One of the most impressive things about my trip to Boise was my evening at the movies. Now, as seasoned travelers, many of you are probably looking at this tip funny. Why would something as simple as going to the movies, which you can do anywhere be special?
The Egyptian Theater is one of the last of its kind in the country, where the picture being show is not nearly as exciting to tourists as the intricate walls and architecture of the theater itself. For a brief moment, you think you are actually in Cairo with all of the statues and heiroglyphics on the walls.
This building was opened for business in 1927, and is still running strong today. It also was added to the National Historic Register in the 70's.
Before arriving at Idaho falls, drive slowly downhill, the open eyes may glimpse some old ruined barn not far from the roadside; even old agricultural tools may be nearby. How old is this one? When was it abandoned for extensive agriculture? These old things have their charm, even if it is only a very common building, here, in the middle of nowhere. When I (I should I write “we” ?) travel, I do not just go from one place to another, the road, the path, the trail are as important as the destination. What I see or experience “en route” is preparing me to what I will see and experience when I arrive. Little things open my mind and make me dream.
The journey, not the arrival matters (T.S. Eliot). This quote “stolen” from Malena’s homepage (merci!), fitted with my mood when driving on the Idaho roads.
Walking in the rocks got me hungry and I drove down to Almo, before resuming my little hikes. For a European, it is quite an exotic place. A few wooden houses, horses in the gardens, lots of broken cars, bikes, agricultural tools, a little church, a football ground, and . . . . . the Outpost, where I even met “real cowboys” (haha, you can laugh, but I liked it a lot!). hitch poles, saddles outside, but now customers arrive by car. . . .
Cowboys, having lunch and beer in this typical “outpost”, with kitch decoration inside, (three first pictures), exotic to me! And a wonderful steak (rare, of course) and beer for me (Lunch for 20 US$); I looked around but there were no poker tables. . . . On the last picture, one of the gardens in this village; to me there is something charming.
Back to the rocks and then on the road to Utah, a few kilometers (oops, miles) away!
The dust storm
Ah not exactly a thing to do! Just get in a different world, a bit scaring when driving. . . . dust storms are very common in that area of Idaho, and signs on the roadside inform the drivers.
Extensive agriculture favors soil erosion and the empty fields are just blown away when the soil is dry.
The dust is transported as big clouds near the soil and the storms move quite fast; it is wise to stop the car on the roadside and switch on the lights, close the windows and wait it is over; they can last for 10-15 mn, but I imagine they could be very longer. . . . . I experienced sand winds in North Africa, but it is different, there is always light, here it can get quite dark.
The NASA had mostly “image”, military and technical objectives with the first flights to the moon, and only the last flight (when the “race” to the moon has been won!) had scientists in the crew:
Among them, Harrison Schmidt, one of the (to date) nine moon walkers was a geologist, a trained volcanologist and astrogeologist, made an “off the beaten path” walk there and collected some rocks, which, once in Terrestrial universities, brought fundamental contributions to episodes of Planet Earth’s early history, to proofs of it’s age, the age of the solar system, to models of planetary systems and galaxies formation and evolution. . . . . . not less!
Let’s keep modest and walk on the terrestrial rocks here, which are as spectacular (except for the “earthshine”, of course!), and can tell us a lot; and we can simply enjoy walking in these rugged landscapes, being somewhere else!
You can walk on stringed lava (Pahoehoe) (second picture), thinking of the 1100°C hot flowing liquid rock under your feet, whaleback structures on other flows (third picture), boulder and blocky surfaces (picture4). On some places, vegetation has difficulty to settle. Craters of Moon National Monument can be visited by car, and trails have been laid out for easy access for walkers and wheelchairs (Picture5).
Before visiting the Moon, you can park your vehicle near the visitors centre and have a visit there; rangers welcome you, give documentation, inform you about what to see and where it is. A mini-museum dedicated to volcanology and nature of the area can be visited free; interesting is that the rock samples displayed are not only from here but from other volcanic areas; the local scene is put in perspective with general volcanology; explanatory boards about how a volcano forms, where they are on the planet and why. . . etc. . . There are also examples of vegetal and animal life in the area, explanations about how life develops on places like here.
Small shop for postcards, books and “souvenirs”.
A last picture , where, even with super magnifiers you won’t see local life, but can see the huge lava flow (dark color) of “Mare Tranquilitatis ”; the craters are meteorite impact craters (Euuh, June 3rd 2007, Pau) . . . .
Elephant Rock, Twin Sisters, Bread Loaves Group, Reassure Rock, and lots of other evocative names for some spectacular formations here! To me the most evocative is for the whole area: City of rocks. The granite here has been weathered and washed by humid climate, the fractures and cooling joints doing the rest: all sorts of shapes strange forms in the landscape, a bit like ruins sometimes.
It was on the path I decided to follow to go to Utah, so I spent half a day walking and looking around.
This place is famous among rock climbers, with its vertical walls, high fractures, smooth surfaces, but it is not for me: people drive here, find a parking-camping place, jump out of their cars and ten minutes later they are climbing. . . . . doing as much as possible, then hop on top of the rocks, go down, try another one. . . . . I am not adept of climbing and the climbers I know walk a few hours before getting to their spots. . . . . Well, there are camp places “on the spot”, an office to register in Almo, little village nearby, and other camping facilities. . . . .
I was happy walking there, reading some of the explanation boards on track sides, looking at the landscape, learning a bit about historical sites here. This place was a camp place on the California trail (1843-1869), and thousands of migrants traveled here across Pinnacle Pass, near the Twin Sisters rocks.
The “Crater of the moon” was one of the places I wanted to visit on my Idaho trip, and, coming from North East, the landscape tell you, you are arriving on a very recent volcanic activity area. Recent for me is less than a few million years. . . here, in the Snake River plain, activity began one million years ago and the most spectacular features like the Craters of the moon are between 15000 and 2000 years old; about 40 km before arriving at the village of Arco, coming from Idaho falls (Road 20), you will see a few buttes, marking the landscape; these are huge cinder cones some of which are used for telecommunications, in a closed area belonging to the US Department of Energy; oops there is a place named Atomic City nearby, so I did not stay long. . . .
Sagebrush, light and Big Southern Butte in the background on the main picture
Cedar Butte and Big Southern Butte on second and third pictures.
The surface of lava flows is very rugged and almost only sage grows on this lava flow, foreground of picture4; lots of crevasses, fissures and holes, and a twist of an ankle can be got easily walking on that sort of surface.
On the last picture, lava flows the road has been cut through; a bit a desolated landscape; the darker the color, the younger the lava.
Craters of the Moon Monument is not far, lets go there now.
In the park area there are signs directing the visitors to places of interest; fossils are usually found in sedimentary rocks, and it is very exceptional to find in volcanic rocks; these special fossils (in fact traces), are tree molds, in “living position” (vertical) but generally laying. I would not have found them easily and the signs are very useful. After a half an hour hike from a parking place, you walk on a lava flow where some of the molds are indicated, but there are more.
On the main picture is the trace of bark, turned to charcoal, before vanishing, giving that particular square pattern.
A tree fell on the lava. . . and that is what is left (second picture).
“Living” position” is not spectacular, a vertical hole is left (third picture)
The one on fourth picture came too late to be turned into a fossil. . . (fourth picture)
But you may ask: why are holes left, or traces that visible, if the 1100°C hot lava burns the trees? No physics course here. . . just temperature has not to be confused with heat: the lava flows here are quite thin and cool quickly on the soil (and around the trees), get lower than 238 °C and then even cool down the trees from previous temperature, before they completely burn. And below 238°C wood (cellulose) does not burn. . . . . remember Ray Bradbury’s novel: “Fahrenheit 451”, the temperature required to burn books (paper, cellulose). . . . . . . So the dead trees were there for some time, then they were rotten away, like “normal” trees, and left these spectacular traces.
On the last picture, a trace which will vanish soon as desert dust. . . .
To many of you, this might sound very common, but me, I was discovering the deep (not so wild) West. Haha, real cowboys herding cattle, riding on horses! I had to stop and watch! On the second picture, these are not broncos, but they looked beautiful to me, in open range, on the roadside of my next destination. Is this not a nice view (Picture 3)? It is not always peaceful it seems, but here bullfighting involves only bulls, no matador (well, they will finish as steaks, one day or the other. . . ).And on the road to City of rocks, some small mountains displayed the wonderful colors of the Indian summer.
Even if the weather is not the best, the aspen trees offer wonderful sceneries; the Snake River Valley widens after the village of Swan Valley and on the northern side, the forests cover the smooth slopes of the Snake River Range. Covering whole hills or isolated, these trees just brighten the landscapes.
With nice weather it would be fine to walk on some trail up to the hills and get bathed in the yellow light. I my case, that day, stop and have a look only.
And now, with a map, you can drive and walk on the lava fields, see the rock formations, look at shapes, colors, and . . . try to think if the names given on the map fit with what you see!
Many names are linked to hell, (ah?), like Devils Orchards, inferno cone, other places have poetic names, like Dewdrop Cave, and other are just describing what you see, like Spatter Cones, Big Sink Overlook. . . . .
It is easy to reach all these points by car, and then walk on well maintained trails. If I can dare a recommendation, I would suggest to walk up the Inferno Cone, the second highest point of the area and have a 360° look over the volcanic fields.
The sun came down when I was driving between the craters and Twin Falls. The Snake river Plain is quite a boring place and the sunset was welcome, there was some color, something to distract from the uniform landscape.
I share here a few pictures from the sunset (Pictures one to three)
Next morning, I left Twin Falls early and could enjoy the sunrise; always sun, clouds a little bit dust in the air, that makes colors.; last picture, a bit later, a view on Snake River which carved its way in the basalt flows.
The Snake river runs through Idaho Falls, and the photo shows part of the falls. They are located next to a park in downtown Idaho Falls. The falls almost look like someone constructed them, not very natural looking. They also looked like they needed some maintenance to remove all of the debris.
Twin Falls: Beautiful in summer months, when the water is high. The waterfalls are just breath taking.
Shoshone Falls: The same.
Balanced Rock: Castleford, Idaho. It's one of the natural wonders of the world.
Snake River: skiing, boating, tubing, tanning, bbq's. FUN!
Dierkie's Lake: Summer fun.
Shoshone Caves: Caving and exploring.
We were in Boise to cover a mountain bike race/demo that got rained out and we subsequently spent...more
539 Pole Line Rd, Twin Falls, Idaho, 83301, United States
Good for: Couples
1500 Riverstone Drive, Coeur d'Alene, Idaho, 83814, United States
Good for: Couples