Sunday, April 11, 2021

MM #126: Going to the Moon (Road trip Part 8)

With Idaho Falls in the rearview mirror, and the dash thermometer reading 22 degrees Fahrenheit, we headed west.  Destination: Craters of the Moon.  Along the way, 90 miles of relatively flat terrain, populated only by pronghorn, hawks, sagebrush and, apparently, the Idaho National Laboratory.

The Craters of the Moon National Monument spans over 750,000 acres.  Volcanic eruptions ranging from gentle to explosive created the landscape.  Deep cracks in the earth allowed lava to blast, plop and flow to create cinder cones, spatter cones and lava tube caves.  We couldn't wait to drive the seven-mile loop and see it for ourselves!

While seemingly barren, the park's lava fields and arid sagebrush areas sustain a surprising diversity of plant and animal life.  We weren't there at the right time of year (we visited in October), but the annual wildflower blooms peak in mid-June, with something in bloom from May through mid-September.  Pikas, grouse, and pygmy rabbits, not to mention many birds, also thrive in the environment.  During our drive, we saw Clark's Nutcrackers.
One of the aspects of this Monument that I enjoyed was its reflection on the impact of man on the landscape.  Example: the Limber Pine.  

Click on the photo below to enlarge the plaque which explains why park managers once poisoned or cut more than 6,000 of these trees.
"The major problems in the world are the result of the difference
between the way nature works and the way man thinks."
Gregory Bateson, anthropologist

The landscape of the Monument was not created by one massive volcano, but from a series of deep fissures - known collectively as the Great Rift - that cross the Snake River Plain.  Some of the "hills" are spatter cones, miniature volcanoes formed as ejected globs of lava welded together.

Other "hills" are cinder cones, created when foamy cinders accumulate near the vent of a small volcano that generated lava with high gas content.

And then, as if to compensate, there are massive craters, as you can see in the video below.

How innocuous to see a random pine cone nearby.

I was fascinated by the lava cascades.  When the lava leaked through cracks in a natural rock "dam", fiery rivers of lava flowed across the landscape.  And then they "froze" in position!!!  

And all of this happened a mere 2,000 years ago.  Geologists believe that future events are likely!!!

We had plenty of daylight left before we needed to check in at our hotel in Ketchum, Idaho.  So when I spotted a tiny dot of green on the Idaho map, just 37 miles to the west and (mostly) on our route, we winged it.  Silver Creek Preserve turned out to be a little slice of paradise.

The story of the Preserve began in 1976 when the local community urged The Nature Conservancy (TNC) to purchase 470 acres then called the Sun Valley Ranch and create its flagship preserve, Silver Creek.  This launched a landowner conservation effort along the stream to protect an additional 12,000 acres through conservation easements, making this one of the most successful stream conservation efforts ever undertaken for public benefit and a model for community-based conservation.
To arrive at the parking lot for the trail system, we drove over Kilpatrick Bridge, and even from the truck we could see the rainbow trout swimming gently against the current.  Spousal Unit began twitching immediately - fishing!!!  As we quickly learned from a nearby sign, Silver Creek and nearby Stalker Creek are reputed to have 6,000 fish per stream mile.  Just think about that for a minute!!!  It explained the abundance of fishermen, most of them decked out in waders.  I left Spousal Unit to it, and went walking.  I had enough time (2 hours) to make the full circuit, beginning at the YOU ARE HERE on the map below and progressing in a clock-wise direction.

Over the last forty years, TNC has expanded the Preserve to 881 acres and restored this high-desert spring creek to a thriving ecosystem for an abundance of wildlife including eagles, coyotes, bobcats and moose.  Yes, moose!!!  

As I traversed the far end of the trail system, I spied something large and dark, nestled in the alders along the stream's edge.  My binoculars trained on the spot, I was fairly certain it was a moose.  Then, my peripheral vision caught motion to the left.  I lowered the binoculars, and what to my wondering eyes should be there, but a moose calf.  Check out the video!!!!  It trotted over to Mama, and you can see how close they were to the trail.

You do not mess with a Mama moose!  As much as I would have liked to get closer and get shots of Mama, it would not have been a good life choice!  So I had to skirt far to the left of them and then re-connect with the trail.  I was exhilarated in equal parts from seeing two moose and from the proximity of a 500+  pound mammal that has a reputation for being a little nuts!  I looked back several times just to make sure she was not pursuing me!

As many as 150 species of birds have been identified along the nature trail, and its globally unique aquatic ecosystem features one of the highest densities of stream insects in North America.  Hence the birds!

I crossed a couple of bridges along the way, and each time I was mesmerized by the clarity of the water.

Near this point, I saw two more moose.  They were on the opposite side of the creek; one was nestled on the ground.  I took a couple of pictures, but they are not the best.  I marveled at the glory of seeing 4 moose in the space of 2 hours.  Proper habitat and ecosystem protection makes all the difference!  To add to the joy of the afternoon, I saw a muskrat eating near the middle of the stream.  Here is a video of this enchanting creature.

If you can't tell, my heart was truly captured by this magical place in Idaho's high desert.  It offers something for everyone.

If you are a photographer or an artist, you'll make the trip for the legendary, glorious light: a light with its rich pastel of purples, reds, yellows and blues.  As for me, I could barely drag myself away from the spectacular collision of water, sky and hills. 

Welcome to Mosaic Monday, a weekly meme where we get together to share our photo mosaics and collages.
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  1. Heidrun will write a comment in a week or two.

    Now, I only should send a thank you in her name for hosting.

  2. ...beautiful skies set off the brown landscape of early spring. Thanks for hosting.

  3. Hello, Angie

    Your visit to the Craters of the Moon brought back memories of my trip there with hubby and son in 2005. I like the Nature Conservatory Preserve, cool sightings of the moose. I enjoyed the video.

  4. seems like a place I would love to visit. I like volcanic areas and these hills are quite unusual.
    Reading the sign I really wish people would think twice BEFORE they act!

  5. What a fascinating landscape. Man trying to change nature??!! You would think 'they' would have learnt by now. Love the mamma moose and her calf. No indeed, one should never mess with a mamma moose. Thank you for sharing these fabulous photos, Angie.

  6. What a lovely post Angie, the landscape is quite fascinating to see. The colours are just that bit different aren't they, and the reflections in the water amazing.

    Hoping the new week ahead will be a good one for you.

    All the best Jan

  7. Wow, what an experience you had with the moose. And the ultra clear water. I am a big Idaho fan. You certainly found a great place (that I had never heard of). I've been in lots of Idaho places that are spectacular and far from any national parks.

  8. Two beautiful areas of nature's best in Idaho! The first is a geological wonder and the second is a scenic wonder!

  9. We’ve been to the fascinating Craters of the Moon, but not Silver Creek, how very beautiful and what a contrast between the two places, so close but so different! Loved the video, our Mother and baby Moose sighting is one of my absolute favorite memories from our Alaska summer.

  10. I have enjoyed my wander with you today - I have no natural fear of a Mama Moose I'm glad you told me to wary! The reflections are magnificent.

  11. Lovely scenes. Happy Monday and thanks for being our charming hostess, Angie

    much love...

  12. Those last scenes are, indeed, heavenly. I read the sign: Misconception and Mistake. Nice to see such natural human frailties admitted to and resolved. Maya Angelou comes to mind when she said: Do the best you can until you know better. Then when you know better, do better. :)

  13. What beautiful photos! I read about the mistake with the trees and it makes me sad. They have just cut some areas in the forest here to plant native plants. So far they are growing and I hope it gives a healthier forest. Enjoy your week! Hugs!

  14. An amazing place, Angie, which I would dearly like to visit one day - COVID permitting! The story of the eradication of the pine trees is a sad tale, and there is a moral there about preconceived ideas and narrow mindedness. Somehow reminded me of the hundreds of thousands of left-handed children that were forcibly made to write with their right hand because it was the "right way to write"...

  15. What a beautiful spot Angie, you take the best day trips! How neat that you saw the moose!!! There are lots of moose where I live but I've only seen one ONCE in the last year and it ran across the road in front of my car. It was an enormous buck. They sure are beautiful animals. I love the boardwalk! :)

  16. I'm looking at those beautiful lakes, Angie and thinking how i'd love to paint some landscapes there.

  17. That really is a most interesting place, we'd never heard of us but we're glad you took us along!

  18. An incredible landscape. I've heard of this place before, and would love to visit.

  19. Beautiful landscapes at Silver Creek!

  20. I've never been to Idaho. Your photos make me want to go - if I ever make it back to the USA! Pretty landscape and blue waters.

  21. What a beautiful excursion you took, Angie. Idaho has always seemed rather nondescript to me, but your photos make it look stunning. How fun to see the moose. I grew up in more northern climes and moose were a frequent sight (and sometimes made it to our dinner table).

  22. That is a fascinating area. Idaho has quite a variety to offer to a traveler. So exciting to see all the moose! Happy new week to you!

  23. Thanks for commenting on my post. as to your wondering----The fields of tulips and Daffodils are not fenced in---they are just there. Some you can park and take pictures but you cannot go into the fields. some fields you cannot park out by the road because there just isn't enough room for cars and it is a safety reason. I have never seen der in the fields and I see no missing flowers. There are display gardens but one has to pay to get into them. they are very decorative but I like the open fields of flowers.

  24. There is a very apt quote Angie. "The major problems in the world are the result of the difference between the way nature works and the way man thinks." But we keep interfering with naure and then wondering why it doesn't work properly. Nice prose and lovely photos again today.

  25. Beautiful nature images. I am agree with Phil.

  26. wow!! such gorgeous and diverse terrain. i enjoyed big crater, and mamma moose, yes best to keep a little distance from her!! i have never seen a volcano, or the aftermath, they are so interesting!!

    the reflection, wow, that is gorgeous!!

  27. Beautiful landscape and photos. Sounds like you had a fantastic visit. Thanks for sharing and have a great week, Angie.

  28. Fancy coming across that beautiful place after being n the volcanic area, and then seeing 4 moose, that is very special. Wonderful photos Angie

  29. Angie, your road trip posts are always a joy t read. armchair travelling is the most that we can do at the moment and I felt like I was travelling along beside you.
    Your sweet note recently sparked my blogging mojo back into life and so here I am visiting my pals and trying to remember how it all works.
    Wishing you a wonderful weekend see you soon.

  30. Really wonderful photos! It must have been exciting to visit Craters of the Moon! I wish we'd know about that when we were traveling in MT' western region! Will keep it in mind! Have a wonderful weekeknd!

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