Once again this will be a case where I need to have two galleries in a post – I just took so many pictures in this place, it was so cool and unique. So remember kids, if you want to see all the pictures in this post, scroll on past my stories to see day two’s pictures below day one’s.
So I got to Craters of the Moon National Monument and Preserve in Idaho on around 11:00 or so on the morning of September 18th, 2016. I first found a campsite, ate a quick lunch, then set out. My first stop was at the short North Crater Flow loop trail, where I got my first real taste of this place. So, I guess around like 2000 years ago there were a few volcanoes in the area, as you can still see some of the dormant cones today. Lava must have flowed freely here, like for miles, as there is lava flow and lava rocks just for miles in this National Monument. It really is something special. I guess they call it Craters of the Moon because one of the first few people to see it imagined that this is what the surface of the moon must look like. And maybe it does, but I can only imagine that the moon is actually pretty different from this place, but hey, it has a cool name.
After that trail I headed to the Inferno Cone, which is a large dormant volcano. At the top of the Inferno Cone, man was the wind just blowing so hard. I got some dust and dirt in my eyes sure, but it was so cool. When you are in a place with such strong winds like that, you can really get a good understanding of how strong nature is. So I stayed on top of the cone for sometime, letting the wind push me around a bit. After that, I headed down and drove to the spatter cones and learned about how truly fragile this ground is, as you could see a lot of evidence of damage from before this place became protected by the government. After that, I went onto the Tree Molds Trail, and saw some volcanic activity that had surrounded some trees; the trees weren’t there anymore, so you could just see where the lava flowed around the tree trunk, leaving a hole where that trunk once was. It was on that path that I saw the large snake pictured below. I haven’t been able to identify what kind of snake it was, but it looked like it had just eaten, it was moving pretty slow.
After all of that I drove back to the visitor center and got a free permit to visit the caves in the park, which I did on Day two.
Okay so Day 2 in Craters of the Moon National Monument was all about the five caves that I could visit. I want to mention that the major reason why I had to obtain a permit to visit the caves, besides the fact that the caves, well, really they are lava tubes, are dangerous, is that there is something called the White Nose Syndrome going around that has been killing lots and lots of bats. While Humans cannot catch this disease, we can carry it unwittingly into caves, and since I was in the Lehman caves a few days before this I had to make sure I was wearing different clothes and shoes in order to go into the caves.
So the first Cave I visited was on the Broken Top loop trail, called the Buffalo Caves. This was a cool one, one of the bigger ones, had like three different rooms in it. The ceiling formations, what look like stalactites are actually just how the lava cooled when the lava tube was formed, pretty cool. I believe this was the first cave in which I turned out my headlamp to sit in the dark for a bit, as I was alone in the cave, but the entrance was filtering some light to where I was so it wasn’t completely pitch black.
After the Buffalo Caves I finished the loop to go to the Big Sink Overlook, then headed to the area that has the remaining four caves I could visit. The first one was the smallest of all the caves, called Dewdrop cave. It barely goes very far, so you can see just fine without a flashlight or anything like that. The next cave I went to was my absolute favorite. It was called Boy Scout cave, and once again I was all alone in the cave. The cave had two entrances, each one leading to a different part of the cave, but it was all one cave system. In both parts, as I went to both, I turned out my light and was able to sit in complete pitch blackness for a little while. You may ask me why I did this… but it was a truly cool experience. Since I was alone in the cave I could keep the light off for as long as I wanted… and how often do you truly get to experience pitch blackness? Like where you can’t even see your hand right in front of your face, there is no light coming in from any direction. It is just cool. So in the second section of Boy Scout cave that I visited, that section was cold, I could see my breath with the headlamp on. When I had my light out in that part, there was a lot of water dripping from the cave ceiling, so in the darkness all i could hear was the drip, drip, dripping of the water onto the cave floor… very cool.
The next cave I visited was called Beauty Cave, and is the last cave I turned out my headlamp in, and the last cave I was alone in. In this cave I could legitimately see stalactites growing on the cave walls. They were small, but cool to see. It is estimated that in general, a stalactite grows one cubic inch per 100 years, so they don’t grow very fast, and that rate varies a lot depending on the cave, the section of the cave you are in even, as it all depends on the flow of water.
The last cave wasn’t really a true cave, but was I guess still classified as one. It was called Indian Tunnel, and was much more of a tunnel, as the roof had collapsed in many places, letting light come in, and yeah you didn’t need a flashlight or anything, but was still cool. This was the biggest of all the caves, and had the most people in it, well, I was alone in every other cave I was in that day, so the like 5-6 other people I saw in that cave was a lot in comparison.
After I was done exploring caves and sitting in the darkness, I went and hiked the North Crater Trail, which took me to the Spatter Cones which I had visited the day before. It was just a fun 1.8 mile hike one way, not a loop, but still cool to do, got to see more lava flow areas and cool lava features and such.
But yeah, Craters of the Moon National Monument is a very unique and cool place to visit.