Monday, May 27, 2013

Craters of the Moon

Now here's a place I've always wanted to visit...not quite sure why...but we finally made it a few weeks ago. Great place! Especially if you're into Lava....there's plenty of it.

Here's a blurb from the National Parks' website:

Between 15,000 and 2,000 years ago, the Craters of the Moon Lava Field formed during eight major eruptive periods. During this time the Craters of the Moon lava field grew to cover 618 square miles. The Wapi and Kings Bowl lava fields formed contemporaneously about 2,200 years ago.

618 Square Miles! That's equal to 60 miles times 10 miles!

You can see how large an area the lava flows are from this aerial of southern Idaho

Lava everywhere you looked. And so many variations. They are mostly based on these two:

Some grate trails through the lava fields where you can get a close look at the variations.

I don't us Lava Geeks but we could not get enough of it.

THEN there were the cinder cones...that are formed by small bits of molten rock shot out from a cone. This one I climbed up.

This is the largest (tallest?) volcano in the park.
This is an older can tell by the trees that have started to grow on it.
This is one of the views from the top. These are Splatter Cones. They happen when the lava flow is starting to end. You can see the size of them by the school buses. Notice in the distance how far the lava continues.

Here is one of the Splatter Cones from ground level. You can walk up and look right down inside. 

The Great Rift opened up in the earth causing multiple volcanoes to erupt.

You can see the volcanoes in the distance...each one spewing lava.

You can walk through these lava fields and look at the volcanoes along the Great Rift.

We hiked about a mile to get to one of the lava tubes. This is one that collapsed...not a pretty site.

Kim has always wanted to go inside a lava tube.....she appears to be having second thoughts.

This is on the inside. You can see the scale by the lady sitting on the right. The HUGE rock pile is the ceiling that used to be there where the light is now coming through. You can understand our concern when walking inside. 

Some spectacular vistas around the area.

We had such a great time at the Craters that we came back a second day to take more hikes and learn more.

More information can be found here:

All the photos are posted here as well:

Sunday, May 12, 2013

The Golden Spike National Historic Site - Utah

We drove from Zion NP up to Ogden to spend the night before heading up to Idaho and decided the next morning to swing by the Golden Spike (GS) site before going north. (Oh, the Interstate from south of Provo up to Ogden is brutal! 90 miles of city traffic.) I thought it would be worth our time, being so close, to visit such a historical site.

The GS site is where the two trains met that made for the first transcontinental railroad in the United States back in 1869. "May 10, 1869 the Union and Central Pacific Railroads joined their rails at Promontory Summit, Utah Territory and forged the destiny of a nation. Golden Spike National Historic Site shares the stories of the people and settings that define the completion of the first Transcontinental Railroad." 

A bit of history: Both east and west trains had a difficult time. The train that started east from Sacramento, California had to go through the Sierra Nevada Mountains in the winter. Get this:  Among the extreme conditions that the workers had to survive were the unbearable snow storms.  During the winter of 1866-1867, there were 44 blizzards while the building of the Summit Tunnel proceeded.  The storms were anywhere from a short squall to a two week blizzard, with between one-quarter of an inch and ten feet of accumulation of snow.  The heaviest storm started on February 18 at 2 p.m. and lasted until February 22 at 10 p.m. and dropped six feet of snow.  The storm started again five days later and lasted until March 2, with ten feet of total accumulation.  These storms often blocked tunnel entrances and slowed work considerably.  It took one half of the crew (4,500 men) to keep the track shoveled.  Avalanches buried alive laborers, both American and Chinese.  Throughout the snowy conditions, the workers averaged only eight inches of track per day, blasting through solid rock.

Eight inches a day!

Now, the train that started west from Omaha had blizzards, Indian raids that killed the surveyors and graders, floods, extreme heat....amazing that either train made the final journey!

To get to the GS site, you head north about 18 miles then turn west and go about 50 miles or so. At first, the land is green and agricultural but soon evolves into scrub cattle land. Eventually you get to the "middle of nowhere". And that's where you'll find the Visitor's Center.

If you look REAL closely, you'll see some building in the distance. That's where the GS site is located!

...almost there....

Made it !

The anniversary (114th?) of the meeting of the two trains was to be held the Saturday after we were there so the locomotives were practicing and I got to take some photos. The 119, which came from the east and the 60 (the Jupiter) which came from the west and then they came close until they were almost touching.

Locomotives actually looked this way in 1869. Not until the turn of the century did they start to go to flat black.

There are all kinds of signals that the trains make to indicate what they're doing or are about to do. For instance, one short blast means Stop. The 119 pulls up to where it's going to stop and makes the one blast "STOP". Then the 60 pulled up to it and they had the celebration.

Gorgeous aren't they?

Quite a site...and so colorful!

The ceremony for the driving of the golden spike at Promontory Summit, Utah on May 10, 1869; completion of the First Transcontinental Railroad. At center left, Samuel S. Montague, Central Pacific Railroad, shakes hands with Grenville M. Dodge, Union Pacific Railroad (center right). By Andrew J. Russell

The center had a great railroad exhibit illustrating the techniques necessary to build the railroads.

A good book to read if you're interested. The park rangers like this book more than the one they're required to read to work at the park....more informative.

While talking to some of the park rangers they said, "Some of the darker parts of the railroad were the way both men, Stanford and Durant... especially Durant, scammed the US government throughout the endeavor. This is one of the main reasons there is so little historical record of the entire production of the one wanted to write down what was really happening. The making of the transcontinental railroad makes for some very interesting historical reading."

A replica of the golden spike. The "Last Spike" now lies in the Cantor Arts Center at Stanford University.

I went in alone on this visit. Kim stayed in the coach but consented to wave to her adoring audience!

For more reading....

Hope you enjoyed this one...kinda long but very history always is.

Kim and Steve

Thursday, May 9, 2013

Zion National Park - Gawking is allowed

Zion National Park is one amazing place. Whereas, at Bryce, you are looking from above down at the colorful rock formations, at Zion you are inside a canyon looking up 2,000 feet to the towering cliffs above.

This was our view out our coach front when we woke each morning.

Many many hikes in the park....the best way to experience the beauty.

2 mile Riverwalk Trail.

If you're a geologist or like rocks, this place is for you.

3D Model at the Visitor's Center showing the canyon.

Like we said earlier....gawking is allowed.

...and beautiful springtime flowers

Now...this is just (just?) the canyon part of can drive through a mile-long tunnel to get to the eastern part where the rock formations are fantastic.

This is Checkerboard Mesa.

Close up

Even more of a closeup

..just to show you how large it is...

...and Kim

All around the base of Checkerboard Mesa is the fine sand from it. It's made of sandstone obviously but look how very fine the sand grains are next to a piece of sandstone.

So much of this part of the park has these layers upon layers of twisted sandstone.

After hiking up Watchman's Trail, I made a movie but, in order to get a good conversion, it's about 16MBs. If you want to view it, you can go to YouTube to view it. It's worth it to get a good overall feeling of the park.

We were there for 5 days and still were amazed every time we looked upwards. Wonderful visit.

More photos can be found here....

and, from our last visit...there are about 135 photos here....

Kim and Steve