Monday, May 11, 2015

Craters of the Moon National Monument

A stop at Craters of the Moon National Monument is a great segue on my journey to Yellowstone. This lava strewn landscape is part of the volcanic processes that also shape\shaped Yellowstone.  So are Miracle Hot Springs at Buhl, ID where I spent a couple days relaxing.

In simplified form, the earth is in three layers, the super hot internal core, the mantle, and the crust.   That super heated internal area forms mantle plumes where the magma comes closer to the surface.  And then it escapes through fractures in the crust or as explosions when the pressure builds significantly.   Once it reaches the crust, the magma is termed lava.

While the core and mantle stay put, the crust moves slowly (and by that I mean geologically slowly, an imperceptible creep except to the trained eyes of geologists), over hot spots.   At this crust has moved, due to plate tectonics, a line of ancient volcanic activity traces a line across current northern Nevada, southern Idaho and completes, for the time being, under Yellowstone.  Craters of the Moon is one of the places the lava erupted and oozed through fractures in the Great Rift running 13 miles through what is now the park.  Different events and cooling have left behind cinder cones, spatter cones volcanic bombs, lava tubes and caves.   In places the lava  is what is called a'a, a Hawaiian term, which is usually very rough on the surface and fragmented.  Other areas are dominated by  Pahoehoe, a more liquid form that cools in flowing waves.   Within those two basic types are the manifestations of three kinds of rock, and multiple variations within those, including pumice, which is  filled with air, and floats in water, or obsidian which is also called black glass and is sharp enough to make long lasting knives and surgical instrument.

But enough of my primitive descriptions.  Here are some photos of the landscape at Craters of the Moon and the hearty plants and animals which are reclaiming this land.

We had some rain while I was there.  Idaho, like California had a dry winter and the newspapers are talking about drought and water restrictions.  But the farmers have not yet heeded the call, at least not the spots I passed by where the huge  irrigation systems where running full speed in the rain, rain which occcured over several days.   Besides not being needed during the rain, this area is often windy and much of it blows away.   Like farmers in California, new ways will need to be found.

While I traveled off the main roads onto dirt roads to get the incredible storm clouds over this agricultural valley between Craters of the Moon and Arco, ID, I also had a flat tire on the car.   Joy.  But as I dealt with it, a nice young couple stopped and the young man put the donut  on.  I was able to get a permanent fix in Arco the next morning.

I am posting this from Idaho Falls where I am parked at the Elks Lodge and doing final chores before the last leg into the park and another summer driving one of the historic yellow roll-top busses on photo trips.

Wasting water, the west's scarce resource.  It was only breezy this day, but I drove past another day when the wind was sending much of the water across the road and to an empty field on the far side.  This is rich and valuable crop land, including potatoes for which the state is famous, but the "times are a changing."