"Why Don't You Just Run There?"

How to Watch a Total Solar Eclipse From a Wild Idaho Mountaintop, Part I

Last August, a total solar eclipse passed over a large swath of the United States — and my boyfriend and I joined hordes of other eager eclipse chasers who flocked to see the rare event firsthand. While no part of our adventure went exactly according to plan, I don’t think we could have planned it better than it turned out! We learned a lot about our travel style, tried out hammock camping, and fit in plenty of running and hiking. And spoiler alert: yes! We saw the eclipse and yes, it was magnificent!

Last time I was in Wyoming, it looked like this. Couldn’t dream of a better spot to view an eclipse in peace and quiet, right?

Last time I was in Wyoming, it looked like this. Couldn’t dream of a better spot to view an eclipse in peace and quiet, right?

When we started planning our trip in January, we thought we were really far ahead of the curve. But many savvy eclipse fanatics plan their trips years in advance. We wanted to find a place to stay in rural Wyoming, far from crowds, but when we sat down to book a hotel we couldn’t find a single one! They were literally all booked, and first-come-first-served campgrounds nearby were almost certain to be full by the time we arrived. Not a chance we’d want to take! The many events being advertised online made us realize even the smallest of towns would be overflowing with tourists for the eclipse.

We looked for other regions to stay in and eventually settled on Boise, Idaho. We found an adorable “tiny house” AirBNB available for our whole week of vacation, and only have a short drive into the path of totality — the specific area where we would see the moon completely block out the sun.

Ominous.

Ominous.

With our flights bought and lodging booked, we didn’t try to figure out the details of our trip until the month before. At that point the eclipse had been really widely publicized and our plan of just driving to a viewing point seemed doomed — massive traffic jams were predicted and we would hate to be stuck in traffic and miss it! We were frantically brainstorming alternatives, when an ultrarunner we know suggested we forget the car and just run from our starting point to a view point. “You’re training for a marathon,” he joked. “Why don’t you just run there? You’re running all those miles anyway!”

I laughed — until I realized that was a brilliant idea. Granted, we weren’t as fit as he was, so a 20-mile one-way trip wasn’t feasible, but we absolutely could do the final leg of our trip on foot! That would help us avoid the road traffic and make the most of our vacation, since we already planned on doing some hiking and running in the area. We frantically searched out maps of nearby parks to identify where we could drive to, ditch the car, and run a manageable distance along the trail to an exposed area with a good view of the eclipse. Fortunately the Boise National Forest has a few detailed trail and topo maps online, and many of their regional parks and campsites had helpful —if really, really dated— info about the resources at each site as well.  Repetitive and stodgy videos like this one had an old school charm that only made us want to visit more!

If there’s room for a dirtbike, there’s room for me! I don’t think I’d have the nerve to bike along the side of a mountain like this though. Some of the turns were a little sharp!

If there’s room for a dirtbike, there’s room for me! I don’t think I’d have the nerve to bike along the side of a mountain like this though. Some of the turns were a little sharp!

After doing some research we settled on the Peace Creek Trail in the Boise National Forest, and began planning our route. At first we thought we’d drive in and out on the same day, but quickly decided that still left us at the mercy of the eclipse traffic. Instead, we happily returned to the idea of camping. This trail had an accessible trailhead, ran near a stream that might offer us fresh water, was long enough that we though we’d be able to find some space of our own if there were other eclipse watchers, and most importantly, climbed up to the top of a ridge that we hoped would give us an unobstructed view of the sky. To our disbelief, we even found a Go Pro video some dirtbikers put online that showed the trail and confirmed almost all of these hopes.

Since we were planning to camp overnight, we decided that we’d be carrying enough in our packs that we should do more hiking than running on our “commute” and search for a campsite. Once we were settled, we’d be able to leave our gear behind and explore further by running. We’d have access to a lot of the park: we could set up camp in one area and even plan to run a few miles to an ideal vantage point for the eclipse itself. Now this adventure was sounding good!

We also took a bit of a gamble and decided to lighten our packs by taking hammocks instead of a tent. The weather might be cold at night, but we decided to take advantage of the summer heat and give something new a try. We were only spending one night out — then we’d wake up, watch the eclipse, and head back to Boise afterwards. We thought it was a pretty ideal test scenario! In hindsight, we probably should have been a little more prepared, but that’s a story for another day....

More miles along the Peace Creek Trail, and more words about our adventure coming soon!

 

My favorite flower, fireweed! (Also known as evening primrose, but that’s less exciting.) These tall, spindly, rich purple plants are one of the first plants to grow back after a wildfire has moved through.

My favorite flower, fireweed! (Also known as evening primrose, but that’s less exciting.) These tall, spindly, rich purple plants are one of the first plants to grow back after a wildfire has moved through.