Stark. Quiet. Bleak. Peaceful. Desolate. All descriptive of Craters of the Moon National Monument and Preserve Idaho. Instead of making a beeline to Boise for some maintenance work on the truck, we took the long way and stopped at Craters of the Moon. Some friends of ours had ridden through on their Harleys a few years before and recommended it. This area of Idaho was the scene of a cataclysmic volcanic eruption. As we drove the 7-mile loop road, we were awestruck by the total devastation. Huge lava flows, hardened and frozen in time, piles of rock thrown great distances by incredible explosions, towering cinder cones that rise up from the valley floor, and trees stripped bare of all vegetation surrounded us on every side. As we surveyed the aftermath, we tried to imagine what it must have been like for the inhabitants of this area, man and beast alike, as the rumbling of the earth began followed by the volcanic activity and then the lava flows, devouring every thing in their paths. The people living here probably thought it was the end of the world.
But hope springs eternal. In the cracks and crevices we saw plant growth, tiny patches of green bursting forth to renew this corner of the earth. But it is a harsh environment, blazing heat in summer, frigid temperatures in winter, and the wind,…lots of wind because there is nothing to hold it back.
The park itself is not large. You could drive the 7-mile loop, do a little hiking, and have a picnic all in one day. The campground is small and first come-first serve with only a few sites large enough to accommodate our size rig. There are flush toilets, but no showers, no water fill up, and no dump station. We had planned ahead and stopped at a gas station in nearby Arco to fill up with FREE water. Checking the park website today, I read a notice that the campground is closing July 5, 2016, for extensive renovations. The park has a wonderful amphitheater for ranger presentations. One downside to traveling in the off-season,…the lack of ranger talks. We have always thoroughly enjoyed the ranger talks at our national parks and are disappointed when we are too late in the season to attend.
After dinner, the rain moved in. It gently lulled us to sleep while the scent of desert rain filled the air. We were amazed that we could sleep so peacefully amidst the scene of total devastation.