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Total eclipse of the plans

August 19, 2017 GMT

BOISE – Everyone I know has plans for the eclipse. In Boise, the sun will be 99.555 percent obscured – a very dramatic partial eclipse. But many of us want the whole deal: Totality, glowing corona and all.

My plans were laid months ago, when members of my book club announced they’d booked a campsite in eastern Idaho for a multi-day eclipse adventure that would include taking out one member’s new camp trailer. I signed on immediately.

I had purchased two pairs of eclipse viewing glasses from the Weiser Chamber of Commerce on a trip there to write a story about their eclipse festival; I figured I needed more, so I ordered a 10-pack from Amazon, which arrived promptly.

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It was only about a month ago that I learned that the place we’re camping, while a nearly six-hour drive from Boise, actually isn’t in the path of totality. We’d have to drive the morning of the eclipse to see totality.

And over the course of the past few months, one by one, book club members dropped out of the planned trip, for various reasons. So many had dropped out by a few weeks ago that a group staying in Boise started planning a trip to nearby Bogus Basin ski area – which will experience 99.928 percent totality, and where they’re planning to run the chairlift and serve brunch at the top of the mountain.

Other options around Boise abound. The Western Idaho Fair is on, and they’re advertising an event called “Total Eclipse of the Fair: Dark Side of the Moo.” It won’t actually be full totality, of course, but you can ride the big Ferris wheel and view the dramatic partial eclipse from the top.

Nevertheless, I stuck with the camping-trip plans; we were committed. So now we needed to make our eclipse-morning plans.

The scenic Teton Valley in eastern Idaho is planning much hoopla for “Teton Totality;” Victor will host a big viewing site. But the area is expecting 50,000 people, including plentiful international visitors, and when I contacted a friend who lives near there, he said we wouldn’t be able to park in Driggs – he recommended parking out of town and bicycling in. Since that would be at the end of an 85-mile drive on narrow two-lane roads from our campground, that got crossed off the list.

More book club members canceled.

I scoped out a pleasant eastern Idaho town within the path of totality that’s just a 60-mile drive from our campsite, and has nine city parks; we started planning to wake up very early that day and head into town for a picnic at the park. That sounded fine. We didn’t want to head further to Rexburg or Idaho Falls, where the entire population of Salt Lake City is expected to arrive by car, along with crowds of eclipse tourists from all over.

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Then I got an email from Amazon: The eclipse glasses I’d purchased were counterfeit, and they were refunding my money. I was on vacation in Oregon at the time, and looked up retail outlets where certified eclipse glasses supposedly were available; we hit five stores in five different towns, and none had any left.

More book club members canceled. Finally, the one with the trailer dropped out.

That left just me and one other member, but we were still raring to go and had tents. I recruited my husband, who reluctantly abandoned his plans for a solitary eclipse viewing in Oregon and agreed to accompany us. After all, we were going to be camping at Henrys Lake State Park, which has world-class fishing, and he’s a fisherman.

A little more research revealed that much of the campground at the park is barren and treeless, except right along the lake. And our campsite is in the loop farthest from the lake.

I located a store in Boise that still had eclipse glasses for a reasonable price – and very cool T-shirts, too – and after a lunch meeting to plan the food for our trip, my friend from the book club bought her set there.

Then I got a press release from the Eastern Idaho Public Health District: A health advisory for Henry’s Lake for toxic blue-green algae. People are advised to avoid swallowing or inhaling water and to avoid direct contact with water containing visible algae.

“If people choose to eat fish from this area, they should remove all fat, skin and organs before cooking since toxins are more likely to collect in those tissues,” the health district warned.

Worst of all, it said the algae blooms not only can cause unsightly green mats along shorelines – they also “might cause an unpleasant odor or stench.”

My husband was sanguine. The algae is the least of our worries, he said, compared to the traffic on the road that morning. He can just fillet the fish. He suggested the algae is likely only in certain parts of the lake; maybe it’s not in the part where we’ll be. And after all, our campsite is on the loop farthest from the lake.

So the trip is on. Let the sky be clear!

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