When you visit Craters of the Moon National Monument, your first thought is that the person who named the place didn’t know too much about the moon. One wonders if he’d ever even looked at the moon. This is because the place he (most likely, it was a ‘he’) named Craters of the Moon is a giant, dark lava flow. It represents one of the more recent eruptions in this part of the world. Maybe he was thinking about the lack of vegetation in the area. The cool thing is that the lava flow actually preserved little islands of native vegetation, saving them from the hungry cows that nibbled up most of the rest of the plains. Now you can see little pieces of the plains in their natural state.
Most people who visit come to explore the lava tubes. Lava tubes are underground tunnels that form when the outside of a lava flow solidifies but hot lava continues flowing, using the tube like a subterranean river. Call me spoiled, but I’m not a big fan of lava tubes. It’s cool to walk through one or two, but after that, they all look sort of the same. Plus, I had insider information that the group of ten year old boys that provided the evening’s entertainment at the campground were spending the entire next day in the tubes.
Instead, we explored most of the trails that are accessible from the scenic drive. The trails cover a great range of features, from cinder cones to tree molds to spatter cones. You can see the two different kinds of lava (aa and pahoehoe) in a range of colors, from black to brown to green to blue. The crushed lava sparkles in the sunlight and you can feel heat radiating from the warm ground. It’s almost completely silent. It’s hard to picture this peaceful place in the midst of a giant volcanic eruption.