I’ve decided one of the reasons I’m drawn to western states is because of the incredible geologic diversity you can see simply by driving a few hours. I suppose part of it has to do with the large size of the states, but there’s more to it than size. I mean, you could spend a few hours driving around a small state like Connecticut and see pretty much the same forests and quaint towns the entire way. Or you could spend a few hours driving around states like Colorado or Montana and discover a completely new geologic environment every few hundred miles.
It’s one of the reasons why we love taking a few months to explore these western states. With diversity around every corner, it would be a shame to only experience a small portion of it. Idaho has proved to be another western state where all it takes to discover a whole new world is a short drive.
We left our boondocking spot on the edge of the towering Teton mountains and headed west through rolling hills covered with neat rows of potato plants. As we turned south and followed the wide valleys flanked by steep ridges, the landscape became increasingly arid and soon we could see fields of crumpled, dark colored earth. We had reached the Great Rift of Idaho where lava fields, cinder cones, and ice filled caves dominate the land.
Craters of the Moon National Monument has long been on our “must visit” list. Ever since we spent a few days at Valley of Fires in New Mexico, I’ve been fascinated by giant fields of shiny cooled lava with names like pahoehoe and áa. Craters of the Moon is an easy park to visit because it’s not very large and can be explored in just a few days. We arrived on a Friday evening, left on Sunday morning and still managed to hike nearly every trail in the park, explore the lava tubes, and go to the visitor center.
Despite its small size and location in approximately the middle of nowhere Idaho, this is a popular tourist destination. We pushed our luck a bit by arriving late on a Friday evening. The campground in the park is small with only a few sites suitable for our size RV. Somehow we got lucky and snagged a massive pull-thru with a small tree that gave us a few hours of afternoon shade. Less than an hour later the campground was full.
With temperatures predicted to be in the ridiculously hot range, we made a plan to hike on Friday evening and Saturday morning and then go underground to see the lava tubes during the hottest part of the day. It was a good plan, except the walk to the lava tubes was longer than we realized and very hot in the mid-afternoon sun. By the time we finished, our energy was drained and we had nothing left for tackling the final planned evening hike on the Broken Top Trail. Oh well, so we missed out on one trail. It was still an amazing experience and I’m glad we finally made it to Craters of the Moon.