The Dark Side of the Moon

“If something is wrong fix it if you can.

But train yourself not to worry. Worry never fixes anything.”

Ernest Hemingway

State 18: Idaho - October 12, 2017


We woke up at my Cousin Steve’s house in Mountain Home, Idaho. After spending yesterday catching up on laundry and blog posts, we shared a few hugs, shed a few tears, promised to keep in touch, and said our goodbyes. After loading up Rosie, we were off for a beautiful 110 mile drive Northeast via the Sawtooth Scenic Byway to Ketchum, ID to visit the site of Cross Country Couple's “Famous Person” for Idaho; Ernest Hemingway. Hemingway was an American novelist, short story writer, and journalist. During the 1920’s to 1950’s, he published seven novels, six short story collections, and two non-fiction works. His writing style had a strong influence on 20th century literature, and he won the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1954. Many of his works are considered classics of American literature. In addition to writing, Hemingway was present at the Invasion of Normandy in WW2, almost killed in two successive plane crashes while on an African Safari, and committed suicide in 1961 in Ketchum, ID. There is a long family history of depression in the Hemingway's family, and there has been a suicide in every generation.

Surprisingly, there were no museums in Ketchum honoring Hemingway. We wanted to visit Hemingway’s home, but it is a private residence. However, we discovered there was a memorial erected in his honor, and the location of the cemetery where he is buried. Our first stop of the day was the Ketchum Cemetery to visit the grave site of Ernest Hemingway. Not only was the cemetery very difficult to locate, but his grave site was challenging to find as well. When we visit the grave of a famous person, there are usually ample signs directing us to correct location, but no such signs existed for Hemingway’s grave. After spending a very creepy hour wandering around the cemetery, we finally found the grave of Hemingway, and his wife beneath a tree. A previous visitor had left an unopened beer at his grave, which is pictured below. I am not very knowledgeable about Hemingway’s works, so if any one reading this post knows the relevance of the beer and Hemingway please leave a reply in the comments section. Please see the pictures below of the grave of one of the most famous American authors of the 20th century.

Next, we drove across town to the Hemingway's memorial, which was also quite difficult to find. There were no signs directing us where to go, and we relied solely on vague directions we acquired online from a previous visitor. I am starting to notice a re-occurring pattern that perhaps Ketchum is not very proud of their association with Hemingway. After driving around in circles for over an hour, we finally found the location of the memorial, or so we thought. What we actually found was a tiny sign which read, “Hemingway Memorial” pointing to a path into the woods. After parking Rosie, we followed the narrow dirt path, and finally found the elusive memorial! It consisted of a small stone fountain, and a stone pillar with Hemingway’s bust perched on top. Actually, his bust was so tiny it appeared to be more like a shrunken head! It was an overall lackluster tribute in a poorly signed location in the woods. Quite an unfitting final tribute to one of America’s most famous authors. I did like the inscription on the monument which read; “Best of all he loved the fall the leaves yellow on the cottonwoods leaves floating on the trout streams and above the hills the high blue windless skies now he will be a part of them forever” Ernest Hemingway 1939. Please see the pictures below.


After departing the Hemingway memorial in Ketchum, we drove 83 miles Southeast to Arco, ID to the Craters of the Moon National Monument. Craters of the of the Moon is a 750,000 acre national monument consisting of 3 lava fields encompassing 1,117 square miles! Craters of the Moon represents the best-preserved basalt lava fields within the continental United States.

For over 12,000 years, the area had been inhabited by Native Americans; the most recent of which were the Shoshone Indians. The latest eruption occurred 2,100 years ago, and was actually witnessed by the Shoeshone. The legend passed down tells the tale of a large snake whom coiled himself around the mountain and squeezed until liquid rock flowed, fire shot from cracks, and the mountain exploded.

Until the early 20th century, the area had not been surveyed, and just written off as an inhabitable lava field. In the 1920’s, a taxidermist, tanner, and furrer from Boise named Robert Limbert launched 3 expeditions to explore this unknown desolate region. Limbert published an article about his expeditions in a 1924 edition of National Geographic. Limbert referred to the area as Craters of the Moon, as to him it appeared as the surface of the moon as seen through a telescope. Public interest in the region continued to grow as a result of Limbert’s efforts, and on May 2, 1924, President Calvin Coolidge used his executive order to proclaim Craters of the Moon a National Historic Monument to, in the president’s own words, “preserve a weird and scenic landscape, peculiar to itself”.

In actuality, the surface of the moon and Craters of the Moon National Monument have quite different origins. The surface of the moon was created by meteor impacts, and Craters of the Moon was created by volcanic activity. However, the park does not have a volcano in the traditional sense, but instead has a series of fissures or cracks in the earth’s crust 60 miles long known as the Great Rift. The Great Rift began expelling lava to form a vast ocean of volcanic rock within the park only 15,000 years ago. In fact, the most recent eruptions from the Great Rift occurred as recent as 2000 years ago, and scientists believe future eruptions will occur again.

We were very excited to visit the park, and 15 miles outside of the visitor center we noticed an immediate and drastic change in our surrounding landscape. The dry and dense sage brush desert landscapes of Idaho had suddenly transitioned into a dark, charred, black and inhospitable environment. Clearly, we had arrived at Craters of the Moon National Monument. Please see the pictures below.

As usual, we first stopped by the visitor center to speak with the Ranger about how to best explore the park. In addition, we watched 3 movies, and learned about 3 different lava formations we were going to be seeing. The first lava formation we would be viewing is called A’a lava flow.

Aʻā is a type of lava flow characterized by a rough surface composed of broken pieces of lava blocks called clinkers. At the leading edge of an ʻaʻā flow, the clinkers tumble down the steep front of the flow, and are buried by the advancing front. This produces a layer of lava fragments both at the bottom and top of an ʻaʻā flow. Best way to remember is a’ a’ lava flow is rough!

Pāhoehoe is the second type of lava flow, which means smooth and unbroken lava. The surface texture of pāhoehoe is usually smooth and billowy, and can display all kinds of bizarre shapes often referred to as lava sculpture. These surface features are due to the movement of very fluid lava under a congealing surface crust. Pāhoehoe can turn into ʻaʻā if it becomes turbulent from meeting impediments or steep slopes. Best way to remember Pāhoehoe lava flow is smooth!

Cinder Cone is the third and final lava formation. A cinder cone is a steep and often symmetrical hill of loose fragments built around a volcanic vent with a bowl shaped crater at the summit. As gas violently expels volcanic debris from the vent into the atmosphere, the debris breaks into small fragments that solidify around the vent to form a cone.

Craters of the Moon consists of a scenic 7-mile loop road taking you over, under, around, and through the various volcanic features of this unique landscape. Admission is $15.00 per vehicle, but we got in for free with our national park pass. Our first destination along the loop road was the North Crater Flow Trail. This 1/3-mile paved loop trail follows one of the 61 preserved lava flows within the monument. The detail on the solidified lava flow was amazing, and look liked the lava field froze in time! The North Crater Flow, offers the unique opportunity to view all 3 types of lava flows within a short distance of one another. Can you identify the A’a lava, pāhoehoe lava, and cinders, from the 3 pictures below?

Please see additional pictures of the North Crater Lava Flow Trail below.

We then continued down the loop road on to our 2nd stop; Devils Orchard Nature Trail. Now, I have done my fair share of hiking, and been on my fair share of “nature trails”. However, this one was without question the most unusual nature trail I have ever hiked! I can only describe it as an island of solidified lava standing among a sea of volcanic cinders. Miraculously, even in one of the inhospitable areas on earth, life still finds a means to thrive in spite of nature’s fury. Plants, trees and flowers have taken root among the charred and jagged volcanic rock and ash. Please see the pictures below on the most unique nature trail of my entire life!

Off in the distance, we saw speckles of white dotting a dark, ash laden hillside. Upon closer inspection, we discovered they were in fact Dwarf Buckwheat flowers. I will zoom in so you can see them up close in the pictures below.

Our next stop was a ¼ mile hike up a very steep hill called Inferno Cone. Lori took one look at that large steep black sandy ominous hill and wanted absolutely no part of it! Despite it's evil name and creepy geography, it was only a ¼ mile hike to the top! Seriously, how bad could it really be? I called Lori a weenie for backing out on me, and disembarked for my hike up the infamous Inferno Cone. Anyone who has gone for a long romantic walk on the beach knows walking on sand is challenging as you can never seem to get a solid footing. Now multiply that sensation x10 when you walk up a very steep black sandy hill in a lava field! To make matters worse, not only was it 30 degrees outside, there were constant 50 mpg winds halting my advance and relentlessly pelted me with black volcanic sand. I felt sandblasted! Needless to say, by the time I summitted Inferno Cone, I was absolutely exhausted from my ¼ mile hike, and not to mention seriously chaffed. I almost crawled back to the van as my legs were like rubber. I was the one who felt like a weenie! At least I was rewarded for my efforts with the spectacular views pictured below.

After I made my way back down Inferno Cone, I reunited with Rosie and Lori, and we headed to our last stop: Spatter Cones. In layman’s terms, spatter cones are miniature volcanoes. There were two spatter cones, and each had a 1/8 of a mile paved steep path to the top! I was extremely excited to be able to actually look into the crater of an ancient volcano! Lori agreed to hike the steep but short distance. I think she was afraid of being called a weenie again. We decided to start with the shorter of the two. Please see the pictures below of Spatter Cone 1.

After successfully summitting Spatter Cone 1, we naturally disembarked for Spatter Cone 2. The second cone proved more challenging than the previous. The path to the summit was much more steep, narrow and winded around the diameter of the cone. If all of that wasn’t bad enough, it was 28 degrees outside, and the wind was blowing at a constant 50 mph! I walked up the path first, and Lori was right behind me. When I made it to the summit of Cone 2, I said “Lori come here, you have to see this”, but I heard no answer. I then turned around, but Lori was no where to be seen. She was right behind me! Where could she be? I was getting very worried! I headed back down the volcano, and found Lori bent over and holding on to the side of the spatter cone for dear life! I went down to rescue her, but of course, I took a picture first! I then helped her to the top of the second spatter cone, and I was very proud she had made it to the top. Since the wind was really whipping up at this point, Lori was afraid she would be blown off the side, so we began our descent back down the volcano. Please see the pictures below of Spatter Cone 2.


Since it was already dark by the time we made it back to the visitor center, we opted to stay at the Craters of the Moon campsite for the bargain price of $7.50! After all, when would the opportunity ever present itself again to camp in an ancient lava field? I had a very restless night sleep, because I was sensing a presence right outside of the van. I couldn't imagine what kind of wild animal could be circling us. We were surrounded by a 15,000 year old lava field, and what animal could live in such a desolate environment? I could sense it's energy, and desire to get in as it encircled the van. All of the sudden, I heard a sniff at the back door followed up by a slight whimper. I calmly tapped Nate's shoulder, "NATE, NATE...Wake up, Something is trying to get into the van!!!". He sits up erectly and listens with me. I thought it was a bobcat, and Nate thought it was a coyote. We finally managed to fall back asleep feeling confident Rosie would keep us protected and safe, and there was no way IT could get in.

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