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We had a quick but wonderful visit to Burns, Oregon. If you missed that post, you can read it about it here. We woke reasonably early the next morning with our sights set on Craters of the Moon National Monument, Idaho, 365 miles away and about 6 hours driving time. Tonight we plan to camp. Sisu, our 2016 Subaru Outback, is all packed up and we take off down the quiet highways towards Idaho.
Just when we thought the road would never end….this happened!
This tank was randomly on the side of the road somewhere in Idaho. Since my son is an avid tank fan, of course we had to stop for some silly photos. That’s one of the things I love most about road trips…you just never know what you’re going to come across. So… the tank woke us up a bit, gave us an opportunity to get out of the car to stretch our legs and laugh a little, then we were off again. Only about an hour more to Craters of the Moon National Monument.
Craters of the Moon is a surreal setting. One minute you’re driving through what appears to be foothills heading up towards mountains then in the blink of an eye, you are surrounded by vast lava fields. The campground was right in the middle of a lava field with little spots cleared away to accommodate tents. This campground is first come first serve, and fortunately there were several sites to choose from when we arrived that mid July afternoon. This was one of the most unusual campgrounds we had ever experienced and we set up our gear like two kids in a candy shop. Next on our list was to check out some of the many lava tubes here at the park!
We grabbed our headlamps and our gloves and headed to the visitors’ center to obtain our cave permit. Sadly, since 2006 an epidemic called ‘White Nose Syndrome’ has been running rampant among the bat population. WNS is a fatal condition caused by a fungus that can potentially spread between bat roost sites so in order to help stop the spread of this devastating disease, many parks require a screening procedure to help protect these wonderful animals. As long as you are not using or wearing any gear, clothes, or shoes, that you’ve used in caves before 2005, you’re good to go. Off to the caves!
We headed down the stairs into Indian Cave, our first exploration underground. This cave is massive! It stretches 800 feet long and 30 feet high with several sky lights brightening the interior. This is the only cave where a headlamp is not needed. We wandered the length of the cave and climbed out the other end, happy to have brought the mad grips gloves that we’d used on our Half Dome cables trip the month before. These have been worth their weight in gold! They protected our hands from the rough stones and helped our grip as we scrambled over the rocks.
Having gained some confidence, we set off in the 100 degree afternoon to explore the other caves. Descending into the bowels of these caves dropped the temperature to the 60s – what a difference! The last cave we explored was Boy Scout Cave. They weren’t kidding when they said you’d have to really squeeeeeeeeze through the openings in the cavern to move through it. See Daniel in the picture above? The whole thing freaked me out a bit. Once you move away from the cave’s opening, it gets pitch black very fast and the only light you see is from your headlamp. It’s difficult to even tell which way is out. I kept thinking about that movie, Journey to the Center of the Earth, where all the characters got trapped inside a cave far, far underground. Needless to say, we didn’t stay in that one for very long! The day was waning, so we headed back towards our campsite for our favorite backpacking meal.
After dinner, a sunset walk, and a coffee nightcap, we’re headed to bed. Tomorrow we plan to rise just before the sun to hike Inferno Cone to watch the sunrise. Sweet dreams, y’all!