Day 74

Sunday, August 7, 2005Sawtooth NRA, ID
Miles: 8288Hot lava
Once again, we had hoped to get up early, since the darkness of the ground, the elevation and the desert climate all make the Craters of the Moon NP very hot. Again, we failed to wake early enough, but we went to the visitors center and bought a hat, then took a little walk on the unpathed parts of the park. Though they don’t advertise it, the park does not prohibit walking on the lava except in three areas, so we wandered around on the pahoehoe and looked at the cool blue glass bits, the ropy bits and the broken bits. Apparently, when hiking in the backcountry here, it is a bad idea to rely on a compass, since the iron in the lava will make it all wonkie and you’ll get lost. We wisely learned this before heading out and relied on landmarks instead.

After our little jaunt, we headed up to the top of cinder cone to see the view. It was pretty neat to see all the different flows and features from atop a big, lava gravel cone and we stayed up there until it was time to meet Ranger Doug for ranger led hike.

Our hike took us through the Blue Dragon Flow, named so because of the prevalence of blue glass on the surface. Ranger Doug was very knowledgeable about the medicinal uses of plants and rattled off all the uses of all the little tiny plants that can survive on lava flows. Having worked most of his life as a geologist for USGS, he was also quite handy to have around when one wanted to know about the rocks. He explained the different types of flows and of cones and what the areas appearance meant. He also shared his ire at the park naming things sinks that were not sinks in the true, geologic sense of the word. The most important part of a ranger led hike is that they know where all the hidy holes are. The NPS hides pretty specimens of rocks and such so that they don't walk away with other visitors. Only by visiting with a ranger can you see some choice pieces of lava. At the end of our hike, we went into Buffalo Cave, a hollow tube left from the lava flow. The floor was ropy pahoehoe and the ceiling was filled with holes. We didn’t stay long, as we were hungry and it was almost noon, therefore approaching 105 degrees.

We had planned on going to some other caves, but it was so very hot, that we stayed in Vantom and drove. We drove through Sawtooth National Recreation Area, which, oddly enough, runs through the Sawtooth Mountains. You won’t believe what they resemble. Being tired, we stopped at Glacier View campground for the night. The campground had one wonderful thing: showers. Sure, they weren’t that clean and they were coin op, but they were showers. It had been three days, and a shower had never felt so good. After cleansing, we had dinner and messed around in the campground for a bit, taking turns on a tire swing that may or may not have been rated for adults. Then we sat around the fire.