picture the spattercones forming. Fascinating!

    1. Sharon, I thought about you and how much you would enjoy identifying the (relatively few) species of wildflowers. They are at their peaks right now. I got a shot of one this AM - if it turns out OK, I'll post it.

  3. Oh I bet that star show is going to be "over the top!" Boise is huge on my cool you keep that stamp book! I'm thinking someone said you can't get them anymore...maybe I'm wrong!

    1. Staying in Boise tonight. More exactly, in Meridian, a bedroom community. Frankly, coming in to such a big city gave me a bit of a shock. It's not as pretty as I imagined. Flat with a few foothills. I think the impressive mountains are further north.

      I'm happy to report that the NPS stamp program is alive and well. You can pick one up at any Visitor Center. Or order online. It's a fun hobby.

  4. I ordered the complete kit with all the stamps, I did attach all the stamps for the parks I've already visited, but don't have the official Ink Stamp of those parks.

    1. Sondra,

      I did the same thing when I got my passport book. I applied the sticky photo stamps for the NP sites I'd already visited.

  5. So sorry about the cloud coverage and lack of star show but oh my gosh...what a very unique place!! Another place I had not ever thought about but now one day would like to see for myself!!, I'm going to ask a stupid question but that is how we learn isn't it?? Where do you get the book that you get stamped? I purchased my "senior pass" card and the lady never mentioned any national park book to be stamped or anything. I read so much about others getting these stamps. Tell me about it!! Thanks!!

    1. Happy Trails,

      Not stupid at all. A lot of people don't know about the passport stamps. Every NP site - there are over 300 - will have at least one cancellation stamp at the Visitor's Center. There will be a station with the stamp and ink pad. (Sometimes if it's a really small NP site, it will be behind the counter, but will be produced upon request).

      Many sites have more than one stamp. For example, the Washington Monument Visitor's Center at the National Mall had about 20! It was sort of a one-stop shopping experience for people visiting the Mall and all the monuments. I posted a photo of it during my October visit to D.C.

      You can purchase the passport book at any National Park Visitor Center/Bookstore or online.

      Here's some info about the program:

      Happy Stamping!

  6. You sure are traveling to some great places. Being able to park at lots it a good way to save money. With my camper I can't really do that Must fix this problem.

    Keep rolling and posting these great pictures

  7. Weird places are good! Thanks for the interesting pics

  8. Was there a few years ago and it is 'freaky'. There is a 'stamp' book for lighthouses too as well as National Parks.
    Glad you are getting to enjoy your travels.


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