Solar Eclipse 2017: Idaho

I wanna see the sun blotted out from the sky
I wanna see it painted, painted, painted, painted black
-The Rolling Stones

“Do you want to get robbed and murdered?” I argued. “Because that’s how you get robbed and murdered!”

We were discussing potentially abandoning our well-laid plans to view the total solar eclipse in Oregon for our absolutely-zero-plans to do so in Idaho instead. The news leading up to the eclipse kept affirming that Madras, Oregon was going to be everything we wanted to avoid and we’d been dreading the mess all week, though still determined to stick to our plan. The wildfires leading to evacuations in nearby Sisters, Oregon was the proverbial final straw.

“But we have a bed and a roof waiting in Oregon,” I said, one last effort to cling to the plan. Again, I alluded to the potential of disappearing without a trace, “You know, people who will notice if we don’t show up?” I really did have this irrational fear that if there was no one expecting us at a pre-arranged destination, then we’d never arrive, but you can’t say you have an adventurous spirit and then miss a once in a lifetime opportunity fretting about million to one odds. We packed the camping gear and hoped we’d find a safe camping spot as we headed to Idaho.

It was the best decision we could have possibly made.

Sawtooth Mountains, Idaho. I believe they are aptly named.

I was still apprehensive as we left in the middle of the night on Saturday, so I couldn’t have guessed that that we would have a campsite acquired, set up, and ready in the Sawtooth National Recreation Area by early Sunday afternoon. There’d been hardly any traffic and the trip was smooth otherwise. Joe was kind enough not to say I told you so or to be in any way smug about the fact that we’d arrived alive and well.

He chewed hungrily on his ham and cheese sandwich as I talked about visiting Craters of the Moon National Monument and Preserve (since we’d arrived without incident and with plenty of time to spare). Having the serious nature-crush on volcanoes that I do, I really didn’t want to miss an opportunity to see the lava fields at Craters of the Moon. Though we’d just driven over ten hours, we got back in the car and drove another few hours to see some cooled lava.

Craters of the Moon, Idaho

It was already dark by the time we made it back to our campsite, and I hadn’t seen a night so clear with so many brilliant stars in a very long time. Joe took the rainfly off the tent so I could fall asleep staring at the sky. I would love to say it was perfectly tranquil, but I kept envisioning Jason Voorhees’ masked face popping into view, looming above me, machete raised high into the air. Apparently, I wasn’t over the possibility of being murdered yet, but I was tired. I accepted whatever fate was coming and gave in to sleep.

A golden morning!

Fear of machete-wielding mad men might have been the theme of the previous night (and day), but I woke to a glorious morning. Eclipse Day!

It’s probably a jerk move to tell a bunch of people how happy I was that there weren’t a bunch of people, but you know what? I’m a bit of a jerk and I was absolutely thrilled that the viewing area we chose remained uncrowded. Even the porta potties were almost pleasant!

Thank heaven for small crowd sizes!

Then came the main event!

It started with a giggle, but then I broke into full on laughter, the kind of laughter that only comes from pure awe, joy, and delight. I danced under the shadow of the moon (if only for a handful of seconds), in the darkness of the day, like a damned fool. After all, it was just me, Joe, and a few other crazies standing in an Idaho field staring at the sun. No one noticed or cared. I should have danced more…and harder.

And then it was over. I know that’s anticlimactic after everything I’ve written leading up to this, but it was over. Done. There was nothing left to do but head home.

We made it back home at 2am on Tuesday morning—four hours before my alarm, but it was worth it. It was so totally worth it.

 

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Yellowstone and on to Our New Home

Let’s just take a minute to deal with this, shall we?

Let’s just take a minute to deal with this, shall we?

I’m noticing a theme as I write this. The theme, of course, is that even though we gave ourselves 11 days to make the trip, it wasn’t enough time. One day is hardly enough to spend in Yellowstone National Park. We were so rushed that we didn’t have time to wait for Old Faithful to do its thing. Yeah, let that sink in for a minute. Now, we did get to see plenty of geysers erupt, or vent, or whatever you actually call the geothermal activity that causes them to spew steam and water, just not the famous one.

And you know what? I’m not actually that sad about it, given the other awesome stuff we saw.  At this point, I think I’ll mostly let the pictures do the talking.

20_YS

21_YS

Clockwise from top left: buffalo, elk, grizzly bear

Clockwise from top left: buffalo, elk, grizzly bear

Sulfur Cauldron

Sulfur Cauldron

26_Firehole Spring

Firehole Spring

Great Fountain Geyser

Great Fountain Geyser

The road ahead

The road ahead

Of course, the pictures do nothing to capture how breathtaking that place is. I was sad to leave, but we were only two-thirds of the way through our journey. We’d still have to stop to sleep, and we only had one full day left to drive that last third before we were scheduled to move in to our new apartment.

I probably pushed myself past my safe driving limit before letting Joe take over behind the wheel, but he didn’t make it much longer than I did. We stopped in Montana for the night.

There aren’t many photos of the last leg of our journey. After Yellowstone, we’d had close to our fill of the road and just wanted to reach our destination. Not that there weren’t gorgeous things to see. Idaho is ridiculously pretty. Had we not been tired of living out of duffel bags, I might have tried to push our move-in date back one more day to spend some real time there, but I knew we were reaching our limit.

We stopped at one viewpoint shortly after we crossed into Washington to appreciate the semi-desert views of eastern Washington.

And then right back on the road.

And then right back on the road.

Dusk found us in Tacoma, Washington. We decided to treat ourselves to an early night and find a hotel there.

We saved the last hour of our drive for morning and by lunchtime we were picking up keys to our new place and our new life.

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