The last major stop on our long strange trip was Craters of the Moon National Monument in Idaho.

2002 Yellowstone trip Craters field 750

Craters of the Moon is a flat, black lava field that spreads over 600 square miles. It was formed from eight major eruptions between 2,000 and 15,000 years ago. This is what lava from the hottest regions of earth looks like when it flows onto the Earth’s surface and cools. The area has examples of rift cracks, every kind of basaltic (rapidly cooled) lava, caves, lava tubes and similar features. It is a strange and otherworldly place – “hellish” is the term that comes to mind.

Some of the lava tubes and caves have collapsed and are great fun to climb in:

2002 Yellowstone trip Craters tunnel 750

There are also paths for long hikes, but since we were back in extreme heat again we gave that a pass.

The older lava flows have plants growing among the black rocks. Animals also live in this dry, rugged area:

2002 Yellowstone trip Craters lava flow 750

The newest lava flows have few plants growing yet and it makes them look like they happened just a few days ago:

2002 Yellowstone trip Craters ripples 750

The lava field is dormant but not extinct. Another eruption is expected within the next 1,000 years. Along with that possible Yellowstone super volcano eruption in another 10,000 years…

We continued driving south to Salt Lake City, which was hot, crowded and smoggy, then cut over to I70 to get home to Denver. Our roundtrip ended up being about 15 days and 2000 miles.

Our entire long strange trip was really wonderful. I’ve never had such a variety of climates and experiences in a single journey. However, we were getting tired of traveling and also starting to worry about how much money we were spending, so it was good to get home.