GART Day 22: Craters of the Moon

With Johnny and June Carter Cash’s “Jackson” on the iPod we lit out of Jackson, Wyoming across Teton Pass. Its the route our GPS “Delores” told us to go. Although last night in the hot tub chatting with a few about our route they had told us “You don’t want to take the Teton Pass with a trailer”. But Delores hadn’t failed us yet and WYO 22 was the shortest route to Craters of the Moon National Monument. At over 8400 feet we’d been on passes just as high, so I didn’t think much of it. But when we saw the 10% grades I started to reconsider. As luck would have it we had no traffic over the pass so nobody was inconvenienced by my strained 35mph trying to reach the top. The route paid off as the drive through western Wyoming into Victor, Idaho had beautiful light, color, and western character.

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As we started across the desolate high desert of Idaho we noticed some restricted areas on either side of Highway 20. A sign informed us it was the INL (Idaho National Laboratory). which is huge 890 square mile energy research facility. Mysterious buildings in the distance, small towns beyond the security fences, and large checkpoints captured our imagination. The only part of INL open to the public is that of the Atomic Museum for EBR-1. We didn’t stop there but we did stop for lunch in nearby Arco. After seeing this sign for Pickle’s Place on the road we had to stop and check it out. And looking across the street at the nuclear submarine tail with the numbers 666 on it I felt compelled to order myself the Atomic Burger.

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Unfortunately the Atomic Burger was a disappointment (although the tater tots served with it were fine). Tawny and Cody insisted their French Dip was excellent while Clara’s tuna melt was soggy and was left uneaten. We headed out of Arco (which looks to have seen better days) and on toward Craters of the Moon National Monument
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At Craters we went to the visitor center to learn more about the history of the lava field here, and then walked amongst the cinder cones, lava flows, and scrub brush of this unique high desert landscape with trails names like “The Devil’s Orchard”.

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We continued across the high desert of Idaho, passed long or soon to be abandoned ranches and towns making our way to Mountain Home, Idaho for the night. We had planned to go to Nampa, Idaho where we had been told there was an old roller skating rink, but on Monday they weren’t open in the hours we’d be in town. Clara was disappointed not to be able to get her skates on, while Cody may have been secretly relieved.
It was hard to find a good RV park in and around Boise, but in Mountain Home there was one that was so highly rated and reviewed it was nearly off the charts. They weren’t mistaken, the Mountain Home RV Park was definitely one of the nicest, cleanest, levelest, green grassed, and quietest RV parks we’d ever been too. Unfortunately, its in Mountain Home which didn’t seem to have a lot to offer except a place to put down your head for the night that wasn’t Boise or work yourself into a patriotic fervor. The town is also a bit of a misnomer. While there are plenty of homes in Mountain Home, there is no mountain. It sits in the high desert Southeast of Boise, and due West of the Middle-of-Nowhere. While driving in from the desert and scrub and greeted by the tank on the side of the road as we entered the town near a ginormous Walmart rising from the desert like an corporate oasis, we questioned if this was the best town for us to be staying in. Even so, we picked up some Idaho Potatoes at the local Safeway and had baked (well…microwaved in the RV) potatoes with all the trimmings in honor of our one night stay in Idaho. Idaho does produce one hell of a fine potato.

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