travel

Solar Eclipse Awesomeness

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Solar Eclipse Animated map
On Monday, Aug 21, Darren and I got to see the eclipse that went across North America! We had been planning it for months, and our trip went really extraordinarily well.
We decided to take the Pathfinder and drive down. Although it has over 400,000 km on it, it’s still the best when it comes to 4X4-ing… and we wanted to keep that option open in case there was an eclipsopolis! You know what I mean, right? A zillion people in a small space, all trying to see the sky for a few minutes on a certain day in August! It could have been a formula for disaster — and I gather some towns were totally overrun — but we ended up in a really nice, remote spot.

Here’s a map of the general area. We had set our sights on Idaho:
WesternStatesEclipse

On the way there, we saw some neat stuff! At The Bomber Command Museum in Nanton, AB, we saw a Lancaster bomber!

We continued through southern Alberta and took the Crowsnest Pass into BC. I had never been that way before and it was quite lovely — definitely the easiest pass through the Rockies. ๐Ÿ™‚
In Montana, we found the area around Flathead Lake (named after a native tribe) particularly beautiful:

At the south end of Flathead Lake is the town of Poulson. We drove through and stayed at the Gaynor Ranch not far from there. The guest rooms were all booked, so we stayed in a tipi!

The staff there were great, and we had a nice time, but we left early to get into the zone of totality and find a camping spot.
Our Plan A was to go to Cascade, ID, but the highway to it was closed due to forest fires. We found this out before we left Alberta. So Plan B was Stanley, ID. Apparently, a lot of other people had that idea too, and the town was throwing a big party. Along the way, we stopped along the Salmon river for a break, and met a man who suggested we camp with others along highway 93 in Idaho. There is no town nearby, but that didn’t matter to us, since we were prepared for remote camping. We had planned to get in to one of the many National Forests and take advantage of their policy of “dispersed camping” that allows people to camp wherever, as long as they stay close to their vehicle.
South of the town of Challis in the middle of nowhere, we came upon this:

Once through the rocks, we got into a wide valley and found the Challis National Forest to camp in! But where are the TREES?!?

There were some up in the hills, actually, but the sign looks so funny there! You can see Borah Peak, Idaho’s highest peak, in the background of this next shot (first peak from the left):

Several people were climbing the mountain to try to watch the eclipse from the peak. I wonder how many made it? We stayed up late the night before the eclipse and saw lots of headlamps of people part way up. I don’t know if there were actively climbing all night long, which doens’t sound wise to me, or if they were just hanging out on the steep slope waiting for the sun to come up.

So, there we were in central Idaho, in the zone of totality with a neat little area to camp. In 1983 there had been an earthquake and the valley floor had dropped and left a visible fault line. There was a sign along the highway and a little fenced off area and interpretive signs about the earthquake. There were already a few people camping out of vans and truck box campers.
It was a wide, arid valley between two mountain ranges. The only vegetation was sage brush and small yellow flowers. There were no bugs, birds or other wildlife, so it was a little weird. We decided to camp right by the earthquake interpretive area with the others although we had the option to spread out nearly anywhere. Many people did that, proving that if you try hard enough, even in a total solar eclipse in the US, you can be alone if you really want to!

Here’s a shot of the crowds on the morning of the eclipse! ๐Ÿ˜‰

Here’s a shot from Google Earth of where we watched the eclipse from:
eclipse spot

This was the morning of the eclipse — a little smoky but not too bad. You can see the interpretive signs on the left and our picnic table in the middle.

We met such nice people there! They had come from all over the US and there was another couple from Alberta there, too. They really helped to make the experience special. After the eclipse, our new friend Dave played the bagpipes.

I didn’t focus on taking photos of the eclipse. It was so short! I had read a website that warned against being consumed with photography instead of simply enjoying the eclipse. It was P H E N O M E N A L! So amazing.
This is basically what I looked like, I’m sure! (Photo from here.)

The sun is blocked by the moon. It sounds so simple, but is it so beautiful, it is mind-blowing. The corona is so striking, and the entire sky is so neat. It wasn’t totally black, unlike some photos you may have seen online, but instead, a deep twilight. There was a sunset on all horizons. But the corona is really what makes it so amazing. I am having a hard time finding words for how striking the whole thing is!

And, in 2 minutes 8 seconds, it was over. Wow.

We relaxed for a while while the sun returned, and took down our tent. We didn’t want to be stuck in traffic, so we lingered. Eventually, we made our way back into Montana where we had supper with the bagpiper Dave and his sweetie, and camped at his brother’s place. We visited other new friends in Poulson the next day and then camped near Glacier International Park. We drove the “Going to the Sun” road through the park the next day. It was a combination of great views, crazy heights, narrow roads and no guard rails!

It was such an amazing trip. I’m so glad we did it! I’m glad the weather held out for us, and that we met such nice people and had a phenomenal time.

Did you see the eclipse that day? Leave a comment with your eclipse experience!

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If I had it to do over again…

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I have about 10 books from the library right now. I’m deep in the throes of researching and writing the padding guide about the Peace River, so I got some local history books. One of them is The Last of the True Pioneers by Ted Krause. He lived in northern Alberta and the book tells the stories from his life between 1929 to 2004. I haven’t had a chance to read the whole book, but I was flipping through the first few pages and the last few pages. This is what’s found on the last page, written when Ted was 78 years old, and I loved it and wanted to share it here.

If I had it to do over again…

I’d try to make more mistakes next time. I would relax a little more. I would limber up quite a bit, and be a little sillier than I have been this trip.

I know there would be very few things I would take so seriously, and I would be crazier.

I’d take more chances. I’d take more nonsense journeys. I would climb more mountains and swim more rivers and watch more sunsets.

Oh, I have had my moments… and if I had it to do over again, I’d have more of them. In fact, that’s what I’d have most of… just moments… one after another, instead of this living so many years ahead of each day.

If I had it do do over again, I would go more places. I’d get up and go quickly and travel much lighter than I ever have, and I would go places I never dreamed I’d go.

If I had my life to live over again, I would start barefoot earlier in the spring and I would stay that way until later in the fall. I would play hooky more. And I wouldn’t make such good grades, either… except by accident.

I would piss off my doorstep just to say it’s my doorstep and I can do what I want.

I would go into the wilderness and scream at the top of my lungs just to hear the echo.

Try some of these things — they’re good for the soul.

And above all, do not pay any attention to what the neighbors are saying about you. They like to talk.

The Big Far East Adventure

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Except it’s actually west… A long way west… We are going to China! ๐Ÿ™‚ We leave tomorrow, and I am uber-excited about what we will see and do while there. I will try and get on the net while I’m there and blog, but if not, expect a torrent of blogs later on in November! I am planning on taking several hundred pictures — I can’t wait! The weather’s cool there, maybe even snowy, but nothing compared to here, I expect. I have packed lots of sweaters and fleece so I am not cold while I am doing all sorts of fun, touristy things. Food! Amazing, unique food! The great wall! I mean, the Great Wall (with capital letters, you know)! I am so excited!
But for now, a little nap, hopefully my stomach will settle down (it’s queasy again), and then packing and hitting the road! Woo hoo!

I’ve Got My Passport!!

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Well, it’s official – I am going to Mexico!! I had dropped off my forms last week to renew my passport and I just picked it up! Woo hoo! I am so excited! I am going to visit my friend Mary, who is living in Mazatlan for 5 months. She normally lives and works in High Level, but she decided to go to Mexico this winter! She’s having quite an adventure, and so I am going to join in! ๐Ÿ™‚ She lives in a little apartment above a house, in a “regular neighbourhood” in Mazatlan. No fancy all-inclusive resorts for me!

My flight is tomorrow morning, early, and the plane makes one stop in Calgary to pick up more passengers and then goes direct to Mazatlan! Woo hoo! No complicated transferring! On the way back, it’s completely direct! So I am quite sure that I won’t have any problems or adventures on the way there – just once I get there!

There is a very nice beach there, apparently, so I am looking forward to a little time on it, although I will be doing lots of other things for sure! The daytime temp is about 25 degrees – summer! So, stay tuned as I’ll try and blog as much as I can… Mary’s also got a blog, so you can check it out if you like – http://www.maryslettersmx.blogspot.com Between the 2 of us, we’ll try to keep you up to date on what we’ve been doing! That’s all for now! The picture below is part of Mazatlan, from Google Earth. (Click on it for larger image.) ๐Ÿ™‚

Mazatlan, MX