A Walk Through Craters of the Moon

I’ll be honest here–I intended to make this post about walking the dogs through the farm at home, but it just so happened that yesterday the husband said we were finally going to go visit Craters of the Moon, a landscape made from lava flows, and of course the dogs came with us  and we had a good walk. The place is on the small side for a US park, but it’s still huge and the whole walk would take probably a full chapter to go into the sensory detail that I want. I’m going to abridge it to a single short walk that we went on. I’ll try to pay a little more attention to my grammar and the point of view here, the last post was uncharacteristically hair-pulling in those two departments.

So the idea here is that the last post was to work on imagery and the barest start of a plot. Just to start writing. Period. This one goes a step farther, and the challenge is to add more of a plot theme to it. Let’s give it a whirl, shall we? ~and as always, remember these are first drafts. I like to do several drafts before something is finished, but these exercises are a low priority in the editing department. I hope you understand. Also understand that stories are stories and contain fictional content. I am not claiming any truthful accuracy of said tale.~


Eyes of honey and chocolate turned up at me, then closed as Terra’s nose raised in the air and she took several sniffs at the breeze, ending the routine with a wag of her speckled black and white tail. I studied the asphalt path before us, thinking it was a clever way to make a trail over lava that has pooled and oozed out a millennia ago, and my husband unloaded our second dog, a mutt of strange origins that had given him the color of a Newfoundland, the hair of a Golden Retriever, and the heterochromic eyes of an Australian Shepherd. Teddy was ten months old, the size of a large family dog with an attitude of a three-pound puppy, and this was one of his first big “outings”. Terra, on the other hand, was watching the world with interest and confidence, half-erect ears turned to listen to my voice as she watched three joggers pass by on the other side of the road. Two females and one slim male, I noted, which meant no hackles and no growls. The Blue Heeler protectiveness often got the better of Terra, and as much as I was ashamed to say it, the dog was sexist, racist, and hated obese people. Teddy loved everyone; we feared strangers would take him home.

I stroked the white stripe down her muzzle as we left my husband and Teddy go on the trail first. Raised on the farm and largely without leashes, Teddy was slow to learn manners of being walked on a lead despite our work with him. Today was both invigorating and frightening for the pup, and his tendency to obey waxed and waned with his mood. My husband stopped him, told him to sit, and read an informational sign in front of the weathered remains of a desert pine. One almost-white blue eye looked at me, red tongue lolling out, striking a contrast against the black waves of his coat. With much less leash-pulling, Terra and I joined them, and I stopped to read the sign with my husband, motioning for Terra to sit. She did, the blue dog rolling back on her tailbone like a teenaged couch potato.

My husband commented on the strange little tree, on the way the lava had split open along the path, then bent down and ran his finger over a spot where the lava had formed ridges like coils of a rope, a little like cake batter right when it hits the pan and before it smooths out. Down the path a little farther was a sign about the native plantlife, many were species we had at home–sagebrush, rabbitbrush, great basin wild rye–but some were peculiar, like the dwarf buckwheat which grew so low to the ground I initially thought it was oversized white lichen. Along the path were more signs, many of which referenced words and terms native to Hawaii, not something I anticipated seeing in the northwestern state of Idaho. The tropical paradise island was an opposite to our dry state, and I hadn’t thought I would ever see a single thing that could be compared to it. I supposed there was no point in making up new words when the Hawaiians already knew what to call various lava flows.

At one point, the path fell away to both sides, one depression a rocky pit that could surely break an arm or twist an ankle if fallen into. Teddy paused and leaned over the edge, curious but frightened of what might be down there. My husband called him along, and the pup clung to his side. Terra saw a pika dodge from crevice to crevice and whined. An excellent rodent hunter, Terra had killed twice the number of mice in our kitchen cabinets that our cat had killed. She trotted down the narrow path, hardly caring about the holes next to her.

Most of the lava flow was like this: reasonably flat ground which would give way to sudden nothingness, lava tubes which wound their way across the landscape, occasionally breaking through to the air above. I told my husband that if I had been a wanted man in the Old West, I’d be sure to come here to lose the lawmen. This was one landscape a horse would have been a great hinderance to have.

Not far away, there was a hill largely like any other hill, but covered in pea-sized crumbles of brown-black rock, and it was there that the dwarf buckwheat thrived close to the surface, most only a few inches across, but the sign said they could reach up to three feet in diameter.

My husband and I traded leashes a time or two. Teddy tended to revere my husband, and Terra certainly held me in the opinion that I was something to be worshipped. To my relief, Terra obeyed my husband very well. After scolding Teddy for not staying like I told him to, the pup paid very dear attention and did not pull on the lead. When thunder rumbled overhead, he turned a big head to look at me, the blue eye darting to and from the car in an expression of worry. His brown eye was not as noticable as his blue eye, but his right side was dominant, so most often he really was watching me with the blue eye. Terra did not mind the thunder, nor the flashes of lightening in the distance, nor the wind when it picked up, but she hunkered over the second a bit of rain spit on her back. Half the sky was gray clouds, a quarter was robin’s egg blue, and the rest was the white cotton-candy like columus clouds, and the weather behaved like these clouds in turns.

The day went by quickly. We went up and down volcanic cones, stared at a few trailhead signs and decided that we’d rather just look at pictures of tree imprints than walk a mile in the raindrops and moist wind. We loaded up the dogs and drove down the asphalt road with a rise at the edge, making the road look more like a bumper-cart track than a park drive. From the car, we stared at Devil’s Orchard, a gnarled stand of pines, and watched the rain fleck on the windshield. My husband turned on the wipers. Too soon. The bugs smeared in white arcs and the wipers gave a barely-wet jumping squeak as they stopped at the bottom. We hadn’t refilled the fluid reservoir yet, so we waited and watched the storm out of non-buggy windows until enough rain had accumulated that we could turn the wipers on again, then until it was clean enough to start driving home.

In the back, the dogs were loving the way we had dropped down the seat so the rear of the vehicle was flat and extended under the trunk where a picnic basket shared space with a black dog, easily overlooked if not for the blue eye staring out at us. Terra lounged on the blankets right behind us, spread so her tail touched one door and her nose the other, for being the smallest dog I’ve ever had, this was quite the feat. During the hour and a half home, there was only one snarl-fight, easily broken up with a shout, over who would get the premium cavernous space in the trunk. The rest of the way home was the road under tires, the occasional deer sighting, and quiet conversation as we drew closer and closer to our home in the farmhouse on the riverside.


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