I'm back at the campground after a day of trooping around. I took some cool pictures to share with everyone, and they get my creative juices flowing. They were taken with my phone, so quality might vary.
We got to Craters of the Moon National Monument while it was still cool this morning. If I were more dedicated, I would have gotten there for sunrise when the light is best for photography, but sleeping in was nice too. Since there are photos, I'm going to break this into two posts to spare you on loading time.
As we drove over, my wife turned on the radio. My truck displays the song title, but only has so many characters. Sometimes a title runs off screen. We started our day laughing like idiots at this:
Yeah, we're that kind of couple.
We stopped off at the visitor's center to get a map. We wanted to see as much as we could. My wife walked the puppy while I stopped inside.
They had those neckerchiefs with some kind of plastic sand inside them. You soak it in water, it swells up and acts like a swamp cooler. I bought one for Otto, and it works great.
Speaking of Otto, the canine ambassador for the bulldog breed had fun greeting people outside the visitor's center. I held the leash so my wife could use the restroom. People stopped, pictures were snapped, and his little butt wiggled like crazy.
This volcano involves continental drift, and plate tectonics. The hotspot that caused all this is now under Yellowstone National Park. This doesn't mean Craters is out of the woods. It appears to erupt every 2000 years. That's the blink of an eye in geological terms. It's actually 100 years overdue.
This volcano acts more like the Hawaiian kind. It leaks, it fountains, it leaves behind interesting features. There are multiple lava flows from various eruptions. I think the surface of Yellowstone must be harder than Craters, because there is one hell of a caldera in Yellowstone. It's more like the Cascade volcanos that atomize everything with a huge explosion.
Great is subjective, but I'm talking about the new asphalt and touched up picnic tables. Craters of the Moon actually looks like this:
I'm an old desert rat from way back. I find beauty in desert environments. This old tree could be a marker along some journey a character has to make. An author could make it resemble something, it wouldn't have to look exactly like this.
One of the tricks to a place like this is to “look small.” The vistas are wonderful, but sometimes the more interesting thing is right under your nose. This kind of lava flows, makes a skin on top, and flows again. It leaves some interesting features:
It actually looks like roots or some kind of wood. Does anyone else see the monstrous fingers of some beast woven together?
Maybe your character is following up some local legend, finds this and decides the monster is no more. Oh how wrong he is…
This stuff even forms what looks like knotholes.
I thought this one was pretty interesting. Lucifer's taffy pull anyone. Again, you have to look small or you'll walk right over this kind of thing.
The NPS seems to have it in for cute bulldog puppies. We brought his leash and harness, bags to clean up after him, and even a wagon in case the rocks were too hot for his feet. Every trail is paved, but no dogs are allowed. I had to limit myself to the short trails and hurry up while my wife watched the puppy.
She really doesn't get into this like I do. I'm kind of a volcano junkie. She was content with the beautiful vistas and blue skies. Let's look at one of the broader images. I took several, but this is where the iPhone has its limits.
Nearly a hundred miles of razor sharp rocks. In some cases the rubble is the size of a pickup truck and piled so tightly you couldn't walk through it in a million years. If you tried, you'd need extra boots, bandages, and some decent insurance.
Does anyone get the idea of Mordor here? Check out this next one for a closer image of the rubble.
This window formed as one of the cinder cones collapsed over the centuries. Random thought: need a fantasy obstacle? How about a Wind-Doe? The cinder cone reminded me of the surface of the asteroid in the movie Armageddon.
I took a short trail to look down a cinder cone. Check this out:
This hole is about 30 feet deep. The lava fountained, when it cooled it left the hole behind. Vermithrax Pejoritive was the best dragon name ever. Can you see this as the opening to her den? Can you see this whole area of devastation surrounding her den?
Walking back, the sun was shining perfectly into this small hole. It's as deep as my arm. (Sorry about the shadow in the image.) Is this where the mechanism to the hidden door is? Maybe the first volunteer has a bad encounter with a rattlesnake or a scorpion.
NASA trained astronauts here for the moon landing. They gave up when it proved too tough. Those with “The Right Stuff” couldn't handle it. Lava fields don't actually resemble meteor impacts anyway, but it gives you an idea of how harsh this area is. It's also filled with little yellow sulfur butterflies and wild flowers.
This environment can work in many kinds of stories. Imagine running for your life in this kind of place. You might just say, “Go ahead and cut my throat it will be more merciful.”
Captain Jack and the Modoc Indians hid out in a similar place in Northern California. They evaded the US Cavalry for years by using secret trails, and lava tube caves. The trail to the caves here was over a mile (each way) and that isn't fair to Otto or my wife. We enjoyed the vista from the trailhead and moved on.
There is also an area where the lava flowed over trees and left perfect casts of them when they burned out. Mt. Vesuvius did something similar to living humans.
These environments are real places. That adds credibility to your fiction. Need to look for old Snuffy's secret gold mine? Maybe your Western needs an impenetrable robber's roost. Need an area of devastation around your dragon's den? How about access to the underworld in your Greco-Roman fantasy?
Maybe you need an alien planet. I'm sure landing here would damage your space ship.
I've been getting back into pulp stuff lately. Someday, I might write one about a lost world. This would be a great place to follow the map and find the entrance. It would be easy enough to discover some dinosaur remains that looked like those ropy lava flows. What world building skills would you take from a place like this?
I reduced the size of the pictures and I hope that made them easier to load. Tomorrow's post is going to be from here, it's going to be completely different, but still allow for some speculation. I'll tag them under the Idea Mill category if you want to find them again.