We have left Yellowstone and travelled west to cross the Plains of Snake River. We have also found the flies, or rather they found us but this lot are a lazy mob. Small, grey and slow they have nothing on the Aussie bush fly but we are grateful for this.
We are visiting an amazing landscape here, and no I do not mean the endless plains or prairie which stretches out in front of you like the Australian Outback. If there had to be a landscape on this continent that resembled anything like the Outback then it would be the Snake River Plains in Idaho which took us to the Craters of the Moon. To our eyes, travelling through this landscape was a revelation and we almost felt like home. Even the flies obliged but as I said, they are a lazy lot.
Craters of the Moon is a National Monument and Preserve of the People and it is easy to see why… the landscape is like nothing I have ever seen on earth. A volcanic remnant it is a landscape of black ash, cinder and volcanic rock. It is graced with lava flow caves, ice caves, bats and the graceful and entertaining little squirrel. Love this guy… he has become a real favourite and hugely amusing at times.
Back to the landscape however… and that is a truly fascinating and unique. Lava caves have always been of an interest to The Man and I, however in Aus. the lava caves at Undara in FNQ are hideously expensive to visit despite being a national treasure, and those lava caves in Victoria are not generally open to the public.
Here… it cost us all of $8 per vehicle and this includes guided walks through the amazing feature of what is a relatively recent volcanic activity. They have it all wonderfully organized with summer nightly shows on the features of the landscape, helpful park rangers, a well-designed and basically serviced camp that is cheap as chips and favoured with an entertaining wildlife.
Lunar like landscapes on earth are usually created by meteorite impact, few are created by volcanoes. However here, it is volcanic activity that has created this amazing region and this is what makes it very lunar in its look. The most recent eruption here occurred only 2,000 years ago and future eruptions are very likely to happen.
The area of the park looks seriously barren but the arid sagebrush sustains an amazing variety of life. The summer blooms of wildflowers are striking in the cinder landscape and it is this that feeds the wildlife.
The landscape is deceptive as beneath these volcanic features is a myriad of caves, which are in essence ice-chests. They were used as such by the Shoshone people to preserve their food in the short summer months.
There is also a hidden valley deep within the lunar landscape where the Shoshone people sheltered for many generations during the strife and upheaval of European settlement. This valley is one you cannot visit easily due to its hidden location and the value of its natural heritage to the people. You need to appreciate the vast expanse of this area and in doing so you come to see the secrets that are held tight.
Only a few feet below the dark and brittle lava runs is water, it seeps through the rock and sustains all the life for miles in an endless distance to the eye. The ice hangs from the rocks and ceiling and freezes on the cavern floor creating a slippery treacherous rink of mud and slush.
Two thousand years ago the Shoshone People would have witnessed some of the volcanic eruptions along what is the Great Rift of this central plateau region of what is now Idaho. The volcanic upheaval would have been going on during the time of the Prophets, the birth and life of Jesus of Nazareth and the upheavals in Europe. The landscape also hosted some of the NASA astronauts who used the area for moonwalk practice, as it was the closest they could get to the moonscape.
There is a well surfaced loop road that will take you around to many of the parks features such as the Crater flows, spatter cones and caves. This loop road is however closed between Nov-April due to the winter conditions but the area is excellent for skiing I believe. It is an unbelievable landscape and it makes you very aware of just how vulnerable life is.
Notes: The Man has settled down so much he is now starting to get into the wrong (righthand) side of the car.
Jan is an Australian author and writer. You can find our more about her publications at her official web site. Be sure to check out the reader discounts there.
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