Well it has been a while since I have posted but I have been busy traveling and all the time on the road caught up with me. I am back on the East Coast now so expect more regular posting while I am stationary for a bit. On my way South from Montana I stopped in Idaho Falls. It was a good waypoint between Bozeman and Craters of the Moon, from Craters I traveled on to the Dinosaur National Monument along the Utah/Colorado Border.
Idaho Falls features a very pretty waterfront right downtown. The famed falls bisect the town and are quite picturesque. Looking out over them you can see the local Mormon Temple. Aside from the falls I did not see much in Idaho Falls. Driving into and out of town are the famed Idaho Potato farms lining both sides of the highways. My main reason for traveling to this small city on the western side of the state was to use it as a jumping off point for my visit to Craters of the Moon.
It is well known that I love caves and caverns. Craters of the Moon National park is a park full of caves. This landscape was developed after a volcano went dormant and the caves are actually former lava tubes. Walking out over Craters is really like walking into a different landscape. The ground is still black and burned. Only small bits of vegetation grow in this wasteland.
I was more excited about the visit because it gave me an opportunity to go into the caves and do some spelunking. Nothing makes me happier than crawling around underground. Unlike most East Coast and Southwest Caves the caves at Craters were not formed by water, as a result they are very dry. Generally going into a cave is a humid and cold experience, not so with Craters. The caves were a shelter from the sun, but the black rocks still radiated heat. It was not until I crawled down into Beauty Cave and Boy Scout Cave that it started to cool off. Those caves have sheltered entrances and rock piles that block out the elements from getting into the cave. After climbing down the rock piles the cave is cool, actually it is cold. Parts of the floor were covered with a thin sheen of ice. These are not beginner caves as you have to crawl on your belly, crouch and grapple your way through the rocks. It is also pitch black underground in Beauty and Boy Scout Cave.
Indian Cave is more accessible. The NPS has installed a staircase that helps you get down to the floor of the cave, although you still need to climb over rock piles to get out. This cave while not my favorite is the best seen in my pictures. Having some natural light in it from the skylights as a result of cave-ins this passage was also the easiest to get across. Unfortunately it was also the hottest. While cool underground the addition of natural light onto black lava rocks meant crawling across was like walking across fire stones. Still, I loved every minute down in the cave and came up covered in black dust.
My last stop for these travels was at Dinosaur National Park along the border between Utah and Colorado. Dinosaur is where you go to find fossils. The park is home to several different fossil time periods and hiking the trails you can find fossils just looking at the rocks and along the paths. It is home to some amazing hiking and camping trails, but the highlight of the visit is a trip up to the Quarry. This is where the NPS has protected and enclosed a side of the rock face where paleontologists have exposed the dinosaur bones beneath. In this one stretch of rock there are at least 7 different species of dinosaurs and thousands of bones.
For a more interactive experience instead of taking the shuttle down from the Quarry House I walked the 2 mile fossil trail loop to see a bit more of the land and get some exercise. Along the path the NPS labeled viewing galleries where you can actually search for fossils in the wild just as the experts would. After seeing all of the fossils I am prepared to go toe to toe with all of the people I know that claim dinosaurs are imaginary creatures. I am sure looking above you can see all of the fossils in the pictures for proof.