Astronauts in Idaho

We left Montana and headed to the next state on our list-Idaho. We were excited to head to the spud state and see Craters of the Moon National Monument. We also had high hopes for finding some hot springs to soak in. Idaho prides itself in being a place for outdoor lovers. Popular activities include whitewater rafting, skiing, hunting, fishing, and hiking.

We are definitely outdoorsy people ourselves. So, I expected that we would enjoy Idaho. But, I was surprised by how remote it felt. You can drive for hours, and the landscape doesn’t seem to change. For a very long stretch of road, we didn’t pass by any other cars. I think the best way to describe it is desolate. It was honestly eerie. Hours of driving with no cars, no houses, and no businesses. It made me nervous. I asked Jason again, “Are you sure we have enough gas?” “I’d hate to break down out here. There’s nowhere to go and no one to help.”

Eventually, we made it to a small community called Arco. Arco’s claim to fame is that they are the first city in the world ever to be lit by electricity generated solely by nuclear power. Calling Arco a city is a stretch. It’s more of a village. I did a little digging online and found that there’s just one elementary school and one high school in the area. The average high school classroom has just a dozen kids. There is however a KOA and a gas station. So, we had everything we needed for the night.

Our reason for coming here was to visit the Craters of the Moon National Monument. Let me be clear in saying that this park is totally worth the drive. We arrived after the visitor center had already closed for the night. So, we watched the park video on my phone and got some hiking recommendations from the National Park Service website. There is a seven-mile driving loop with lots of places to park and hike. The park preserves the lava fields and cinder cones of a volcano that is thousands of years old. It was named Craters of the Moon because the landscape looks otherworldly and lunar. It is strange and beautiful. It is unlike anything I’ve ever seen before.

The best hike in the park, in my opinion, is Inferno Cone. Not, a long hike, but a very steep hike up the side of a cinder cone was not something Jackson was interested in doing. He does not enjoy hiking. But, Mama overruled and we grabbed our water and sunhats and started the trek. Talk about feeling the burn! Oh my goodness. We walked and walked and walked. The funny thing about Inferno Cone is that the shape is hard to describe. It is shaped like a hill. But on top of that is an even steeper cone. But, this second cone is set back just a bit and isn’t visible from the base. So, what happens is, you walk and walk up the incline, and just when you think you are about to reach the top the real summit comes into view. And, it is intimidating. You realize you aren’t even halfway. It is at this point that a lot of people turn around and walk right back down to the base. Jackson was certainly voting for this option. But, when we got there, an attractive senior woman met up with us while coming back down the trail. She probably saw the trepidation all over my face.
She smiled and said, “It’s not much further now. It’s really nice up there. There’s a nice tree and a place to sit.”
“Oh, ok. Thank you mam,” I responded politely.
Then once she was out of earshot, “Well, it better be one heck of a tree.” I sucked in air and took another swig from my Hydro Flask. “This is ridiculous. How is she in better shape than me?” My pride was bruised. She looked so serene and refreshed. Now, I had to finish it.
This is the view from the halfway point looking back at the parking lot.

Once we reached the top, all whining stopped. Even Jackson had to admit that the amazing 360-degree views were totally worth the hike. It was incredible. We hiked a volcano! How many people can say that?!

The pretty tree.

We stayed up there for a long time. We took lots and pictures. I hugged my husband and told him again how thankful I was to be having all these wonderful experiences together as a family. I felt refreshed and elated. On the way back down the cone, I saw a woman who looked like she might turn back. I wanted to pay it forward. I told her that the view was worth the climb and that she should keep going. She looked like she wanted to kill me. I didn’t blame her.

We did a few more short hikes. It was amazing to see plants growing from the rocky soil.

Another interesting thing that we saw was that even on a scorching hot July day, one of the cones still had snow visible down inside of it.

Overall, Craters of the Moon was a truly captivating experience. We loved it and recommend visiting if you are passing through Idaho.

2 responses to “Astronauts in Idaho”

  1. Bob Lyons Avatar
    Bob Lyons

    Great pictures

  2. […] We really enjoyed our time at Craters of the Moon National Monument. The landscape is so bizarre and beautiful. Read more about that here. […]

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