Dust is blowing. It’s dry, it’s warm and black as hardened lava, because it is hardened lava. Miles of volcanic lava and jagged rock pieces that once exploded from deep within the earths crust cover this entire area known as craters on the moon. We are in southern Idaho and just camped right in the middle of this moon-like place where a shady tree is hard to find. It’s fascinating that anything can grow at all, but flowers bloom and little pikas jump from lava cracks and scurry across the path. A nice fact for you: Astronauts came here to practice before their trip to the moon.
We spend one night and rise early in hopes of getting closer to the Oregon coast. All packed up we slowly make our way back through the campground and nod to other campers, who are crawling out of tents and fixing breakfast. I’m waving but only getting blank stares in return. We go by another family and the same thing. Pass a ranger, who are always nice, but nothing. Maybe the lava dust is getting to these people. So we leave. Back on the highway and I hear a lot of wind coming from the back. Hm, I take inventory; windows are closed, sprite is sleeping, side-door latched, bags in back are secure and looking up, holy shit the top of the van is still popped up! We are driving highway speed and the top is all the way up. In a panic I tell Colin and it takes him a minute to register FUCK! Slamming the breaks to pull over, it takes us a minute before getting out to asses any damage. We are praying that nothing is wrong but at the same time surprised that with the heavy load the top didn’t blow right off. The blank stares are now making sense. All parts are in tact. We decide to both take blame but I’m in for more like 70% since I got out twice to take trash and recycling right before turning on the highway. I didn’t even notice. Colin agrees, 70% sounds about right.
We get coffee at the next stop. I am trying to throw the empty creamers into the trash And miss, they fall to the floor and I try again, miss, and one more time. The lady standing next to me stirring her coffee says, honey sometimes it’s just one of those days. And that is the theme for the next two days. We find a crack in the fiber glass top and decide to take off the shocks. There is a solar panel and rocket box packed full and strapped to the roof rack, which is nice and heavy. The shocks make it effortless to bring the top up and down. Colin thinks the one shock is bad and causing the fiberglass to crack. Off they go and with the two of us trying to bring the top down is an interesting maneuver. There is a dance of getting the canvas tucked in while colin has a pillow to ease the pain as weight bears down on the top of his head. It is getting late and we need to find camp. A state park is only 15 miles north of the next town that we are coming through in about 20 miles. Perfect. They have showers and we should be there before dark. This is a rule. Never find camp after dark. First off you can’t see. Secondly, you don’t want to blind other campers, who set up in responsible daylight hours, with a flood of headlights. In addition to that, you can’t see setting up which is like walking around in the dark, having to rely on sense of touch, which is great in some situations but not when the goal is to set up camp. There’s a lot of whisper yelling and then a fight breaks out, quietly to not disturb other campers. If it sounds like we have been down this path a few times, you would be right. We find the campground right before sunset and it’s beautiful with rocks like cliffs and I read that it’s a popular spot for rock climbing. I also read in small print but did not seem to register, this is walk-in bivouac camping only. With only a little light left I can see another campground symbol on the map and looks like only 6 miles up the road. Not sure what road since it is not listed on the map. The Garmin has no clue either. We drive, we drive, we see mule deer on the side of the now very dark road, and we drive. No campground. I flip open the state parks map. Looks like two campgrounds about 25 miles southeast of that town we went through about 16 miles ago…opposite direction. I check Garmin and he seems to know this spot and click, “go”. We are on narrow country roads, can smell the cattle fields and it is dark. No city lights to guide us. Garmin says turn right 5 miles, turn left in 6 miles, and this goes on and on until the last turn, go left. A friendly sign greets us at this left turn, Welcome, Mary’s Lamas. Who in the hell is Mary. I am hopeful that the campground is Mary’s side business from the lamas but Colin is not so sure. Let’s go in I demand. I’m tired, I hate the state parks book, the stupid map, and the word bivouac. I want sleep, food and the lama to show me to a campsite. We pull down an even more narrow road, over a rickety bridge, gps assuring us to stay straight and we reach the lamas. No sign of the campground or Mary. Now what. Back to town, there was another spot on the other side and opposite direction. About 30 more miles later of slow winding road driving we are at a campground. We can see this time because the only spot left was right next to the bathroom with flood lights. We stop. The van is running rough and sprite throws up. But there is a shower, cold beer in the fridge and that’s what we have for dinner. We are hoping bad days don’t come in three’s.
Pictures: craters of the moon. The hazy mountains are southern Idaho due to forest fires. Falls are also southern Idaho.