On 21 August 2017 there was going to be a total solar eclipse viewable across a narrow band of the United States. A group of nomadic full-time RVing friends had been talking for months about getting together and viewing the solar event.
I say “talking” about instead of “planning” because the only planning that really happened ahead of time was figuring out a general location. The date was set in stone, so that didn’t have to be “planned”. The general location was set by the narrow path that the total eclipse would be viewable in. We were going for the total eclipse, because why settle for partial when you could literally take your house anywhere? The exact spot couldn’t be set ahead of time until someone had a chance to explore the area and find a suitable spot for a group of this size. More on the actual eclipse event in my next blog post.
I had been to Ketchum before – two years earlier. It was a fairly quick stay where I only got a taste of the area. But the taste that I got left me wanting more, and Ketchum was high on my list of places to return and explore more thoroughly.
So when it was decided that the eclipse group would meet in Idaho – specifically Stanley, Idaho – Ketchum was the logical place to setup camp pre-eclipse. It would allow me to explore Ketchum more and help out with any eclipse location planning.
I was the first of the eclipse group to arrive in the area. The general, very loose, plan was for some of us to gather pre-eclipse in the Ketchum area, with the rest arriving once we’ve relocated up to Stanley.
I snagged what I consider to be the best spot along Lake Creek Road which is just a few miles north of Ketchum. My spot was about 4.5 miles down a dirt/gravel Forest Service Road, as far back as I could’ve taken my rig, with an awesome view of the mountains and a little lake.
The advantage of being so far back is that I had very little traffic and the dust kicked up by passing cars was non-existent. My friends stayed closer to the main road and had to deal with a lot more dust than me.
My spot was barely big enough to fit my rig, but I did manage to squeeze Kelly’s rig in once she arrived after her time in Austin, just a few days before we left for Stanley. Sometimes being small has it’s advantages. Scratch that! MANY times being small has it’s advantages. I really don’t understand those that feel they need huge rigs. To each their own.
The Watsons were the second of our group to arrive. Their arrival meant more hiking!
I had found a nice ~5 mile loop trail with some really good vertical elevation gain just off the road we were staying on, so I would do this almost every morning. It got me off to an early start and gave me some exercise (nothing like 1,000+ feet of vertical gain in a little over a mile to get your heart pumping first thing in the morning!).
But the Watsons weren’t interested in some simple 5 mile hike. Nope! They wanted to to conquer bigger and better things. So I agreed to be tortured by them once again. The result was the Pioneer Cabin Trail.
The hike up to Pioneer Cabin was around 4 miles of pretty much steady up. Pretty steep up in some places. We were rewarded with views that were beyond awesome. I mean, pretty much mind blowing! Well worth the torture to get there.
Of course we had to get back down. Instead of going back the way we came (which is the more popular option), we decided to complete the loop. Instead of the expected downhill all the way back, we were first treated to a section of very steep descent over loose rock, then a surprise uphill section. Ugh! Finally we ‘enjoyed’ a steady downhill, along a ridge, back to the car. But not before the skies decided to open up and we were treated to a thunderstorm that not only soaked us, but had us a bit nervous, being on a ridge with lightning in the vicinity. Exciting times!
I was feeling a little bit apprehensive since we didn’t yet know where we would be staying in Stanley for the eclipse. We were expecting at least a dozen RVs, so the spot had to be big enough for a large group, and have very usable cell service since most of us had to work. Stanley is notorious for bad cell service, so I was getting nervous.
I made the hour+ drive up to Stanley one morning to check out potential spots. There are a bunch of known boondocking spots in the area, but they all seemed to have sketchy cell service. I had picked up a motor vehicle use map (MVUM) of the area from the local ranger station and I talked to a ranger about potential spots up there. So I was as prepared to explore as I ever was going to be!
I drove for miles and miles and miles down Forest Service roads. Kicked up a lot of dust. Bounced around quite a bit. Explored a lot of potential spots. The problem was three fold: 1) The cell service was horrible or non-existent. 2) The spot wasn’t big enough for a large group. 3) If there was usable cell service (kinda-sorta), it was a known spot and already quite busy. I wasn’t interested in being in a crowded area with a bunch of people riding their ATVs around and partying for the big event.
I was getting frustrated and tired of bouncing down dirt road. I had one more spot to check. It wasn’t a ‘known’ spot, but was on the MVUM. Bingo! A wide open space. VERY usable AT&T and Verizon. Great views. Empty. Yeah, I found the spot! (Pictures to follow in the next blog post.)