Saturday, August 28, 2010

The final push west...

[We're getting better! Only two days behind now!]

In the past week, we’ve gone from one set of craters to another, from one state to the next. We’re leaving Oregon today after having visited Craters of the Moon and Boise in Idaho, and stopping briefly in Bend, OR before spending the last couple of days at Crater Lake National Park. This morning, we’ll leave for our last “scenic” stop of the trip – a few days in Redwoods National Park in Northern California. Before that though, here’s the recap.

We left Teton bright and early, grabbing breakfast at Dornan’s again, as planned. We crossed over Teton Pass into Idaho and were greeted with similar scenery as we had just left in Wyoming for the first few miles. The mountains started to level out as the Snake River Plain took over the view, and the mountains parted and spread far to the north and south of us letting farmland take over the borders of the highway. Unlike the monotony of Iowa and Nebraska, this was pleasant, rolling hills alternating hues of amber, gold and green. In a happy coincidence of music, at the same time, the mix we were playing came upon Joe Satriani’s Rubina’s Blue Sky Happiness, and it was the perfect soundtrack for the landscape we were driving through.

We took the turnoff to head north into the Arco Desert, home of Idaho National Laboratories and Craters of the Moon. Along the way, we saw signs for the mysterious EBR-1 – “National Historic Landmark!” – and I was intrigued enough to make the one-mile detour off the main road. I was glad I did as we pulled into the parking lot of the world’s first energy producing nuclear reactor. It was like taking a step back in time, as most of the facility had remained untouched since being shut down in 1966 and converted to an educational exhibit. It is remarkable to think that only five or six years after dropping the first atomic bomb, we had begun to master harnessing that same destructive power for positive use.

The interior of EBR-1. I want this furniture...

After an hour here, we continued on to Craters of the Moon. Driving in and seeing it for the first time, it was much as advertised: desolate landscapes of black and red volcanic rock, with a smattering of trees dotting the hillsides. Aside from the trees, it looked as if one might expect the surface of the Moon to look. After setting up our tent in the face of 20-mile an hour winds, we did the loop drive through the park, stopping at a few of the short hiking spots. Unfortunately, much of the park was off-limits due to construction work which closed access to certain roads and overlooks. Thus we decided to shorten our planned two-day stopover to just one night. We attended our first ranger program in a couple of weeks that evening and then settled down to our first rain-fly free night of tenting under the stars.

The creature emerges from
the depths of the earth...
The next morning, we toured two of the park’s caves with Ranger Bill from Arkansas. Well, he lives in Mountain Home, ID now… We visited Beauty Cave and Indian Tunnel and heard more about the volcanic forces that created the environment around us: hot and cold collapses, Aa and pahoehoe, and more. We also learned that apparently, we had missed Jamie Lee Curtis at the visitor’s center the previous day by mere minutes. Nice to know we run in similar circles to the rich and famous! After the ranger-led jaunt, we decided to due the park’s only “lengthy” trail – a 4-mile round trip near the campground. Unfortunately, Alyssa had stubbed her toe pretty badly the night before, and despite the fact this allowed me to use my first-aid kit for the first time, it forced Alyssa to call it quits early on the trail. Luckily for me, it allowed her to drive to the other end of the trail to pick me up, and I didn’t have to do the return leg on the same trail.

In the early afternoon, we headed to Boise, grabbing lunch in Fairfield , ID along the way. We checked in at what is easily the nicest Marriott Courtyard Hotel I have ever seen. It had a very modern interior, with a huge touchscreen display with local area information, a bar that served hors d’oeuvres and sandwiches, and a mini-market with snacks and drinks. After my experience at Holiday Inn Express, my check-in here was enough to make me a Marriott convert. The room was nice as well, though one could tell that the stopped the updating with the bathroom. We ventured downtown to get some drinks and dinner, and learned that we happened to be in Boise at the same time as the Western Idaho State Fair! We made plans to check that out on Sunday, but continued with a little bar-hopping Saturday night.

We were wary at first, since downtown Boise seemed a bit quiet at 6pm when we arrived, but things livened up a bit, and as we drank margaritas at a place called The Matador, we made friendly with the couple next to us at the bar. Though from Idaho, it turned out that Jake and Maggie had both gone to school in New England, at MIT and Connecticut College respectively. After a couple hours of knocking back tequila and margaritas, the drinking got the better of both of us, and we headed back to the hotel for a fitful night’s sleep.

For Bob & Maureen - we missed
him by one night!
The next day we awoke with horrendous hangovers, both of us. Fortunately, we had a breakfast recommendation that paid off for us and restored some of our energies, but we learned that due to wind damage, the Idaho Fair was postponing opening for the morning. Instead, we decided to visit Flicks, Boise’s version of the Kendall Cinema, to see The Girl Who Played With Fire. It was nice to kick back for a day and just relax a bit instead of our usual running around to see everything. The movie didn’t live up to the expectations set by the first installment, but was good nonetheless. Alyssa said it would have been impossible for them to cover everything in the book, and they left a lot out. We wandered downtown again, finding that Boise is quite sleepy on Sundays – everything was shut down by 4pm. We had intended to try Basque cuisine that night, but poor planning did us in, as all such establishments had the Lord’s Day off. So we settled on another meal option, then headed back to our hotel for a night more restful than the last.

The next day we began our trek to Oregon. Originally, we intended to be on the road no more than a few hours and to stop well before Bend. However, we crossed the Pacific Time date line, and got an hour back, so we decided to push on. We looked at camping options and saw several just south of Bend, so we stopped for a nice dinner in town, then made our way south, getting us a few precious hours closer to our next day’s destination, Crater Lake National Park.

We arrived here Tuesday morning, and when pulling up to that first viewpoint, the lake was breathtaking. Neither of us had ever seen water so calm and blue in our lives. We did the rim loop, visiting several overlooks along the way. We stopped at the two visitor centers and walked a few miles along the edge of the caldera (the lake is named after a crater on an island in the lake, not the huge volcano the lake is in). We headed back to the campsite and pitched our tent, planning our activities for the next day.

Phantom Ship on Crater Lake

Early Wednesday morning, we woke and headed for the ticket booth for the boat dock. The folks at the boat ticket booth let us know there would be no boats docking in Wizard Island in the lake that day – a real let down for us. We still opted for the two-hour tour of the lake, which started at a trailhead 1,000 feet below where we stood. We started down the one-mile trail and brought our lunches with us to enjoy afterwards. The boat tour was nice, if a bit too relaxing – both I and Alyssa drifted off at times. When we docked again, Alyssa and I found some space on the rocks to soak our feet while we ate. We encountered some of the most aggressive chipmunks I’ve ever come across – one actually jumped up on my lap to try and get a bite of my sandwich! After a bit of relaxing, we headed back up the one-mile and one-thousand feet of trail. We picked out a couple more trails that would give us some nice views of the lake, and also visited The Pinnacles, more volcanic formations on a side road off the lake’s Rim Road. Knowing we had seen pretty much all there was to see of the lake (but not the park, of which the lake only makes up 7%), we headed back to camp.

Today, we woke early for a quick morning hike, then head to California, if only the top-most sliver of it and if only for a few days. After this stop, it’s due north to Seattle, where our trip ends, but where the adventure really begins.

No comments:

Post a Comment