Splunking on the moon in Idaho?

Trip Start Jul 04, 2012
Trip End Jun 04, 2013

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Craters of the Moon/Arco KOA

Flag of United States  , Idaho
Monday, September 17, 2012

It's 1969 and NASA's Apollo astronauts come to Craters of the Moon to study basic volcanic geology before their mission to the moon - a landscape so surreal you may make the mistake of thinking you are not on earth.  Back track to only 2000 years ago when the most recent eruption occurred, forming spatter cones, cinder cones, lava tubes and fissures throughout the Great Rift of the Snake River Plain.

We all very ignorantly assumed that Idaho was flat, with lots of potatoes - well that it does have, along with some very cool volcanic features from volcanic fissures that were active not that long ago.  Craters of the Moon National Monument and Preserve covers some of the 750000 square miles of lava fields, and we got up close and personal with (and down into) the features that were created!  Our favorite was the Ranger-led hike through pahoehoe and 'a'a lava and a climb down into a cave (tunnel) created by lava tubes.  Zak and Jakob especially enjoyed spulunking in Dewdrop Cave and Boy Scout Cave.  Some of these caves had been used by the Natives for shelter and refrigeration years before white man showed up: cool constant temperatures meant ice formation even when the surface ground temperatures soared to 150 degrees Fahrenheit!

As the park is really out by itself, the sky is very dark at night and star gazing is at its finest.  Late one evening we enjoyed an astronomy party, looking through some very cool telescopes to view globular & planetary nubulei, Polaris and the Andromeda Galaxy.  Made us oh and ah, and feel very insignificant!  Thank you to the members of the Idaho Falls Astronomy Society for patiently and enthusiastically explaining the night sky to us nubees!

Our campground was located in Arco, whose claim to fame is the first town in the free world to be powered by electricity created from nuclear power (Nuclear Test Breeder Reactor at the Idaho National Laboratory).  The area was first settled to mine out ore, zinc, lead, copper, gold and silver, but once those were no longer viable some of the towns and settlements were deserted, leaving ghost towns.  We enjoyed an afternoon exploring the MacKay Mining Tour, creeping about long-abandoned settlements, mines and homesteads.

After 5 days of unexpected rest, relaxation and enjoyment of some good old-fashioned Midwestern hospitality at our KOA homebase (Zak was sad to say goodbye to the resident dog Jackie), we headed westward once more.  Armed with homemade cookies from our host, we made the very scenic drive to Boise (to yet again have trailer repairs done).  Professional service from Dennis Dillon RV had us on our way in short order (but leaving Carolyn not impressed with the trailer - that's another story however!)  Idaho was a pleasant surprise with all of its diversity: buttes, arid sagebrush areas, lava fields, mountains, white water rivers and mining ghost towns. A hidden gem in the U.S - we didn't check out all the things it has to offer but we were impressed!  
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merley on

spelunking sounds cool!

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