When you mention Idaho to most people in the eastern half of the United States, the majority would immediately think POTATOES. I was one of those people. Even after I began researching things for our trip I never dreamt of the diversity that we have experienced in our 5 days in Idaho.
We saw lovely mountain vistas as we left Wyoming, field after field of potatoes and barley being irrigated as we headed toward Pocatello and now lava fields as we enter the middle of the state. Yes, LAVA fields! I always knew that there were volcanoes in Hawaii. I saw some in Alaska but in the middle of Idaho? Yep….albeit ancient ones.
We drove across miles and miles of nothingness. I am not sure how else to explain the area. We were going to tour the Experimental Breeder Reactor #1 (www.inl.gov/ebr) on the vast Idaho National Labs property. If you haven’t figured it out yet, I am not normal. I included a visit to the first nuclear reactor to produce electricity in vacation plans. So glad I did! This is a National Historic Landmark that offers free visitation and tours. The EBR #1 has obviously been decommissioned and decontaminated so that the tour is safe beyond any doubt. I loved being able to show my kids part of an industry that their father and his cousin work in. Nuclear energy can sometimes be looked at in a negative light but when you are fully educated you see what a potential it has. When you tour EBR #1, if you keep in mind that it was developed in the 1950’s, you will be shocked at how technologically advanced it was.The kids enjoyed being able to touch things, work the manipulator arms and the control panel. The boys thought hitting the SCRAM button was the best! I think that watching my daughter learn and grasp some of the scientific and engineering concepts was beyond amazing! Can you believe that they also experimented with a nuclear powered jet engine? Dave’s cousin worked on that project in the late 1950’s. I thought our flight to Alaska was long….imagine a plane that wouldn’t need to land for 30 days. Yuck!!!
Our next stop was on another planet. Craters of the Moon National Park. (Only and $8 fee for the whole family) It is hard to describe how large and oddly beautiful this lava field is. I am not sure how but wildflowers and some trees grow in this field of rock. We picked up the Junior Ranger booklets (Dave and I are now doing the Jr. Ranger books with the kids. We have earned 2 patches so far!!) and began the 7 mile driving loop around the park. There are many stops along the way with easy paved walks through the lava fields and even to some caves. If you want to climb in the caves be sure to get a free cave permit at the visitor center. I was surprised at the size of a couple of the caves. My favorite walk though was a short hike up a lava cone. The view from the top was spectacular!
Family vacations are fun but they are also tools to expose our kids to places, things and ideas that they don’t necessarily come in contact with in their everyday world.