Salmon River valley
Driving by Mt Borah

Leaving Montana, we drove back to Oakland in a mad dash across three enormous states. We took the incredibly scenic “Peaks to Craters byway” in Idaho, past the highest point in the state, and through the beautiful Salmon River valley. After sleeping in Arco, the first town powered by nuclear energy, we visited the volcanic landscape at Craters of the Moon National Monument.

Indian Tube
Blue Dragon lava flow

The same volcanic forces that created Crater Lake, Mount Ranier, Mount St Helens and Yellowstone also poured out onto the Snake River plain. I got a refresher book called Practical Geology, since I don’t remember much from my last formal training in eighth grade science. Turns out that the lava is blue due to the presence of titanian magnetite. We entered lava tube caves and I did a little spelunking, crawling into a cave that maintains an icy floor year round. Not quite as Indiana Jones-esque as in Belize, but a good adventure nonetheless.

Ruth unimpressed by the "Niagara of the West"
Snake River canyon
Scenic Wells, NV

Heading back across Idaho and Nevada, we stopped in almost every town to stretch our legs and refill the tank. Had an amazing breakfast at the Buffalo cafe in Twin Falls, and digested it while overlooking the town’s 212-ft high namesake. Looked across the canyon that Evel Knievel tried to jump, and marveled at the audacity of the man to try. I wanted to go to the Western Folklife Center in Elko to hear cowboy poetry, but it was closed, and might be shut forever if the Tea Party gets its way. Tried to take the downtown walking tour of Wells, but it appears to have burned down a few years ago.

On to Winnemucca, where we ate at an excellent Basque restaurant and some friendly local teachers at our table reminded us that it’s pronounced ne-vAD-a, not ne-vAH-da. Went to a bar called the Mineshaft, where a Yelp review warns that all the patrons would be meth-heads. I watch Breaking Bad, so this was sort of an attraction, but it’s actually a fine place with free pool tables and an endless slideshow of semi-nude parties. I’d go back when I’m in town again.