Way back more than a year ago when I was dreaming of doing this trip, I heard about a National Monument called Craters of the Moon. What I pictured was silty sand blowing in a gentle breeze across the plains of Idaho. I added it to my list and planned to definitely get there.
When I stopped for an evening in Spokane, I met a family who told me that they loved Craters of the Moon. On the Wine Trolley I took in Napa, one of my fellow riders raved about it. I was pretty excited!
Craters of the Moon National Monument is an ancient lava field. It's no silty, sandy desert. 10 million years ago, a tectonic plate with significant volcanic activity (called a hot plate - ha!) rested there. A great deal of activity ensued and many, many miles of southeastern Idaho are still covered the craggy, blackened remains. The hot plate eventually moved on and settled under what we know now as Yellowstone
National Park. In fact, it is the reason for all the geisers, sulphur springs, prismatic pools, and everything else that makes Yellowstone so unique. Not much lives on these rocks, but I did discover that adorable little animals called Pika (pronounced pie-ka) live there. They are relatives to the rabbit and are so cute I can't stand it. I didn't see one, but I did buy a stuffed version for my baby niece.
When I left Idaho, I drove south into Utah. I wanted to see Salt Lake City and I desperately wanted to see Bryce Canyon. Salt Lake City is lovely. It's clean and beautiful and everyone around there looks kind of well-scrubbed and fresh faced. I took a tour of
the city led by the most wholesome man I've ever met (he's Mormon, of course, and probably in his sixties but definitely looked like he was in his forties). I saw the famous Tabernacle, where I heard a short organ performance, and saw the outside of the Temple. I got a good look at the spot where Brigham Young declared "This is the place." We also toured the capitol building. It was all quite lovely and interesting, but what fascinated me most is the strong connection between the government of a place and one specific religion. At least, in America. But, in SLC, Mormonism is woven into the very fabric of the place. They can't be separated.
I also took myself out to the Great Salt Lake, but I have to admit I wasn't super in love.
Because of its salinity, not much lives there and the smell is overwhelming. The size of it is pretty incredible.
The most remarkable part of my time in Utah was spent at Bryce Canyon National Park. At this point, I've visited Yellowstone, Yosemite, and The Grand Canyon...but, I don't think I've ever felt as in awe as I did at Bryce. The beauty of the place is magnificent. I took a short hike around the rim and could not believe how the scenery changed with just the slightest shift in light. It's an ever-changing landscape, too, because of the clay-like makeup of the rocks. Apparently, at night, you can hear them falling in the distance. My
mind couldn't process the Grand Canyon, but I found myself feeling genuine awe at Bryce.
In some ways, I'm feeling a bit more in rhythm these days. I'm getting ready, now, to meet my father in Wyoming for a quick trip across Montana and South Dakota. The sun is out more frequently (which helps me so much) and I am loving the coolish spring weather of Utah. Heading north, it could certainly get cooler again...but, I'm excited to see another part of the nation I've never seen before.