Thursday, June 5, 2014

Craters of the Moon and Twin Falls, Idaho

May 29 - June 3, 2014:

It was an unusually early start for us, on the road by 8 AM as we wanted to be at "Craters of the Moon National Park" early as it is a first come , first served campground with a limited number of large RV sites.  The ride there was unusual passing through the Idaho National Laboratory which developed and has manufactured Nuclear Reactors for power generation since 1951.  Otherwise lots and lots of Potato fields, then the small town of Arco and then another twenty miles to the park entrance.  We arrived at the National Park to find plenty of camp sights available, picked one and set up.  The campground is right in the midst the lava flow, that's unique !  No hookups but there are water and decent bathroom facilities. At $5 dollars a night, senior pass, a good deal.  As usual, we check out the visitors center and watched the inspirational movie then took a quick drive around the park road. 

That's our campsite, what a view !

On Tuesday some excellent hiking was enjoyed on the Tree Molds Trail, the Broken Top Trail, the Devils Orchard Nature Trail and the Spatter Cones Trail.  This National Park is immense, covering 750,000 acres.  It has a paved seven mile loop road with numerous side trails and viewing vistas, but the majority of it is wilderness, virtually inaccessible.  It is not the usual type of Volcano, like Mt. St. Helens with lava exploding out of a cone shaped mountain.  It was created and is a work in progress by a 55 mile rift (crack) in the Earth's surface that allows magma to penetrate up near the surface and vent occasionally in lava flows.  It has a history of erupting every 2-3,000 years and it's been about 2,000 years since the last eruption. If it stays on schedule any time now, it could possibly wake up again.  I would think it is being closely monitored so I'm quite sure there would be early warning signs.  Just thinking as I am living in the midst of it ???

Lots of wild flowers growing out of the rock

That's a mold of a tree in the Lava

They call these Lava bombs, as they were shot through the air

A land of contrast between the black cinder and the green vegatation

The Lava has solidified into many unusual shapes

These tiny flowers were blooming all over

In contrast to these pure white ones

A nice view from the Tree Molds Trail

I made a trip 18 miles down the road to the nearest gas station in the town of Arco to fill up the Jeep and take a good look around.  I found a historical sign to signify that Arco was the first town in the free world to be nuclear powered in 1955. Then the old Masons sign and two classic bar signs that I had to enter to check the authenticity.  The Club Sawtooth is just an awesome name for a bar and it was friendly and had Moose Droll and Fat Tire on tap, pretty good stuff.  I then found the Mello-dee Club, another awesome bar name, a couple of blocks away, also very friendly and interesting. They both have great classic old signs.  

Downtown Arco with the graduation class dates on hillside

Atomic powered Arco 

Club Sawtooth

Mello-dee Club

Saturday was spent going on hikes on the wilderness trail and then a trail for 1 1/2 miles out across the Lava flow to Dewdrop, Boy Scout, Beauty and Indian Tunnel caves.  The canes are actually Lava tubes large enough to walk or crawl through.  There was ice on the floor inside Beauty Cave that was interesting, but the others were not that interesting to me.  The walk to them into the Lava flow was way more interesting.  We decided to go into Arco for dinner which has very limited options, we ate at the Pickle's Place, famous (so they say) for their Atomic burger, I opted instead for their hot burger sandwich and real Idaho mashed potatoes smothered with gravy.

That's me in one of the cave entrances 

Twinkles caught this beautiful flower with the iPhone 

Inside Indian Cave

The exit of Indian Cave

It's not an easy walk in places

Pickle's Place

Well, We have now seen enough lava rock and cinders for quite a while and are moving on to Twin Falls, Idaho.


Sunday morning was a beautiful day for the move, taking route 20 west through about 20 miles of Lava fields to the town of Carey where I stop for gas and the free dump station.  We then continue southwest on route 26 to the railroad town of Shoshone where I stop to explore the old downtown a bit.  It has a very nice old Union Pacific train station, but it appears to be all freight now.  I then continue south on route 93 through nothing but nice farm country to Twin Falls.  The directions to the RV Park were a bit sketchy, to get there you have to make a turn onto an unnamed street that the GPS does not recognize.  We were tipped off by internet reviews otherwise would have been wandering around for quite some time.  The Rock Creek RV Park part of a large county park with the fast flowing Rock Creek running through the center, picnic pavilions and pit toilets.  It has electric and water connections, roomy sites, no sewer, but a dump station one mile away and convenient to downtown for $15 a night.

I had to check out this old tractor near the dump station

A welcome mural in Shoshone

The Union Pacific Depot in Shoshone

After setting up, I take a short trip a mile away to Main Street and find a "Frontier days festival" going on in the downtown park. It was the usual fair food, carnival rides, cheap sunglasses and other assorted tee shirts, hats and jewelry.  They had a number of bands playing 60-70's music and sorry to say, not that well.  Of particular interest were many fair goers eating mini donuts which strikes me as just "wrong".

The Rock Creek RV Park

Beautiful  bandshell at the festival, this was during a break
when everyone ran to get food

Typical fair food

Monday morning and we went off to see some of the local natural wonders, notably the Snake River Canyon (site of Evil Knevil's failed rocket motorcycle jump), the Perrine Bridge, Shoshone Falls and Twin Falls.  The overlook of the Snake River and canyon at the Perrine Bridge is a great sight.  The bridge is 486 feet above the Snake River which is an incredible sight on it's own.  There were a group of BASE jumpers at the bridge leaping off, which is allowed and a common sight there.  Next was a ride a few miles to the Shoshone Falls which are called the "Niagara of the west" and I would agree.  The falls drop 212 feet to the canyon floor, are incredible now, but must have been mind boggling prior to the Dam being installed. We then continued a few more miles to Twin Falls, which the city of Twin Falls gets it's name from.  The city should now change it's name as there is only a single Water Fall now since the Dam was installed. These Dams and a network of Canals provide water all over the valley for irrigation and were part of a very successful US western development strategy. Mr Perrine was an early settler who built the first bridge over the Snake River and was instrumental in building the vast irrigation canal network in the area.

The Perrine Bridge is a sight

If you zoom in, there is a BASE jumper in center with parachute open

The Twins statue 

Evil Knievel is still getting attention

There's Twinkles posing on observation deck of Shoshone Falls

Shoshone Falls are fantastic

The now single "Twin Falls"
A favorite activity for me in any town is looking for the good breakfast places and it's not just about the food, I also take into consideration the character of the establishment, the cleanliness, the service and even the location.  The Buffalo Cafe in Twin Falls was a winner on all counts Tuesday morning, definitely going on the recommended list.  I then wandered a while in the Warehouse district, next to the freight tracks, always another favorite areas of mine and found a few interesting subjects.  The highlight was the old Concrete Silo's, built about a hundred years ago with their nice Idaho mural scenes. 

Twin Falls logo

Cement Silo sign

Colorful freight car

Idaho license plate billboard

Historic cement silo's in warehouse district

View on the Snake River from Centennial Park

Waterfall along road to Centennial Park

Next a ride to the town of Buhl with their "Trout capital of Idaho" banners along the main drag and a huge Trout Mural on the Senior Center building on Main Street.  I was tempted to go into the "Trout Saloon" for a beer but my big breakfast was still sitting heavy in my belly.  Instead I did a strawberry creamsicle ice cream cone (one scoop) which seemed less filling ?  Buhl is big farm country with a healthy dose of outdoor recreation, camping, hunting, fishing, boating, etc.  As I rode around listening to the radio, I found a 24/7 comedy station which was simply great, just what I needed.  It is sad to say, but the comedy skits were far more accurate and enlightening than the goofy morning DJ's, the new country music and the gloom and doom politically biased news commentary. 

Does McDonalds now server Trout ?

The old Buhl theater is now a Mexican restaurant

Trout mural in Buhl

The old Buhl Elevator

Next stop is, Boise, Idaho,

Twinkles and Slick

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