Observing the Eclipse

Featured image
Total Eclipse of the Sun from the Sawtooth Range in central Idaho.

I met my son, Peter Cary, in Hailey, Idaho to watch the eclipse. Not from Hailey — there was better viewing to be had at altitude. Our plan was to meet my nephew, Blake Everson, and head up to the Sawtooth Mountains for the best possible experience. Blake was a veteran ranger for the U.S. Forest Service, so ascending into the Sawtooth Mountains with him, his wife Kate,their two-year-old son Bennett, Kate’s brother Jake Whitcomb, and Jake’s friend Kuenley Chiu wasn’t a daunting prospect. At least that’s what I thought …

It’s an hour drive to the Alpine Creek Trailhead in the 300,000 acre Sawtooth Wilderness. We parked, put on our backpacks and began the steep seven-mile hike to the pristine unnamed lake where we’d camp for the next four nights.

The beginning of the hike was mild and utterly lovely, with meadows of wildflowers, gentle streams curving through lush green grasses. My legs began to feel the burn as we climbed the first of many steep ascents. The men were taking most of the gear; their backpacks were stuffed with tents, sleeping bags, food, camera equipment and other necessities for the days to come. Two months pregnant Kate carried Bennett in her backpack. I was simply carrying my own personal water.

When I asked “is this the last steep part?” they began to lie to me. “We’re almost there … just a few more small climbs.”

I believed them, And then I didn’t believe. My lungs felt as though they might burst. The crew would patiently wait for me as I gasped and asked for more breaks. Peter Cary hiked behind me, pushing me up hills while Blake pulled me up. One time I was too late in pleading for a break, and I tripped over a log and fell into a tree. The tree blessedly stopped me from rolling down a steep hill into a creek. I was starting to think that this was a mistake.

I can’t say I remember the details of the rest of the hike but I do remember cursing Blake’s name and feeling enraged to see him hiking comfortably and easily with an enormous backpack on. What should have been a three-and-a-half hour climb took us nearly six hours. But as we arrived at our base camp all the agony of the climb vanished. It was the majesty of the lake, the garnet spires of the Sawtooth Mountains, and the crystalline depth-less waters in one of the most remote places in mainland America.

And then we hiked to a prominent ridge line for the event that justified all the effort — the Total Eclipse of the Sun.

Leaving Sun Valley early to beat traffic.
L to R.: Peter Cary’s backpack with tripod and camera gear.; Bennett and Kate.
Blake and Bennett at the first rest stop throwing rocks in Alpine Creek.
Blake carrying the bulk of basecamp gear, Kate carrying Bennett, and Paige carrying her water.
Our group ascending through the valley.
Peter Cary and Paige resting before reaching the summit.
Bennett, out of his backpack hiking the final ascent to basecamp.
Fishing and relaxing at the basecamp lake.
Filtering water from the lake into our hydration bladders.
Camp meal.
Bennett’s sleeping bag in between his parents.
Jake leaping from the August snowfield Into the basecamp lake …

Bennett sharpening his climbing skills.
Blake and Bennett at basecamp.
Bennett Ccarrying his own water pack and not much else.
Blake breaking firewood in the traditional way …

Butterflies on Mountain Heather flowers …

Alpine Lake outlet creek canyon.
Scarlet paintbrush wildflowers.
Scarlet paintbrush, penstemon, and aster wildflowers.
Wildflower meadow.
Peter Cary hiking up the ridge.
Peter Cary en route to ascend 10,660′ elevation Snowyside Peak.
Unnamed lakes In the Sawtooth Wilderness.
Unnamed lakes below 10,660′ elevation Snowyside Peak.
Blake ascending 10,660′ elevation Snowyside Peak.
Flytrip Creek basin lakes.
Golf club left at summit by a hiker.
Sawtooth wildernss landscape.
Arnica flowers.
Peter Cary fishing at our base.
The 8,900′ elevation unnamed basecamp lake.
Bennett waking Peter Cary up in the tent on eclipse day.
A very happy camper.
Eclipse viewing from atop the ridge.
Excidedly anticipating totality.
Peter Cary and Blake prepping the scope for eclipse totality.
Jake and Peter Cary 15 minutes before totality.
Jake’s hand reflecting the moon’s crescent through the spotting scope.
Crescent-shape shadows through the trees at 75% eclipse totality.
Sun crescent reflected onto Jake’s hand through the Leica scope.
Kuenley observing eclipse progression from the ridge above basecamp.
Crescent sun six minutes until totality.
Diamond ring seconds before totality.
Totality with solar flares.
Darkness of totality.
Crescent sun shadows opposing directions before and after totality.
Our eclipse gang.
Cooking Prime NY Strips caveman style.
Evening campfire.
Sawtooth Wilderness stars.
Kuenley and Jake eating breakfast potatoes.
L to R.: Waking up with Bennett.; Peter Cary and Blake smoking morning cigars before heading out to flyfish.
Paige watching Blake flyfish for rainbow trout.

Kate and Paige swimming in the 40-degree waters of the basecamp lake.
Kate and Bennett exploring basecamp with Snowyside Peak in the background.
Leaving the camp better than we found it.
Starting the descent home.
Peter Cary holding onto his mom.
Hiking out from basecamp with eclipse viewing site high above.
Kate carrying a very tired Bennett.

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