Friday, August 25, 2017

2017 Travels, August 21 Great American Eclipse at MacKay, Idaho.

How do we choose a place to view a once in a lifetime experience as a total eclipse moves across the entire U.S.? We wanted a place away from busy population centers were we could also watch the shadow move across the landscape. With some research Jim selected MacKay, Idaho, a place that was in the middle of the path of totality. It's on the Big Lost River, a broad valley with the Lost River Range to the east and the White Knob Mountains to the west.

Our Eclipse boon dock at MacKay Reservoir.
We hoped to find a campsite at Mt. Borah, a Forest Service campground north of MacKay and arrive on Wednesday 16, five days before the eclipse. The campground was full but there was a second option that turned out to be even better.

The upper end of our Eclipse boon dock. Our rig is on the right.
We drove back toward MacKay and took a fisherman's access road to MacKay Reservoir where we found a primitive boon dock site with lake access and one vault toilet. Only a few people were camped there and we found a prime spot on the lake with our own pebble beach. The advantage this had over Mt. Borah campground was that it was in the middle of the valley and we could see the mountains all around. It was also free. Twenty rigs and tents ended up camping here for the eclipse but it wasn't over crowded.
The lower end of our Eclipse boon dock.
Our lake front site gave us the great opportunity to go kayaking every day so we easily filled our time as we waited for August 21. The lake isn't always this high but a late snow melt filled it. The upper end of the lake reached into the willows creating channels to kayak through.

Kayaking into the willows at the upper end of MacKay Reservoir with the Lost River Range on the horizon.

We see a flock of 30+ Barrow's Goldeneye.
Bird watching at the reservoir. The lake has a large population of Osprey that we often saw diving and catching fish. We also saw a flock of 30 or more Barrow's Goldeneye and a tiny Semipalmated Sandpiper at our little beach. Common Nighthawks filled the evening air with their buzzy calls and dives.
 A tiny Semipalmated Sandpiper forges along our cobble beach.

A lot of people like fishing in these willow channels and were catching Rainbow and Brown Trout, and Kokenee Salmon.

Sometimes the lake would glass off to a smooth surface.
The morning of August 21 a group of us carried our chairs to the top of the hill above our campground for a 360 degree view of the mountains so we could also see the moon shadow.

Our group watches as the eclipse begins.

We watch as the partial eclipse moves toward totality.

Zuko, one of the campers dogs, has his eclipse glasses.
The eclipse began about 10:40 and would take about 50 minutes to reach totality. During that time we put on our certified eclipse glasses and looked at the sun from time to time. The moon began to take bigger and bigger bites until the sun began to look like a paper crescent moon in a high school play.The light didn't dim very much even when there was only a sliver of sun left. When the last flare of light formed the diamond ring the sun suddenly disappeared. At the moment of totality everything changed.
Looking at that black hole in the sky. A photo taken with my little Fuji.
At totality the moon shadow moved over us and the mountains. The corona blazed around a black hole hung in the middle of the sky. The temperature dropped. We could take off our glasses and look directly into the sky. It is the most incredible thing. Looking at photos can never convey the experience of looking across the depths of space. We were in the totality for two and a half minutes.

A blaze of white light around a black hole in the sky. Jim's eclipse photos with the Cannon.
A few stars began to shine. We saw Mercury to the lower left of the eclipse and Mars to the right.

Jim's eclipse photo at totality. We think we could see Bailey's Beads.
We had enough time to look at the scene around us. It was as dark as an overcast new moon night but the horizon all around us had an eerie faint predawn glow.

Looking at the Lost River Range during the totality.
Suddenly the flair of the eclipse diamond ring appeared as the sun moved past the moon. The shadow flashed on past us and over the Lost River Range. The world suddenly brightened and we put our glasses on again to look at the partial eclipse as it began to wain. What an experience this was and we had met some great people to share it with. It was well worth the planning and time to be here.

Until next time.

1 comment:

  1. I watched the eclipse from a Red Lobster with my Mom (Her favorite "expensive" place to eat) after taking her to the Verizon store to sort out her flip-phone.

    Not very glamorous but we did managed to just make the lunchtime discount window.

    This was in southern Michigan and we weren't sure, as we peered out our table-side window, if it got slightly dimmer due to the 85% eclipse or if it was just clouds blowing across. . .