A Dust Storm

Suddenly daylight is gone, exchanged to a greyish twilight. Strong gusty winds are blowing from the side, pushing dry bushes and branches across the road. Dust is rising from the fields, piling up to large clouds. Cars reduce speed as visibility drops to a few meters. A smell of earth seeps through every door and window. But except of a few drops no rain is falling. As suddenly as it came it goes again and we are back into bright sunlight.

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Craters of the Moon National Monument

"The surface of the moon, seen through a telescope" is how this landscape was first described, a very strange place indeed, an ocean of cold black lava nearly destitute of vegetation. Beginning about 16.000 years ago lava flowed down from the Great Rift in several episodes, creating different forms of lava flows, from the very fluid pahoehoe streams with smooth, rope-like flows to the crusty thick aa flows. It is expected that the future will again see volcanic activity as this place is still active.

When lava streams flew subterranean hot gases created caves that are still dangerous today. Of course the danger does not come from hot gases or lava but from the moist slippery rocks that lie on the cave floor. It is easy to trip over such rocks in the semi-dark.

Well, I found myself unable to stop my fall, trying to protect the camera and gear, finally landing hard on the ground. I got away with several skin lesions and a right ring finger that rose upward in a very unnaturally 45° angle, exposing white bone through a flesh wound at the underside. From that sight I was sure it had been broken. Distance to parking lot half a mile, to the ranger station five miles, to the next country hospital about 20 miles (which was fortunately close). An X-ray showed the miracle - no fracture, but only a dislocation which was straightened on the spot and sewed up with eight stitches. Thanks to the good staff on duty at the Lost Canyon Medical Center in Arco the impact of this volcanic episode will be limited. And thanks to the good engineers at Canon Corporation I am still able to shoot pictures.

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