Who Named it Craters of the Moon National Monument?

28 Jun
2012
Posted in: Idaho, Parks
By    2 Comments

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.

The lava flow from the top of Inferno Cone.

The lava flow from the top of Inferno Cone.

Looking northeast over the lava flow.

Looking northeast over the lava flow.

In certain areas you can see tree molds -- casts formed when the lava flowed around living trees.

In certain areas you can see tree molds — casts formed when the lava flowed around living trees.

It can take thousands of years for plants to start growing on the lava.

It can take thousands of years for plants to start growing on the lava.

One of the cones.

One of the cones.

Paul and me, strolling through the lava.

Paul and me, strolling through the lava.

  • pamox

    I just happened on your blog today while looking for info for road trips. My husband and I just sold our house, sold, auctioned, and gave away 80% of our possessions and are planning to road trip for at least two months before we resettle. I love your experience as it is hard to find much info on road tripping. The difference is we are in our 60′s and we own our Subaru already (well we are paying for it, yet) and we lived in our home for 33 years, so I imagine we had accumulated more possessions, especially because we also raised 4 children in that home. It was quite freeing to get our material baggage down to less than a storage unit. We are planning to go from Denver, Co. to Portland and then the Pacific Coast to San Diego. If you have any must sees, let me know. I have tried to go back and read some of your entries. I started a blog also, two entries so far, Burning Bridges Together. Tour 2012. Thanks for posting. P

    • http://www.drivinginertia.com/ Lisa M

      How exciting! I think you’re going to find that it will be hard to stop after two months! Here’s a link to the blog for anyone who is interested: http://moxela.blogspot.com/

      I’d suggest you skip back to January and February on our site (use the Track our Journey link at the top of the page and scroll down Jan/Feb) to find our experiences on the coast between San Diego and Monterey. We found lots of things we loved: the Big Sur coast, Paso Robles, Malibu, Jalama Beach…

      We will be working our way down the Pacific coast from Seattle to San Francisco over the next two months, and we’ll be sharing our experiences as they happen (I mean, two weeks after!).

      Hope that you have a great time exploring!