August 26 - September 1, 2009 Craters of the Moon National Monument, ID
No lunar travel required.
A 360 view from the peak of Inferno Cone:
A lot of Craters of the Moon National Monument is lava rubble. Most of the volcanic debris is charcoal in colour, but some areas are rusty or a range of pinks, purples and oranges.
"Spatter cones" formed as volcanic eruption petered out and spattered lava around the vent openings.
Dwarf buckwheat dots the black expanse of Devil's Orchard - a dazzling contrast.
The entrance to a lava tube cave.
An 800 foot 'trail' zigzags through a lava tube cave. "Skylights" (collapses in the ceiling) illuminate the cave, but flashlights are highly recommended. The Indian Tunnel Cave Trail is not for cautious folk. Trail description: "If you are willing to scramble over (large rock piles) and (suck in your stomach to) climb through a small opening, you can exit this cave ... (through a barely big enough vent)."
The wall of the exit vent:
We stayed 18 miles away in Arco, ID. Arco is wee, weird and quiet, best known (actually, hardly known) as the first town to be lit by atomic power, but we like it best for the smoked baked potatoes at Mountain View RV Park. We also enjoyed the campground's free breakfast, but happily payed a little extra for the sweet potato pancakes with pecans. Yum! The coffee is weak, but I think the mini-golf makes up for that. :)
Also, Arco has a distinct landmark in Number Hill (I'll find my photo...). Local high school graduates have scaled this almost-mountain every year and painted their graduation year large enough to see for miles around.
Craters of the Moon National Monument is less a destination than a side attraction, but you won't see another place like it.