The drive to Idaho was pleasant and uneventful. We stopped in Pocatello for lunch and to say hello to a young friend of ours, Sam. He was so surprised to see us walk into his shop!
After our stop we continued north and finally got up to our Island Park cabin around 4pm. It was a tiny cabin, but it was cozy and the price was right. I had brought our own sheets and the girls helped me make up the beds. Then we decided to go to dinner at a nearby Mexican restaurant. Very tasty!
Back at the cabin it was time for some hot tubbing! The girls loved this and it did feel really good after sitting in the car all day!
The next morning we got up, ate breakfast, and got on the road. We were headed to Craters of the Moon NM. According to the map, we drive to Rexburg and hang a right onto Route 33 west towards Arco. We got to Craters around 11am and the place was packed! Apparenlty it was the busiest day ever in the history of the park. We picked up some Jr Ranger forms and headed out on the drive through. The girls worked on the forms while we were in the car. At the first stop we got out and all of us hiked the loop. Saw many examples of the lava- a'a and pahoehoe.
One of the stops on the loop was at a lava crater, we made the short hike and were amazed to see snow still in the bottom of the crater. It was probably about 20ft down or so, but still amazing for late August in a place where the black dirt and rocks can get up to a temperature of 150F in the summer! Back in the car we decide to return to the Visitor Center and collect our Jr Ranger badges. By this time, the crowds are insane and they have actually CLOSED THE PARK! We were a tad anxious aobut how the traffic would be back to Island Park, but we made it just fine. It was good to get back to our base! Katie and Maggie made use of the hot tub, while Jeff and I watched some TV and planned out our Eclipse Expedition for the next day.
We had been wondering where we would go to watch the eclipse. We figured in town somewhere, maybe one of the many pay lots we had passed along the way. However, as we passed through Rexburg this morning, the farmland gave way to BLM land. We thought "Hey! BLM land!" It was wide open for miles and miles and all we had to do was find a spot to park the car. In fact, there were already people out there camping. We looked at a few maps of the path of Totality, and Route 33 and realized that they are practically parallel! So our plan for the morning: 5am wake up, be on the road by 6am, hopefully to BLM spot by 7:30 or so.
We actually did pretty good! I was up at 5am, started breakfast. Got the girls up, and they got dressed quick. We got our cooler packed and got on the road by about 6:10am. There was a solid line of tail lights headed south. We were just a tad nervous about all the cars, but the closer we got to Rexburg, the highway widened out to two lanes and we made good time.
And just as we expected the BLM land was wide open. We turned off on one dirt road and left the highway. Up a hill and around the corner we find a lovely spot on top of a hill with 360 of wide open views. We even brought our own Port-a-Potty!
We had a couple neighbors, a young guy who had been camping there for the last 2 nights in anticipation of the eclipse, and a couple that came in just after us. He had a sweet telescope set up that he let us look through. Shortly after 10am the show started! We had our certified glasses that I bought from Clark Planetarium and we just sat and watched. The kids were amazed. I was amazed. Jeff was amazed.
As the moon began to cover more and more of the sun, the light started to get dim. You didn't need sunglasses, and the light was rather eerie. Then as the exposed sun grew smaller, we noticed the temperature seemed to dip as well. Then the sun was gone. Words cannot express the sight of that glowing white corona, and the 360 twilight. There were stars in the sky! We were laughing and cheering. And then it was done. And just like that the sun came back, and we warmed up.
We hung out for a bit in our spot reliving that amazing sight. After about a half an hour we pack up and headed back towards Rexburg. That little town was bumper to bumper traffic heading south with everyone trying to leave. We didn't worry though, we were still here for another night. We figured that northbound would be pretty backed up, so we decided to take a side trip to see what was left of the Teton Dam. I was about 6 or 7 when that burst, but I do remember hearing about it on the news and people talking about it at church. The middle section is still standing and the dam is washed out on either side.
At this point we decide we will try heading north. HA HA! bad traffic, we leave the highway and decide to take the scenic drive to Mesa Falls. Yeah us, and half the rest of the drivers. This wasn't much better. The falls were cool, but when it takes about 3 hours to go 15 miles, well you start to get tired of it all. As this scenic drive lets out onto Hwy 20, the traffic starts to clear and we then make good time back to our cabin in Island Park. Whew! What a day!
Tuesday we had to check out- after stripping the beds, cleaning the bathroom, cleaning the kitchen, washing dishes, and vacuuming the floors. I was tired! It was an AirBandB type rental. We got on the road and made good time home. I am so glad we took the girls to see this once in a lifetime sight. Definitely something none of us will ever forget!
*Many photos were snapped from the car with my phone, apologies for the spots in the pictures!