6 June 2013
I guess when they named this place it reminded everyone of the surface of the moon but in fact the craters of the real moon resulted from meteorite impacts and this area has volcanic origins. And here again it is still a little deceiving because there is not one volcano but a series of deep fissures, collectively called the Great Rift. So what I saw at Craters of the Moon were spatter cones, cinder cones, and lava tubes.
My first stop was the campground to get a site before they were taken. I had to park up next to the road and then the main site was basically a big hole.
My next stop was the visitor center where I learned about a tour starting at the north crater flow trail so I rushed over there just in time. Our guide was very nice and informative and very patient with the attention demanding little girl in our group. Personally I was ready to put a muzzle on the kid.
Anyway we walked along a paved path since the surrounding ground was sharp as glass.
We passed fissures.
And eventually came to one of the tunnels the park is famous for and down we went.
This one is called Indian Tunnel, named for the mysterious stone circles that lie near the path to this large lava tube. Archaeologists believe that some of these structures may have had ceremonial significance, but their precise function is unknown. Personally I think they used the rocks to hold down the sides of their tents. When I later visited a Buffalo Jump site there were similar rock circles and the interpreter there said they were used for that purpose. It is windy in this area and really no way to stake down a tent so that made sense to me but I’m not an archaeologist.
Here we are inside near the entrance. The tube is 30 feet high and 50 feet wide and 800 feet long.
It was cool inside and had some beautiful lava flows.
Back outside we continued on the path as it crossed over a collapsed lava tube.
This is the view of the same tube looking to the other side of the path. Here the tube is raised up and the side collapsed.
We passed many wildflowers on the tour and the ranger would stop and give us the name. One of the men in the group kept forgetting the name of the red flowers and when he asked she would say, “You mean the ones that look like an Indian Paint Brush?” then we would all laugh because that was the name and they really did look like their name sake.
Indian Paintbrush and Penstemon.
I was here at a good time to see many of the flowers in bloom like the Monkey flowers that carpet the cinders after rain in mid-June, grow rapidly, flower, and wither in a few short weeks.
Dwarf buckwheat (Eriogonum ovalifolium).
Sticky Cinquefoil (Potentilla glandulosa. The genus name Potentilla comes from the Latin word potens meaning “powerful or potent” which refers to the ability of some species to stop bleeding and dysentery.
I think this next one is Hotrock Penstemon (Penstemon deustus).
Groundsel is a member of the sunflower family.
Another member of the sunflower also grows here, Fleabane.
Balsamroot also called Arrowleaf (Balsamorhiza sagittata) is also a member of the Sunflower family.
These little lavender blue flowers with the silver leaves are called Phacelia or Silverleaf (Phacelia hastate).
If you look at the bottom portion of this photo you can see these Silverleaf flowers and the Cushion Buckwheat scattered all around. Like a lot of desert plants and plants that don’t have a lot of water they are spaced apart from each other to get maximum nourishment.
A storm was brewing in the distance so I hurried on up to the Snow Cone and Spatter Cone. The Snow cone is pretty big as you can see how small the other visitors look climbing up to look inside.
On my way back to the campground I stopped to take a few more photos.
The next morning I was greeted by a cute little Golden Mantled Squirrel. We both had a bite to eat and then hurried on our way.