Far Side of the Moon

Since I was a small child I have dreamed of being a space traveler and captivated by the moon. I watched the Mercury astronauts go into space and wished I could eventually join them. When President Kennedy called going to the moon I was a cheerleader — I wanted to go too! Many times since those Apollo journeys through the celestial void I’ve had opportunities to view and sometimes touch moon rocks — to get as close as I could possibly be to that silver orb. Looking at the moon through a telescope was as close as would get until….


So you can imagine my excitement when I found Craters of the Moon National Monument. Proclaimed a national monument in 1924 by President Calvin Coolidge who said, “(we’re) preserving a weird and scenic landscape, peculiar to itself.”
Craters of the Moon is near Arco, Idaho in the Snake River Plain. It is 618 square miles of volcanic rock that is located along a northern section of the “Great Rift”. The Great Rift is a continental line of volcanic hotspots most became dormant as the rift drifted eastward. Today Yellowstone National Park is the major rift hotspot — (Yellowstone is located in a huge caldera — think geysers, hot springs, etc.) that could “blow” at any time. 
In Craters of the Moon, the volcanic rock reached the earth’s surface as lava flows erupted from miniature volcanos called Spatter Cones between 2,000 and 15,000 years ago —  you can climb to the top of one of these cones:


The lava flows appear different as night and day. Some are smooth and rope like (called pahoehoe):

while other flows (called ‘a’a) were thick and rough:


 One can also see globs of cinder cones that were spewed out into the sky landing like lava bombs around the site:

Though most of the rock is black there are brief splashes of color thanks to flora that has forced its way into the crevices and cracks of the basalt rock. At one point I wandered along a Shoshone (Native Americans) pathway for over three miles — this took me onto lava fields and through two large caldera:


It wasn’t until Robert Limbert (a local explorer — white guy) took three trips to the site that anyone really took notice of these lava fields and caldera.  He summarized his findings in an article printed in National Geographic.  Many think this led to the creation of the monument.  The original monument was expanded further by President Bill Clinton in 2000 — it now encompasses three lava fields.
One of my favorite places in Craters of the Moon is the area called “Devil’s Orchard” — this is what you can see there:



Before leaving the monument I did a jig to the tune Moonshadow.  I’d finally been to the moon!  

Oh sure, you can chuckle and scoff at my claim.  Ok, doubters!  I’ve saved the best for last — NASA used Craters of the Moon to train moon-bound Apollo 14 astronauts in August 1969 due to the geologic similarities to the moon.

So excuse me — back to my jig!

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About tourdetom

I'm retired. Travel a lot.
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