For the eclipse, my family decided to head out to one of our favorite places: McCall, Idaho. We’ve gone there many times over the years to experience all manner of outdoor joy, from river rafting to cliff jumping to hotspring soaking to hiking through the Payette National Forest. Because the path of totality would cross just a short drive south of us, it seemed like the perfect place to go.
Leaving Seattle Friday evening due to work schedules, Em, Josh A., and I made it as far as Pullman where we passed out in one of the few available hotel rooms and then pressed on again in the early morning. As we headed into Idaho, the temperatures rose and landscape changed, adding a physical element to the experience of being away from it all and off to the wilderness.
Burgdorf is a very rustic hotspring resort, the history centering around explorers and mining in the 1800’s. And by rustic, I mean limited sources of potable water (available in spigots outside the cabins), no electricity, and outhouses only for bathrooms. Maybe not a “resort” for the faint of heart, but definitely one that our outdoor-loving family has always appreciated.
After being on the road for so long, we decided to stretch our legs with a traditional hike up Crystal Mountain, a mountain whose top has been violently mined for the quartz crystal contained therein, the result of which has been a fascinating mountaintop of exposed quartz that can’t help but capture the imagination as you circle the mountain and scramble up to the top.
As a matter of full disclosure, I have promised to tell-all and reveal that my stubborn attempt to find a nonexistent trail up Crystal got us incredibly lost for almost an hour, bushwhacking across the hillsides and strategically avoiding crossing the dense ridge line as we knew that would take us from mostly-lost into truly-lost. Luckily, between Em and my memories of the area, a small photo of a local map I had on my phone (see above image) and some strategery with the location of the sun and distant mountains, we managed to locate the real trail and proceed safely up Crystal. Yes, that was a “my bad” that I will never repeat again!
On the hike out (this time on the actual trail), we encountered a grouse family. Em used her uncanny bird calls to trick the fowls into holding still, which was all well and good for some fantastic photos until the mother sensed danger and tried to introduce herself to my face. Alright, revenge for my misadventure achieved, now let’s move on before I lose an eye!
That evening we enjoyed the hotspring and slept soundly in the cabin, the whole party finally together (me, Em, Josh, Brigitte, Mike, Craig B., and Craig’s friend, Robin). Em and I ended up camping out down on the first floor to avoid the nocturnal male musicians, which resulted in us having a late night encounter with a local mouse we heard scratching around inside the cabinet where unsecured food had been stored. Apparently mice enjoy dry, roasted seaweed. Who knew?
The next day generated some debate over what the activities would be. My desire to hike won out in persuading Em and Josh to follow me into the wilderness in an attempt to summit one of the beautiful peaks visible from our windows. While that adventure ended up being over 10 miles roundtrip and not successfully summiting the intended peak, we saw beautiful sights and had lunch on top of a gorgeous ridgeline above an alpine meadow and lake. I’ll be back someday for the peaks, that’s for sure!
We came down too late to head to the cliff jumping spot on Lake Payette, so instead we drove as far as the northernmost end of the lake where the river feeds in and found a nice spot to pull over and cool off with a refreshing evening swim.
Monday we woke up before dawn and packed the cars for the eclipse. Brigitte and Mike had arranged with local friends, Don and Connie, to join them on a friend’s acreage outside of Council, ID. With extreme fire danger making us all extra cautious as we drove up the dirt rode past local bovine, through dry grass and brush, our anticipation grew as we awaited the eclipse.
Words cannot fully describe all that we experienced being in the path of totality. The changing light as the sun began to lose out to the moon, the quiet that fell as the insects and birds went into evening mode, and finally the indescribable beauty of a black sun surrounded by dancing blue and white flames sitting amongst a starry patch of sky in the middle of the day! I have yet to find a photo that managed to capture even a hint of what it truly looks like in person. And in totality, all of the full eclipse could be looked at without eye protection. If you ever have a chance to view totality, go! Do it! It is breathtaking to the nth degree!
Several panoramas illustrating the changing light as the shadow approached and passed us.
Photo credit for the eclipse images to Mike’s Post-Doc, Baptiste J. who was just down the road from us during the eclipse.
After the eclipse, we came together to share our experiences and marvel at the photos taken by the group photographers, and then it was time to make the long drive home. As we went, the smoke from the local wildfires gave us a fantastic sunset. The perfect end to a weekend full of nature and beauty (and far too much driving!)
To follow our trail…