Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Yellowstone Road Trip - Day 20

“What you see depends mainly on what you look for.”   ~Richard J. Vogl, biologist

We left the Pony Express Motel in West Yellowstone, Montana at 7:25 and by 7:44 we were in Idaho on Highway 20. Then after 16 miles we paused briefly to take a photo of one small town's claim to fame. It said “Welcome to City of Island Park, Idaho – the longest Main Street in America”. It is 35 miles long which seems a little strange since the population is only 287. But is is a very nice sign.

We tried to go to EBR-1 Atomic Museum, a historic landmark but they are closed from Labor Day to Memorial Day. It is just off Highway 20 between Idaho Falls and Arco.

Highway 20 took us all the way to Arco, Idaho whose claim to fame is that they are the first town in the USA to use nuclear power (1955).

We headed southwest from Arco to visit Craters of the Moon National Monument and Preserve which is about 18 miles away (and on Highway 20).

Geologist Harold Sterns described this area in 1923 as “The surface of the moon as seen through a telescope where the dark craters and the cold lava were nearly destitute of vegetation.” Its strangeness stirred local legends, wider public interest and then a feature story in National Geographic magazine. In 1924, responding to growing public concern, President Calvin Coolidge used the 1906 Antiquities Act to proclaim Craters of the Moon National Monument, preserving “a weird and scenic landscape, peculiar to itself.” It would be hard to get the total feel of Craters of the Moon except by being there but  we hope the video and 77 still photos depict a bit of it for you.

The craters on the Earth's moon are mostly a result of meteorite impacts. The craters of Craters of the Moon, however, are definitely of volcanic origin. The vast volumes of lava came not from one volcano but from a series of deep fissures that cross the Snake River Plain. The fissures are known as the Great Rift. The oldest began 15,000 years ago. The most recent eruption occurred 2,000 years ago, and geologists believe that more volcanic activity in the future is very likely. The only place in the United States mainland more like to have volcanic activity is Yellowstone.

And, yes, this would be a good place for astronauts to have trained before landing on the moon.  And they did! Wouldn't it have been fun to be around to see that and get some genuine photos of astronauts at Craters of the Moon?

We went on the North Crater Flow Trail and took still photos and video, Linda took photos at Devils Orchard Nature Trail. Then Linda went to Indian Cave which is one of many lava tubes in the area, three of which are open to hikers.  Lava rivers become lava tubes when the exterior of a flow cools allowing hot, fluid lava to continue to flow beneath the surface. Linda was surprised at how large Indian Tunnel was. The size was 30 feet high, 50 feet wide and 800 feet long. She was all by herself on the winding black half-mile path to the cave's entrance. It was a strange feeling to be in such a desolate area with no one else around. There was a group of people at the cave's entrance who were waiting for a ranger to guide them through but Linda forged on ahead into the cave by herself since John and Fannie were waiting in the parking lot. The cave's entrance was large and there was an opening to the outside along the way so it wasn't real dark but it was nice to have a flashlight to help with where to step on the uneven rocky pathway. It was immediately cooler in the cave and there was a musty smell of mildew. In the quiet semi-dark it was fun to hear the bats whizzing around and bleeping. Then a pair of hikers caught up with Linda on the trail and the bats were quiet again.

After Linda returned to John and Fannie Mae in the parking lot, we headed to Arco and checked into our lodging for the night – the DK Motel. Luckily DK is not a homonym. It does not mean "decay" motel. It is a very cute place with quite reasonable rates for a couple of old buzzards.

We had dinner at The Pickle Place. John had the large chef's salad and Linda had the small chef's salad. John also just had to try the fried pickles. After offering to share them with Linda he said “They're not bad.” And why, Linda wondered, would that ever be a good review? She tried a part of one so now she can mark that off her bucket list (once she puts it on there). John finished them off, but they have now been added and removed from his bucket list as well.

After dinner we picked up Fannie Mae and went back to Craters on the Moon to try to get some sunset shots using tripods. Not to bore you with our efforts, we only included one of them in today's photo gallery. It's pretty ethereal. The last photo in the gallery is a evening shot of the main drag in Arco. In the background is a large hill. You will likely notice white numbers on the side of the hill. Hence, it is called "Number Hill". Those numbers are put up every year by the graduating class of Arco High School. Oh, and the numbers go back to 1920. Yet, they put up two-digit numbers. Which begs the question, what happens when the class of 2020 graduates?

You can view today's photo gallery of 77 images by clicking here.

And so, another day sinks below the horizon as John processes photos and Linda recounts some of what we have done today. John was very excited that our wifi at the DK Motel was good enough to upload two videos, which he added to our blog posts for those days.

Which reminds us to go back to today's quotes. Both old buzzards enjoy looking for the unusual inside of the usual photo opportunities and are sure that you will agree that it is reflected in our photo galleries. The quote at the beginning of today's post also reminds Linda of her Grandmother Angie. When John and Linda were moving to California, she was warned about it by John's Aunt Helen who said “I don't think it's a good idea for you to move there. Those people, they're different.” When Linda told her Grandmother Angie about the conversation she said “Honey, there's nice people everywhere. If you look for the nice people, that's what you'll find!” She was so right and we have found lots of nice people on this road trip.

We filled up fickle Wilma (her nav system is still on again/off again) for $3.959 so are ready to take off for Elko, Nevada bright and early tomorrow.

Happy trails!

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