Recently, I got to spend two weeks at Craters of the Moon National Monument as part of the National Park Service’s Artist in Residence (AiR) program. This post contains pictures of the wildflowers and geological features I saw — like spatter cones and cinder gardens — while I was writing in the park.
1. Geological Features
I spent most of my time exploring and writing about the interesting geological features like spatter cones, cinder cones, and lava flows.
Spatter cones are tiny volcanoes that vent viscous, pasty lava at the end of the eruption cycle.
They are part of the great rift the park sits on, which is referred to as a volcanic fissure.
They look like they belong in the time of the dinosaurs.
The last picture was taken from the top of Inferno Cone, which is a tiny mountain made out of cooled pieces of lava from a lava fountain as they fell back down to earth.
Cinder cones are my favorite feature hands-down. The cinders are opalescent like glass and porous like pumice. They glitter like diamonds, and they crunch when you walk across them like so much breakfast cereal.
Here are some sweet cinder cones.
Here is a sweet cinder cone at night.
Here are some pics of the glittery, opalescent cinders.
They are beautiful, like the Beatrice of volcanic features.
Lava flows show an astonishing variety in the shapes they produce.
They look like ornate brooches made out of taffy.
Or they are covered with blue and indigo glass over a thin layer of titanium to mirror a stormy, frozen ocean. This is referred to as blue dragon lava.
Or they look like the face of a fox, the leg of an elephant, reptile eyes, or an enormous basalt heart.
Sometimes massive blocks rip off of a volcanic crater and flow along the surface of lava rivers like icebergs.
This kind of volcanic crater.
This crater gives me the willies, because I could feel the dormant power beneath the earth’s surface while standing over it.
Ranger Ted said people compare CRMO to Mordor, and I guess I can sort of see the comparison, but I think this is just that most people are unimaginative about black surfaces.
2. Wildflowers (& Limber Pines)
The wildflowers of CRMO were truly beautiful.
This attractive white flower is called gland cinquefoil, which is an unfortunate-sounding name for a relative of the rose.
(Other unattractively named flowers in the park included scabland penstemon and Suksdorf’s monkeyflower.)
This bitterroot is super pretty but tinier than you’d think.
The plants are red with flowers on top like snowflakes.
This dwarf buckwheat turns a cherry color as the summer progresses.
Sometimes you see a bunch together in different pastel stages of redness.
Dwarf monkeyflower is a tiny, purplish flower that marches over the cinders like a great blanket.
I saw a triforce of blue flowers, which made me very happy, as I love all blue things in nature — but especially blue wildflowers. Below are varieties of larkspur, lupine, and penstemon.
This scarlet paintbrush was like lava in that it was incandescently bright.
I wrote a poem about it surfing across the stormy blue lava.
Sometimes the flowers grew together in endless fields of bright pastels called cinder gardens.
This one is punctuated by purple fleabane.
Limber pines are the most dominant tree in the park, and they are super flexible to deal with the epic amounts of wind.
They are so flexible that you can knot the branches of saplings. (I did not attempt this.)
I liked the fact that the wind twisted them into strange otherworldly shapes, which made the park feel like some sort of land of the lost.
Sometimes, even their roots were twisted wildly.
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