Cinder hill. The white bits are
dwarf buckwheat flowers
To break up the trip a bit, we veered off course by about fifty miles and explored Craters of the Moon National Monument and Preserve, located on a lava flow in the middle of nowhere, between Carey and Arco, Idaho. The area's volcanoes started erupting about 15,000 years ago, with the last activity occurring just 2,000 years ago, and scientists believe that it's not done yet. The national monument was established in 1924, and in 1970 Congress designated much of it as wilderness; the Great Rift and its lava fields were added to the national monument in 2000 and in 2002 Congress established the national preserve. Because it's a national monument and not a national park, however (and because it's in the middle of nowhere), Craters of the Moon wasn't crowded even in the early afternoon on a Saturday in August.
View from Inferno Cone
We bought an Idaho gazetteer in the visitors' center (but neglected to pick up permits which are required to explore the CotM caves - dang it) and then had lunch at a small picnic area, accompanied by a bold chipmunk. We did some short hikes - up to the top of the cinder-covered Inferno Cone, out the North Crater Trail to the Big Craters, up to peek into the Spatter Cones and the Snowcone (which, true to its name, still had some ice down inside), and out along the Blue Dragon [lava] Flow to the Tree Molds, which were formed when hot lava flowed around upright and fallen trees, and preserved the trees' forms after the wood burned away. The whole place is weird and otherworldly and worth a visit. Just be sure to drink lots of water: it was dry and very windy and we got parched, even on short walks.
One of the Big Craters
Back to Route 75 up through the Magic Valley, we arrived in Ketchum around 6:00 p.m. and checked into our dated but clean and serviceable Tyrolean Lodge. We tidied up a little and then walked around downtown Ketchum, stopping by a bike shop for a MTB map and insider information, and then making our way to the Sawtooth Brewery (600 N. Main St., but moving to a more foot traffic-favorable location within the year). The brewery is tiny, and never had more than four other patrons at one time despite our going there on Saturday and Sunday nights, but they make most of their money selling their beers at stores and other bars and restaurants. They don't serve food but you are welcome to bring your own in; the bartender who served us both nights was super-friendly and full of information about the Sun Valley area. H had the Flow Trail Pale Ale, which was quite good, and I had the False Summit Amber, which was good but not as good as H's choice. Fun fact: in Idaho, bartenders are allowed to drink on the job! They have to keep to BAC of .04% or below but they can and do enjoy adult beverages during their shifts.
Despite the bartender's suggestion of various high-end restaurants, we opted to go with a recommendation from one of H's co-workers for dinner: Grumpy's (860 Warm Springs Road). Established in 1978, Grumpy's is about as proudly dive-y as you can get. The building is covered in beer cans, signs, skis, stickers and random kitsch; the staff is, as you might imagine, just short of surly; the cleanliness is questionable; they serve beers and burgers; and in the ski season, Tom Hanks drops by whenever he is in town. He was not there that night, though, and we just walked back to our room after our beers, burgers and fries.
Blue Dragon Flow