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Published: October 7th 2007
Obfuscator writes: After a bit of a late start in Boise, we went to the downtown and checked out the Idaho capitol. We'd been a bit remiss in our capitol checking, having not gotten too close to Washington's, and skipping Oregon's (at least for the time being). We found the capitol, and a nice statue of a governor who was liked for his hard-line stance on law and order. Unfortunately for us, the capitol was undergoing some serious renovations, and was closed to the public. It was definitely a pretty building though, and the interior is probably likewise worth viewing if you find yourself in Boise. Across the street from the capitol, we found St. Michael's Episcopal Cathedral, which was nice, but nothing amazing on the outside. On the inside though, there's some really nice stained glass, including most notably a three window set that is an original Tiffany piece. It's really one of the most lovely pieces of stained glass that either of us had ever seen. We walked a bit downtown, and failing to find much of particular interest, grabbed some lunch at a Mongolian grill, before leaving for our next stops.
The Hagerman Fossil Beds National Monument
was a total bust. There's a visitor center that was as good as unmarked, and when you actually go out to the site, there's really not much to see. They don't even let you get up by the Fossil Beds to see anything. Effectively it's just a marker saying “Hey! People found important fossils in this area!” Pointless stop. It's sort of soured us on fossil beds in general, particularly since as I look through a lot of maps, I'm seeing fossil bed monuments all over the place. They also have a trail you can hike that follows along a part of the Oregon trail. Supposedly you can see old wagon ruts that they don't want you to tread on, but we didn't see anything but ATV tracks, so they've probably been largely ruined. Near Hagerman though, you can find a series of lovely waterfalls in an area called Thousand Springs. These all flow into the Snake River, and are definitely worth the short detour off I-84.
Southwest of Buhl, near a town called Castleford, we found a placed called Balanced Rock, which was, as advertised, a balanced rock. Onaxthiel and I had a frank discussion about whether this
was the famed Balanced Rock, or just A balanced rock, like so many. In the end, I think we determined that every place has a balanced rock, and that they're all pretty cool. This one was shaped like a question mark, and sat among some huge rock formations in the middle of large plainsy buttes. We climbed around there for a while, and as we got down, encountered a bored Sheriff-type who seemed to slow down just long enough to run our plates. I guess out-of-towners raise some suspicions in Castleford.
We followed Hwy. 30 all the way to Twin Falls Idaho, which is so named because of Pillar Falls and Shoshone Falls. We didn't get a view of Pillar Falls, but Shoshone Falls was quite impressive, even with part of it dammed up. It's sort of several falls lined up next to each other. There's one big falls, and a couple smaller, but lovely falls on the side. I think Onaxthiel has decided that these are his favorite falls on the trip so far. They were quite nice, though I generally prefer falls I can get closer to. There's a $3 park entrance fee, that has to be
obtained at City Hall, apparently. We skipped that little nuisance, since it was already after normal business hours, and we figured that City Hall wasn't going to be open.
After that little stop, it was straight up 93 to Craters of the Moon National Monument and Preserve. As we were getting into the general vicinity of Craters of the Moon, we started having doubts about this route. The terrain was getting pretty dull, almost like the North Dakota plains. Meanwhile, the weather was looking crumbier and crumbier. Suddenly it all changed, and there were mountains again, and weird black rocks all around us, along with noticeable craters. The weather stayed poor, but we were definitely glad we had gone in this direction.
We eventually got to the actual park. (On a side note, if anyone knows why Craters of the Moon is a National Monument and Preserve, and not just a normal National Park, we're really curious.) We drove what we could, but it was already getting fairly dark, and they had closed parts of the park for the night. We thought briefly about camping, but decided that since a.) the campsites had no grass, and only pumice
rock to throw our bags on, and b.) there was a thick layer of snow on the ground, and c.) it looked likely that there was going to be more snow or rain falling on us through the night, that we should instead seek a motel for the night, and go back to see Craters of the Moon in the daylight, and hopefully better weather.
We found one about 20 miles away in the town of Arco. We checked in, and walked to find some dinner (Arco wasn't that big, but more on that in the next entry). After grabbing some passable food, we wandered over to the local High School where we could see there was a football game being played. The local team (The Butte Pirates ) lost fairly handily to the visitors (The something or other Bulldogs), but it was good to watch some football, even if it was basically all a ground game.
After that, well, Arco didn't seem to have much to offer for the night, so we settled in.
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