Motorcycle Road Trip 2011 – Day 47

Shoshone Falls - Twin Falls, Idaho

Shoshone Falls - Snake River - Twin Falls, Idaho

Day 47 of my motorcycle road trip, and another very scenic day. I left Jackson, Wyoming, heading west on Highway 22 and the Teton Pass. This took me through the southern portion of the Grand Teton Mountains to Victor, Idaho. Victor is a small town of about 2,000 people, at the western end of the Teton Pass and southern part of the Teton Valley.

From Victor, I continued south-west on Highway 31 through the Targhee National Forest into the town of Swan Valley. Swan Valley is located on the south fork of the Snake River. With a population of only 200 people, it seemed to consist mostly of a gas station and The Fox’s Corner’d Inn: Food, Lodging and Spirits.

At Swan Valley I headed west onto Highway 26, following along the Snake River and the Snake River Range. The Snake River is very popular for fishing and rafting. A short distance along Highway 26, and I was now in Idaho. I pulled into a rest stop for my first view of the Snake River Canyon. Not as dramatic as I’ll see later in the day, but nice just the same. I continued on Highway 26 west to Idaho Falls, where I turned onto Highway 20 toward Craters of the Moon National Monument.

 


 

Highway 20 through Idaho was a rather desolate area. Its biggest claim to fame is the Idaho National Laboratory, a federal research facility established in 1949 as a National Reactor Testing Station. Over 50 nuclear reactors have been built there, more than anywhere else in the world.

As I rode through this flat and treeless plain, three large buttes appeared on the horizon. These are large mounds of lava, rising over 2,000 feet above the plain. They were formed hundreds of thousands of years ago during a lava flow, and are in very stark contrast to the surrounding plain. I stopped at an information sign describing the area as a sagebrush steppe, or high desert, with a volcanic plain. A little further up the highway, I ironically found “The Lost River.” At first I thought is was a dried up river bed. However, another information sign said that lava flows had buried old channels of the river, forcing it to go underground. The Lost River travels underground for 120 miles before re-emerging above ground, near the town of Hagerman. I wish I understood more about geology, because this whole area sounds quite interesting and unusual from a geological standpoint.

A short way up the road, I reached town of Arco. I couldn’t help but notice the Pickle’s Place Restaurant, appropriately painted pickle green. It claimed to be home of the “Atomic Burger.” How could I pass that up. So I stopped for lunch. And yes, the burger was quite good. Across the street was “The Numbered Hill.” Since the graduating class of 1920, the students of Butte County High School have painted their graduation year in large numbers on the side of the hill. Sounds like a fun tradition.

Back on the road again, I entered what was obviously lava fields. The sagebrush had given way to dark black rock, and I was now at the Craters of the Moon National Monument. The Craters of the Moon National Monument was established in 1924 by President Calvin Coolidge to “preserve the unusual and weird volcanic formations”. It spreads across 618 square miles with more than 25 volcanic cones and 60 distinct lava flows. The oldest flows date back some 15,000 years, with the youngest lava flows about 2000 years old. The rugged landscape remains undeveloped except for the 7 mile road that loops through the monument for tourists to explore the lava fields. At the time the park was named, it was believed that the area resembled the craters on Earth’s moon. However, in 1969 when the NASA Apollo space program started visiting the Moon, they discovered the moon’s surface was mostly created by meteorites not volcanic eruptions as is here. But, the Craters of the Moon National Monument is still very cool, even if it doesn’t technically resemble the moon.

Craters of the Moon also has an area where you can climb down lava tubes. That sounded like fun. But, it was another hot day. Too hot to be walking around on black lava in motorcycle gear. Especially too hot to be climbing around in lava tubes in motorcycle gear. So, I headed back to my motorcycle and continued on.

From Craters on the Moon, I got onto Highway 93 south. My next stop was Twin Falls, Idaho, my stop for the night. I didn’t know much about Twin Falls before I arrived. As I rode over the Perrine bridge, 1,500 feet over the Snake River, I decided the Snake River Canyon was so beautiful I needed to stop for a picture. I saw an information center on the other side of the bridge, so I pulled in. The guy at the information center told me about Shoshone Falls, only a few miles away. Sounded like a nice last stop before heading to the hotel. Signs called Shoshone Falls the “Niagara Falls of the West.” Having been to Niagara Falls only a few weeks ago, that’s probably a stretch. But, both the Shoshone Falls and Snake River Canyon were quite spectacular.

After checking into the hotel, I walked over to the La Fiesta Mexican Restaurant for dinner. Then back to the hotel for the night. I want to get a very early start in the morning. I’ll be riding into Nevada with triple digit heat. I want to put on as many miles possible before the day heats up and gets quite uncomfortable.

 

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