Ian and Margaret's RV Adventures travel blog

Max was sort of interested in the goats but he was more...

Number Hill, overlooking Arco. Clearly a local tradition for years and years.

This is a fragment of a crater that broke off and was...

This tree was once alive, but now it just looks like it's...

Lava from one of the newer flows. The red shows where the...

Trust me to come to a lava field and be more interested...

Spatter cones, formed when lava fragments are ejected and build up around...

Dwarf buckwheat, very common in cinder fields and about the only thing...

Typical Pahoehoe lava flow, folded and ropy.

The entrance cavern of Indian Cave. We could have gone farther in...

Lava almost as far as the eye can see.

Rabbitbrush growing in a pocket of soil in the lava. Not my...

"Ready for my close-up!" Campers hanging out waiting for the night's star...

Ian tells me this is a "dobsonian" telescope and clearly pretty special....

Layers of landscape -- a microcosm of the Park.


Well, it was finally time to leave Yellowstone. And to part company with the Wishnies after six weeks or so of traveling together. We’ve had lots of laughs, seen some amazing sights together, learned lots from each other and (speaking mainly for Jo and Margaret) wandered lots of shops together. We even tried to encourage Boo Boo (the Wishnies’ white shih-tzu) and Max (our black Maine Coon mix cat) to become friends during our frequent outdoor happy hours, but we finally and reluctantly had to tell Boo Boo that “he just isn’t that into you”. Max just couldn’t be bothered! But we will see these dear friends down the road somewhere and we wish them safe travels and wonderful experiences.

Well, we’ve gone over to the dark side. A few weeks ago we acquired a new GPS to replace the Net-Book-With-Microsoft-Streets-and-Trips we’ve been using for a while; while we liked the size of the display on the Net Book, it just wasn’t meeting our needs in terms of convenience and ease of use so we joined the many who have found Garmin units the best. Now, to digress just a bit, we’ve always been big map people. We have big section-by-section map books for any state where we’ve spent – or plan to spend – any time and we use them a lot, both to see where we are going and to see where we are and what’s around us. Whenever we see a mountain or something in the distance we can always refer to the map to see what it is. While the GPS is pretty good at telling is where we are and (mosat of the time) pretty good at telling us where we’re going, it isn’t much good at telling us what’s around us.

Well, as we left Yellowstone National Park and crossed into Idaho, on our way to Arco (with the GPS duly programmed and tracking our progress), I looked in the usual place for the map book to look up something and … it WASN’T THERE! For the first time in ages and ages we had embarked on a trip without a map book. Now, I hasten to add that we do have the map; it just was still in the trailer and not in the truck with us. But we felt like we’d abandoned our map-centric principles in favor of the new-fangled technology of the GPS. Duly chastened, at the first stop opportunity we retrieved the Idaho map book from the trailer, apologized to it and continued on our way.

We arrived at the tiny town of Arco, Idaho (we don't think it has anything to do with the oil company but it was the first town in the US to be powered by atomic energy) and were very pleasantly surprised at our campground. It had gotten very good reviews on RV Park Reviews so we shouldn’t have been surprised, but we were. Maybe because of the close quarters and ambient noise and activity we’d been living with at Fishing Bridge Campground in Yellowstone, but we thoroughly enjoyed the ambiance, the quiet and the huge areas of grass space between sites. There are even goats in the field next to the campground who appeared a couple of times a day to graze. And it didn’t hurt that the weather was perfect for sitting outside and reading, having a glass of wine or just watching the goats. We walked Max (safely on a leash) over to the fence to see if he was interested in the goats, but, as with Boo Boo, he was less interested in the goats than they were in him. Max is a very independent guy!

We were in Arco primarily to visit the nearby Craters of the Moon National Monument (truly the dark side, compared to the lush green areas we saw in Yellowstone!). This is a huge area of lava fields created by several eruptions of lava from 15,000 years ago to as recently as 2,000 years ago. This seems awfully recent, compared to Yellowstone, where the most recent eruption was 600,000 years ago.

It’s very interesting to see all the manifestations of volcanic activity – spatter cones (caused by build-up of rocks ejected as tacky blobs of lava that don’t flow but stick together and build a cone); cinder cones (more like hills of smaller pieces of lava that had a high gaseous content so are “frothy”); lava tubes (caves or underground open spaces formed when the surface cooled and hardened but molten lava continued to flow underneath); and ground covered with huge areas of both the ropy, flowing pahoehoe lava and the rubble-like aa lava (for all of you Scrabble players, now you know the meaning of that helpful two-letter word!). Particularly in the spring there are quite a few wildflowers to add color to the landscape, but by this time of the year, they’re pretty much all dried and brown or gone altogether. There are quite a few trees, however, that grow in crevices or patches of soil blown in from outside the area and nurtured by the small amount of rain that falls and collects in these small areas.

It was a the middle of a fairly hot day when we arrived at the Park, but we stopped at all the points of interest on the seven-mile loop road and took most of the walks around and into the lava features. We declined a couple of the longer (more than 1 mile) hikes, as well as venturing more than 20 yards or so into a cave, on the grounds of heat, general tiredness and lack of enough water. But most of all, interesting as all this is, it just gets a tad boring after, oh, three hours or so. Nonetheless, we’re glad we’ve seen it since we really had no idea what to expect.

One interesting event that we (particularly Ian) might have attended if we’d known about it more in advance, was a Star Party (not the kind with a red carpet, but the astronomy kind). A number of Rvers and others were camped in a parking lot, with telescopes ranging from fairly small to really big arrayed around, prepared for a night of star-gazing. It was a two-night event and we were there on the day between the two nights, so all the telescopes were set up but covered, waiting for the dark of night – and this would be an area that would be great for star-gazing, with little or no ambient light to interfere.

Leaving Arco, we will be heading south, making a couple of stops along the way before arriving at Bryce Canyon.



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