Today I hiked at least five miles through some of the most brain-splittingly weird ass and altogether glorious terrain I’ve ever encountered in my life. It was exhilarating and I’d like nothing more than to wax poetic about southeastern Idaho’s Craters of the Moon National Monument and Park. But I fear I may collapse first. Because I hiked at least five miles though some of the most brain-splittingly weird ass and altogether glorious terrain I’ve ever encountered in my life.
Pink Boots helped, of course. Without them I never would have made it to the top of Inferno Cone, a massive cinder pile that was formed a bajillion years ago when LAVA burst into the air and formed a gigantic mound of what now looks like tiny bits of black gravel. Striding through this volcanic pebble-y stuff is like trying to walk through very deep, very fine, very dry sand – sand that happens to be piled a half-mile more or less straight up into the air. But the vista from the crest – dark, fractured, forbidding ancient lava flows eventually giving way to sage-filled plains and then finally to massive snow-topped mountains – made the work worth it. Or it would have if I could have stopped gasping for breath and pleading for oxygen long enough to enjoy it.
Later, I hiked over these very same lava flows to reach the benignly dubbed Indian Tunnel. Formed from a lava tube, the cave is filled with thousands of sharp-edged boulders that seemed to come alive and shift under my feet as I attempted to traverse them. There are no ladders or stairs, no hand rails or carefully kept paths through Indian Tunnel.
You break an ankle down in those lonely depths and the rabid bats will be feasting on your half-dead body for days before somebody stumbles upon you. Of course, by then you’ll be begging them to shoot you like Old Yeller. Happily, however, despite my total lack of grace and anything resembling athleticism, I was able, through sheer will and the promise of many ice cold dirty martinis to emerge fetus-like from this strange, otherwordly hole in the ground.
And so, despite the achy feet and sunburned nose, the chapped lips and sore thighs, I was victorious. I hiked Craters of the Moon and kicked its ass just as much as it kicked mine. Exhausting sure…but also exhilarating.
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