Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Road Trip: Craters of the Moon and Idaho Camping

We left Mt. Hood to put in a few hours of evening driving across Oregon. We pushed east as far as Pendleton and rolled into the Walmart Supercenter for the second parking lot overnight of our trip. Our first Walmart camping experience was in Bozeman, Montanta overlooking the stunning National Forest just outside of town. The Pendelton Walmart was adjacent to the Pendelton Correctional Facility, a maximum security prison. Locations aside, why do we and other road trippers occasionally spend the night at Walmart? They are free; overnight parking/RVing is allowed, so you don't have to worry about police or security rapping on the window at 3am; they close late and open early (with some operating 24 hours), so their services and facilities are almost always available when you need them; and, of course, you can find them coast to coast.

Amanda's best mosquito defense efforts.
We set out from Pendelton by 7am for a very long journey into and across southern Idaho. The one highlight of this otherwise grueling, punishingly hot stretch was Craters of the Moon. President Calvin Coolidge established the National Monument in 1924 to preserve this “weird and scenic landscape, peculiar to itself.” It is indeed very peculiar, a lava-scape of black rubble, extinct volcanic cones, bat-filled caves, and dark, twisting monoliths. The 7-mile park loop—filled with plenty of pull-offs, short hikes, and vantage points—was just what we needed to break up the high-mileage day.

At 7:30pm on July 4, we pulled into the Falls Campground in Swan Valley, Idaho, part of the Caribou-Targhee National Forest. The camp is located on a beautiful branch of the Snake River. Hungry and excited to finally be out of the Vanagon, we celebrated with our most elaborate campsite dinner yet. We added garlic olive oil to the bottled pesto we'd been carrying to create a delicious sauce for the fusilli. While the pasta boiled, we grilled some sun-dried tomato chicken sausages. We then chopped up the sausages and added them, the garlic pesto sauce, and some fresh mozzarella to the pasta to create an incredibly satisfying fireside meal. This paradise, complete with exotic sunset, was tainted only by the vicious onslaught of mosquitoes as nightfall approaced. They eventually drove us back into the van to enjoy some reading (and beers!).

Fireworks could be heard in the distance, sending Parker into a few fits of nervous pacing and trembling, but this remote location was the best we could do for him.

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