Idaho is probably one of those states I would skip over if I wasn't on a mission to visit every state. Looking in my guide book there weren't many exciting things to do in the state so I picked the most interesting outdoorsy thing to do - visit the Craters of the Moon National Monument.
I'd hoped to get an early start from West Yellowstone but I was very tired so that didn't happen. Then, on my way there, I had to stop at Wal-Mart in Idaho Falls to buy a new camera. The zoom on the one I brought out has been acting up for a while and, the previous day in Yellowstone it packed in completely and wouldn't move the lens in or out. It's covered by the extended warranty I bought with it. But that's only good if I can take it into a Jessops in the UK and that's at least two months away so I have no choice but to buy a new one for the intervening time.
Again, I'm sorry for using Wal-Mart but it's cheap and I'm in an unfamiliar country and very unfamiliar state and it's convenient. So stop judging me!
The drive to Craters of the Moon took a good few hours - I don't know how long because of stopping off at Wal-Mart but I reckon around four hours. I spent about two hours in the monument area. The best word I can think of to describe it is: weird. It's very strange. It's a harsh and unforgiving landscape - unlike Yellowstone. When I was there I made a couple of mistakes and it let me off. But one small slip at Craters of the Moon and it wouldn't shut up about it. Very unforgiving!
Obviously I don't know what the craters on the real moon look like in person so I can't tell if it's a good name. Probabaly not though because it's not heavily populated with craters. There are some, but it's really a park preserving the lava flows that came from fissures in the ground over the last 10,000 years or so.
There is some strange looking landscape. I did a few short walks to see some of the features - I can't really call them hikes, except for one which lasted a whole two miles. During that one was an opportunity to enter a cave which had formerly had liquid lava flowing through it. I couldn't go in very far because I didn't have a flashlight. But I used my new camera's flash to take some photos of the parts I couldn't see. It was much much cooler in there, like stepping into a fridge for a while.
Speaking of cooler, there was one crater-like formation that still held a pack of snow. It never melts, even in the 80-degree summers, because lava (cooled, obviously) is a very good insulator and the sun never shines right down the narrow crater onto the snow.
I beat my GPS once more, proving that it's totally useless at estimating time, on the way back to my hotel, taking three hours at a constant run. On the way back I saw a cliffside that had numbers written on the side of it looking down over the small town of Arco. I took a photo and will have to research it to see what it's for.
My impression of Idaho is that it is very windy, because that was how it was at Craters, with the wind almost blowing me off my feet at the top of one mound that I walked up. Also they like to mess with their speed limits. I followed the same highway out of Montana at 70 mph and as soon as I entered Idaho, as evidenced by the "Welcome to Idaho" sign, every time there was an intersection they reduced the speed limit from 65 to 45 mph for a half mile stretch. Montana doesn't seem to care as much. Also Montana has no sales tax. Two reasons why I like Montana so far!
The national monument was okay but not worth the seven hour round-trip driving time to see it. But then my trip is about trying out something in every state and not everything will be totally awesome. It is okay to visit if you're in the area. I could have stopped at Idaho Falls, because I picked up my state souvenir from a gas station there, and gone back but I refused to let the definition of my trip to Idaho be a trip to Wal-Mart!