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Detour after Detour

Today I woke up in in a Wal-Mart parking lot in Boise, Idaho with plans on making a quick (7 hour) drive to Yellowstone… but then I noticed something on the map called the Craters of the Moon National Monument. It didn’t look too out of the way so I figured what the heck sieze the day. Then it occurred to me that the route I was planning on taking was also skipping Grand Teton National Park, which I could go through on the way to Yellowstone without going to far out of the way as well. So tonight, I’m sleeping in the Gros Venture campground in Grand Teton NP. Roughly 375mi covered today.

Before getting started this morning in Boise I also wasted a couple hours running around trying to find adjuster screws for my headlights, which can’t be found anywhere in Idaho. I’ll have to wait until PA when I can order them from a Vanagon place. I also ran another errand which was to stop by a AAA office and pick up a proper map for Yellowstone, which the Walnut Creek office in California office didn’t really have. I must say again how cool it is to be able to find free WiFi location. I found one and used it to find everywhere else I needed to go in Boise. Interestingly I was going to drive across town to a coffee shop with free WiFi when I noticed a business name I’d seen on the WiFi list, so I took a chance and drove by it. The WiFi at the place I noticed wasn’t public/free and the bussiness wasn’t open yet, but pizza/sports bar a couple doors further down the strip mall did have an open WiFi connection so I hopped on it to look for eveything I needed. Unfortunatly nobody had what I was looking for so I’ll keep driving with slightly cross-eyed headlights. I’m not really driving much at night anyway and really it’s more of an anoyance then a problem at the momment.

So as I was saying I was driving along and glancing at the map when I noticed this place called “Craters of the Moon National Monument”. I noticed it because the the map showed an area of lava fields which just seemed strange. Typing it into the GPS said that driving by would not really add any time to the drive, in fact I think it was a little shorter but put me on smaller roads. The road also happened to be under heavy construction so several miles are just dirt and gravel with construction detours going on. I’ve see a LOT of construction detours on this trip, especially along highway 1. I digress, this was actually a pretty nice dirt and gravel road as such roads go, which is to say it was smooth. When I finally arrived I was really impressed by this little national monument, defintely worth the slight detour. The lava is cool (get the pun). I’ve seen lots of lava in Hawaii, so it’s not new to me, but it’s still amazing to look at all the shapes that gets into. The highlight of the short loop road however were the lava caves. There are three lava tubes/caves of differing sizes that you can hike into. One has a huge high ceiling but the roof is frequently collapsed so you navigate it without a flashlight or headlamp, but the other two get utterly totally pitch black as you go deeper into them. It was a bit freaky at first going into the total darkness alone with just my weak Petezl Tikka Headlamp. After a few minutes though my eyes started to adjust and it wasn’t as hard to see. The freakyness went away, a little, but never entirely. I can understand the rush cavers get exploring these things. Of the two dark caves, one has a ceiling over 10 feet high, but the other one was such that you frequently needed to watch your head and there are places you needed to crawl to get through. Really a fun a worthwhile detour.

It was just after leaving the Crater of the Moon National Monument that it occurred to me I could/should drive into Yellowstone by driving through Grand Teton National Park. This realy only occurred to me since the Yellowstone map I picked up that moring in Boise, included the map for Grand Teton, otherwise I probably would have skipped it. Many days ago when planning ahead I’d made the decsion to skip Grand Teton. I’d seen the Tetons many years ago on a ski trip to Jackson Hole Wyoming with Jeff and his college ski club, it seemed reasonable to skip them in the interest of expediance. But really, it just doesn’t make sense to get this close and not take the chance to see it all again, and besides all we did was see the Tetons from a distance we never drove through the park and saw the rest of it. So toward the Tetons I went.

I’ve been seeing these great old old barns and buildings in fields all over the place, from Oregon all the way though to Wyomoing. Occasionally I’ll stop and take a picture, but all to often I don’t because there isn’t somewhere to stop or I’m just feelings like I want to keep moving. Just past Swan Valley and before Victor however I saw several barns and building and stopped at two locations for a couple really beautiful shoots. They are amazingly typical, which isn’t to say they are quite “eveywhere”, but they are not as rare as one might think. I could spend weeks just driving around photographing these old barns.

The other thing I saw today was all these farm storage buildings with earthen roofs. The first one I saw looked novel, but then I saw dozens more. The have earth berms built up on both sides of the building and then the roof is covered with several feet of dirt as well. Most of the barns look pretty old as well, but this is a great insulation technic that is making it’s way back into energy efficent building today.

The other thing one can’t help but wonder seeing all the old buildings and wide open spaces is what it must have been like to see this area hundreds of years ago. The native americans and the settlers must have seen this as boundless and limitless space.

Tonight I ended up in Gross Ventre campground in Grand Teton National Park. I got in late and the “good” campgrounds in the park are all full, it is Friday night and fishing season aparently. This is campground is inside the park, but on the outskirts. It is huge and feels more like a RV park than a campground. Gross Adventure would by an apt name for it as well. No matter I parked at 9pm, I’ll be out early to try to find some hiking and see the sights and then make my way into Yellowstone.

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