Craters of the Moon and National Park Week

travelnational parks

While much of the western United States seems to flock to Disneyland in California for Spring Break, my family and I eschew the teeming crowds in favor of abundant nature. Don't get me wrong, it's not that we dislike Disneyland. It's just that we're fascinated by the opportunities for recreation and education that natural destinations provide. Our most recent destination? Craters of the Moon National Monument in Idaho. I highly recommend you visit this place, both because it's an awesome reminder of our Earth's power, and because you can do it for free during National Park Week which is coming up soon.

What is Craters of the Moon, you ask? It is a giant lava field in central Idaho. It took 13,000 years to form, with eight distinct "eruptive periods," the last of which was only 2,000 years ago—just yesterday in geological time. It is a seemingly endless expanse of "flowing" black basalt rock, miniature volcanic domes, and lava tube pockets. It is evidence that our earth, despite its calm exterior (particularly in that part of farmland Idaho), is still very powerful and very active. It is not your typical tourist destination because it is devoid of the less hardy species of animal and plant life.


But, if you use your imagination, it abounds with interesting things, even for the kids. Our two boys loved hiking to the top of the domes to peer down into the fathomless depths of once-scorching holes, and imagining that they were standing in what was once the middle of a molten geyser. And of course they loved the tube-shaped caves. As a mom, I enjoyed it not only because my kids enjoyed it, but also because it made me feel more grateful for every day I have with my family, since new volcanic activity is expected there any day now and, in general, disruptions of any sort can wreak havoc in any family's life at any time. The relative flatness of the lava field, punctured with old geysers and undermined by lava tubes, were in a way, symbolic of the joys and perils of family life.


Now, why do I recommend you visit at this time of year? For several reasons: first National Park Week is April 22-26, and during that time you can get into Craters of the Moon or any one of the 401 national parks for free. It is a great time to explore the wonders Mother Nature has to offer, and to get a junior ranger badge with your kids, another great way to sneak in some education-disguised-as-fun.

Disneyland, Sea World, and Six Flags are all wonderful places to be amongst people and the fun things that man has created. Craters of the Moon is where you go if you want to explore what the Earth has created.

What are some of your favorite national parks to visit?


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