June 1, 2012

Places of Contemplation and Wonder

There are a number of dark days in the history of the United States.  The incarceration of Japanese Americans during World War II is one of those days.  Following the bombing of Pearl Harbor, hostility and suspicion toward people of Japanese ancestry intensified, and all Japanese were treated as potential spies.  Wartime hysteria prompted President Franklin D. Roosevelt to authorize the relocation of persons from designated areas for the purpose of national security.

Over 120,000 persons of Japanese ancestry living on the West Coast were interred in ten relocation centers.  We visited one of those centers today, the Minidoka National Historic Site near Jerome, Idaho.  Here approximately 13,000 Japanese, most of whom were American citizens, were interred for the duration of the war.  Only the foundations of two of the camp’s structures remain today, but the site at Minidoka evokes the harsh life that existed behind barbed war.

Only Remnants of the Reception Building Remain
Remains of the Military Police Building Mark the Entrance Station
Barbed Wire Surrounded the Camp
Despite their internment, most Japanese Americans remained extremely loyal to the United States, and many volunteered for military service.  Minidoka had the highest number of volunteers of the ten relocation centers.  Visiting Minidoka brought home the message that we must be vigilant to protect the constitutional rights and freedoms of all citizens and prevent the recurrence of any similar event.  Minidoka is a powerful place.

The Hono Roll Listed the Names of the Internees Serving in World War II
From Minidoka we drove to Craters of the Moon National Monument and Preserve.  This strange landscape was described by a geologist in 1923 as “the surface of the moon as seen through a telescope.”  Even the legislation establishing the national monument described the area as “a weird and scenic landscape, peculiar to itself.”  Does this make Craters of the Moon an officially “weird” park?

A Weird and Scenic Landscape
Craters of the Moon is all of those things, and it’s a fascinating place to visit.  It appears to be a barren landscape, but it draws you in.  Here, vast amounts of lava flowed not from one volcano, but from long fissures across the Snake River Plain known as the Great Rift.  The Great Rift is the deepest and longest volcanic fissure in the continental United States.  Eight major eruptive periods have occurred beginning approximately 15,000 years ago, with the most recent just 2,000 years ago.

This a wonderful place to learn about volcanic features, from spatter and cinder cones to fissures and rifts.  I thought it was apropos that two Hawaiian words are used to describe the different types of lava flows.  Pahoehoe is smooth or ropy lava, while a’a is rough or jagged lava.  Craters of the Moon is such a good laboratory that NASA’s Apollo astronauts learned basic volcanic geology here in 1969.  

Walking through the Lava Field
Pahoehoe, or Ropy, Lava
A'a, or Jagged, Lava
Life Among the Lava
We hiked to the top of the Inferno Cone where we were rewarded with expansive views of the entire area, including a series of cinder cones lined up along the Great Rift.  What a great perspective on this unique lava field.

Tim on His Way to the Top of Inferno Cone
It's a Long Way Down from the Top of the Cone
Cinder Cones Lined Up along the Great Rift
That Tree Is Just Hanging On Atop the Cone
A Strange, But Surprisingly Wonderful, Place


  1. Japanese internment camps was a black time in our nation history but at the time it seemed necessary. When the country did not know who was friend or foe. Thank- you for the idea of what it must have like. Love A

    1. A, The experience of visiting the camps is an one that is difficult to describe. There is also a camp in California, the Manzanar National Historic Site, which Tim and I visited during our California trip a few years ago. It has a fully devleoped and amazing interpretive program. It would be well worth a visit. Sarah

  2. I think your blog is entitled absolutely correctly. What an amazing experience for you both. LV

    1. LV, Thank you. Tim came up with the title, and I agree that it perfectly captured our experiences that day. Sarah