Monday, June 20, 2016

Craters of the Moon, Dirt Road of Doom and Cows that go Moo

Boise to Craters of the Moon National Monument and Preserve - 3hrs 44min

As you know, I went for a bike ride this morning next to the Boise River. The temperature was perfect, the view was great. What a wonderful start to the morning. I checked out of my hotel and entered "Craters of the Moon" into Google Maps.

Look at that! Right into the heart of it. So excited!

I drove for hours. If yesterday was all about straight, flat roads. This morning was about windy roads through beautiful prairies. And cool signs. 

Game Crossing  

One of the radio stations was only playing songs relating to summer and in between the songs the DJ said, "Summer starts at 4:34pm today." (I inadvertently took a picture exactly at that time...I'll share it later in the blog).

I passed a sign that said, "Magic Lake and Hot Springs" or something like that and decided to turn around for a quick detour. Worth it!

If there weren't other people at this destination,
I reckon I'd have gone in for a swim. The water looked perfect.
Around 2pm, I decided to stop for a bite to eat in Carey, Idaho. Population 608. They do not move quickly in Carey. I ordered a sandwich from what felt like a gas station/service station/7-11/restaurant. There were 4 people before me. It took 20 minutes to get the sandwich. But I'm not on a timeline and the sandwich came with tater tots, so I'm not complaining. 

Soon after the sandwich, I found myself already IN the Craters of the Moon preserve. 

Google maps said, make a right, make a left and I found myself on a dirt road with 26 miles until my destination! I figured the dirt road was going to be short...just a stretch of the road...until the next paved bit. 

I was wrong. 

At a rest stop, a sign for exactly where I was going!
On the dirt road. (This is a BEFORE picture of the car) 
I drove along this dirt road between 20-25 miles an hour. There was a lot of gravel and the further I went, the bigger the rocks became. About 3 minutes in to the ride, I passed two trucks. Both drivers gave me a wave and a smile. Later, I reflected on this and figured both men must have been laughing to themselves. "What is this city girl, in a Hyundai Accent, doing?"

Well, these gentlemen came from somewhere, so clearly, this dirt road was legit. And after 20 minutes of slow, clinking, clanking, rattling driving I came upon the craziest landscape I've ever seen. --- A Lava Field!!!! 

Feeling isolated, in a new world with rocky terrain
(Still early yet on the dirt road)
I stopped and took pictures of lava (basalt), small bushes somehow finding nourishment enough to grow through. It was VERY exciting to see. I stopped every 100 feet for a little while just to take pictures - the dust, kicked up from my tires, would overtake me every time I hit the brakes.

Realizing I was only at the beginning, Google Maps saying I still had 20 miles to go, I decided to keep moving. The lava field disappeared and prairie took its place for a mile or two and then I came upon and even greater lava field. No vegetation at all.  

This picture doesn't do it justice. The Earth that I knew was replaced by a barren rocky land that seemed to stretch on for eternity. More than once, I got out of the car and yelled just for yellin's sake. "WOOOHOOOO" and "CHEEHOOO" I would yell as loud as I could, just because no one was around. No one for MILES. There was no echo. My voice was swallowed by the vastness.

I kept going and soon enough, I ran out of lava fields. When I had 10 miles to go, cell service cut out and I was ok with this until I drove over a rock. It was a biggish rock that I thought I could clear...until I hit it. Dead center and BOY did it make a noise and adjust the tragectory of the car, just a little. Like a shimmy or a shake. I immediately stopped the car, dust swarming over me and checked underneath - making sure nothing was leaking. No damage done. The car was fine. Not even a scratch. 

It was at this moment that my mind began to disperse with the euphoric feeling of freedom and lovely isolation. It began crawling with doubt and fear, but I pressed on. I would be more careful of rocks. But I started thinking it through. The conversation in my head went like this.

Me: What's the first thing I'll do if I pop a tire or run into some other problem?
Myself: Don't panic. That's the first thing.
Me: Yes. True. But it's 104 degrees out. This is how people die.
Myself: Whoa, partner. You have 1/2 a case of water and plenty of food. It's ok. 
Me: I don't know how to change a tire. 
Myself: Someone will likely come along and you have water. You'll be alright.

It went on like this for a few minutes until I found myself no longer alone on the road.


I was distracted from my fears and decided to push on even though my adrenalin was pumping hard and my rational brain was telling me to turn around. There was a part of me saying, "Google Maps said so, there must be something AMAZING ahead. Only 6 more miles to go." And then...

It took me a minute to process the fact that I would have to turn around, and for all my "Go forth! Adventure awaits!" self-talk, all I could feel was relief. I would be heading back towards certain cell service, over terrain I was familiar with. AND I hadn't given up, given into fear! I'd pushed on and was forced to turn around due to something else. I wasn't the weinie who gave up (though I'm almost sure in another 500ft, I'd have thrown in the towel.)

So, around I turned, saying to myself what an amazing adventure I'd been on and how few people would have seen what I'd seen. How hard it was to drive that winding, rocky road, but how worth it to see those lava fields! So happy. So proud.

This picture was taken EXACTLY at 4:34pm - The start of summer and the end of this crazy adventure!
(This is the AFTER picture of the car)
Next on the agenda was to find a rest stop and look up a place to stay for the night. I was back on pavement (and boy did it seem quiet)...oh and what's this sign ahead? "Craters of the Moon Visitor Center 15 miles" What?! Wait. What?! You mean I could've saved an hour and a half of my life, avoided tretcherous twists and turns, fear of certain death (I was never in danger of death...I did pass another truck on my way out, so worst case, he'd have rescued me 20 minutes later).

My mood turned a little sour, but before I could do anything about it, LAVA FIELDS EVERYWHERE!! Next to the highway. Oh, for God's sake!

Yeah, ok. These were stunning too. So, for the next 15 minutes, I told myself that it was worth the adventure. That there were very few people in this world who have seen what I have now seen. And I learned a few lessons. 

1) When using Google Maps, be sure to type in "Visitor's Center" or something similar.

2) Don't drive over big rocks.

3) Wear sunblock in the car. My face is all sunburnt. 

I did stop at the Visitor was sort of cool
The best part about it was the campground! You can camp in a lava field!
(I thought about it but it was a billion thanks)
And that was my big adventerous day through the Moon. I drove another hour to a hotel in Idaho Falls and am that much closer to Yellowstone. Tomorrow, I'm going to be sure to type "Visitor Center" in Google Maps.

(And I leave you with a couple cute cow photos)

Action shot!

1 comment:

  1. where did the trucks come from then..the private property? It was all obviously a mental test and you persevered! Love the cows. I would have sacraficed a tire for that! Glad you had an excellent moon adventure and lava fields in Idaho....who would have thought???