One of the places we found on our Idaho solar eclipse vacation was the cabin built by Johnny Sack located at Big Springs. The cabin was located only a few miles from the house we were staying at in Island Park, ID. There is parking for the cabin at the Big Springs campground off of Highway 20. There are signs that will get you to the campground. There is an easy path to walk from the parking lot to the cabin.
Johnny Sack was an immigrant from Germany in the late 1800s. He and his brother ended up in Idaho because they wanted to work with cattle. Sack had been a cabinet maker and worked for Studebaker making wagons. The skills learned in those occupations would help him build his cabin.
In 1929, Sack leased land from the Forest Service for $4.15 a year. Three years later he would build start to build his cabin on this land. It took him about 3 year to build the cabin, because he built it entirely by hand. He even built the furniture that is in the cabin.
After his death in 1957, the cabin passed to his sisters. In 1963, his sisters sold the cabin to the Kipp family who used it as a summer home for some years. There were originally other cabins located near by that people used for summer homes, though Johnny lived in his cabin year round. The forest service decided they had made a mistake in allowing those cabins to be built since the ground underneath is volcanic. Apparently, there is no way to create proper drainage in this area. Thankfully, the Kipp family was able to get the cabin turned into an historical site. This is truly a beautiful building and it would be a shame if it had been torn down.
Johnny in particular did beautiful work using the bark of the trees as decoration. In the pictures below, you will be able to see how that bark is used.
The cabin is located next to Big Springs. Johnny built a water mill at the spring that he used for electrical power.
The spring is constantly streaming water, in fact, it pumps out 120 million gallons of water a day. What a perfect place to put a water mill.
The spring itself is also incredibly beautiful. There are many animals that make it their home. We saw trout, muskrat, and ducks on our trip.
This is a great location to spend a few hours if you are in the area. We went here in the morning, and then drove up Sawtell Peak later in the day, so it is possible to do this will visiting other locations in the area. I would highly recommend checking this spot out if you are in the area.
About 2 years ago, Lynn started to talk about the total solar eclipse on August 21, 2017. If we had the opportunity, she wanted to go to an area with 100% totality. Last year in August, we started to get serious about going to the eclipse. Even then it was difficult to find a place to rent to stay in the area we wanted to go because of cost and availability. With our large family, a hotel would be much too expensive, renting an RV was not an option, so a vacation rental through VRBO was the way to go for us. We were able to find a house to rent in Island Park, Idaho. It was about 30 minutes away from the 100% totality area, and about 40 minutes away from the area with over 2 minutes of complete totality. We figured we would rent the house, and then find a decent place to drive to observe the eclipse.
We left Friday the 18th of August around 7pm from our home in San Diego County. We drove through the night and met my parents in Beaver, Utah. They had left earlier Friday morning so they wouldn’t have to drive through the night. We arrived in Island Park about 5pm Saturday. The distance we traveled was about 1050 miles, but we did make some fairly long stops.
On Sunday, we drove around Rexburg, Idaho and Ashton, Idaho, both towns being in the 100% totality area, including going to church. There were farmers who had harvested their crops in fields along the Highway 20 and were allowing visitors to camp in those fields for a fee. There were also farmers who had fields with KEEP OUT on hay bales. If I had a field that had not been harvested yet, I definitely would not want anyone trampling my crops!
On August 21st or Eclipse Day, there were also people who parked along the pullouts off of the freeway who may have come up just for the few hours it would take to view the eclipse.
We did not have a definite plan for Eclipse Day because we weren’t quite sure where exactly we would be able to go to watch. We knew that there were going to be many, many people in the area that day and were unsure where parking would be available. Josh preferred to be where there would be less people.
We told the pastor of the church we were visiting about the reason for our visit to the area (Total solar eclipse, Yellowstone, Grand Tetons) and he and his wife were extremely generous and invited us to their home for Eclipse Day, which was located in the zone of on totality with a duration of 2 minutes!
On Eclipse Day morning, we probably should have left earlier because of traffic, but we left a little later and arrived at the pastor’s house at 10:15 AM, right at the beginning of the partial eclipse.
Josh, my father-in-law, and I all had cameras set up to photograph the eclipse through partial phase and totality. None of us are expert photographers, but we tried to photograph it anyway.
I do have to say that none of the pictures you see online of a total solar eclipse can compare to seeing one in person. There is also a huge difference between a partial solar eclipse and a total solar eclipse. At our vacation rental, coverage was 99.4% but even that was not enough to experience totality.
Experiencing totality was not even close to what I was expecting. I knew it would get cold, I knew about the darkness, I knew that I might go a bit crazy trying to do too many things in two minutes. But for me, the highlight was looking up at the sun during totality and seeing the black hole where the sun should be and the delicate ribbons and streamers of the sun’s corona. It was beautiful and alien at the same time, and most likely is something that I will never see again.
The horizon around us took on the light of sunset/sunrise. The air turned cold, shadows became sharper, like sitting in the lights of a football stadium at night. You can see, but everything looks slightly faded, like looking at a sepia photo. We could hear cheering from fellow eclipse watchers in the neighborhood.
Then, totality ended and the sun and normality returned.
One thing that struck me about the eclipse: it is silent. There is no fanfare when totality begins and there is no taps when it ends. There is nothing you can do but watch and experience and admire. You are only an onlooker in this dance between the sun and the moon.
After the eclipse, life went on. We ate lunch with the pastor and his family, left around 3:30 PM for our vacation rental, took a detour to see a waterfall called Mesa Falls, and didn’t get back to the house until about 6:45 PM. A 50 mile trip took us close to 3 hours because of traffic.
In spite of the traffic, it was worth it to experience this once in a lifetime event. Though, if we have a mind to, I suppose we could try to make it to the next total solar eclipse in the US, which will be on April 8, 2024, in seven years!
P.S. We took many more pictures and videos during the eclipse. Hopefully, we will get a post up soon with all of those. They need to be processed, edited, or reduced to be posted. Thank you so much for reading!
Last year, I didn’t have a chance to write about the San Diego County Fair itself. So this year, I decided to take as many pictures as I could while we were there and write about our favorite parts! I will try to write about the Zucchini Race in a separate post. Hopefully, I will get to it!
Because we were “exhibitors,” we were able to enter through a different gate that had no line to get into the fair. That alone is one of the big pluses of entering the Zucchini Race every year!
After checking in at the agricultural building with the boys’ zucchini cars, we walked around to look at all the different displays located in the area.
We always seem to come to the fair during chicken week. So those were the small animals on display this year.
I’m afraid these displays of chickens are what got us started on eventually wanting a chicken coop!
This is the hydroponics display. It is different every year. But it is always beautifully set up.
After the races at 11 AM, we head out into the main part of the fair. We always gravitate away from the all the rides and carnival games… but there is one thing you just cannot avoid: Fair Food!
Somehow, we always end up at Chicken Charlie’s. This year’s interesting offering: A Krispy Kreme fried chicken ice cream sandwich…
The menu at Chicken Charlie’s!
Meet the Krispy Kreme Triple Cheeseburger. It doesn’t sound like it should taste good but it does! It tasted so good that the kids ate it all up and didn’t leave any for Josh! It is kind of expensive ($10.99 for one), which is why we only bought one and all seven of us shared it.
The fair special for our sides: french fried onion rings, fried zucchini, and chicken tenders. Lots more of the fried zucchini than anything else… and only Josh and I liked it. Silly kids don’t like their veggies even when they’re deep fried!
One of many ice cream vendors at the fair. The signage here is always a little bit overwhelming!
I still remember coming to the fair with my parents and my brother when I was a teenager, and getting frozen cheesecake dipped in chocolate on a stick. I should have gotten one just for old times’ sake. But Corran and I really wanted funnel cake instead. The rest of the family got ice cream.
Our favorite part of the fair: The Garden Show! Josh likes to walk through here and get ideas for our yard.
Since this year’s theme was the Old West, the displays weren’t quite as vibrant as in past years. I still loved them anyway.
I love this part of the garden show! It is called the Children’s Garden, and we take our kids here every year. They have different activities for kids about eating healthy, and learning about fruits and vegetables. They even get to go home with a small plant. Last year, we came home with a few tomato plants and they gave us so many yummy cherry tomatoes! This year, the kids came home with bell pepper plants and beefsteak tomato plants.
The kids digging for gold nuggets so that they can each bring home a plant! Gwen LOVED this activity. She has always enjoyed playing in the dirt. There were also craft activities on the other side of the garden, like coloring and making a ladybug out of egg carton pieces.
I love to walk around and look at all the plants on display in the children’s garden. There are fruit trees, berry bushes, and all sorts of raised beds full of edible plants.
I had to take a picture of this flower rainbow. Just lovely.
One of the many peaceful displays at the garden show. So inviting!
My kids loved this model railroad display. It must have taken a lot of time and effort to set this up!
Another annual visit to the Gem and Mineral Show in Mission Tower. Every year we come here to look at rocks. This is Matthias’ favorite place. He has always been our family rock hound.
They have these grab bags for sale every year too! The kids always enjoy opening up their bags when we get home to see what interesting rocks or fossils they received. Two of my kids also got a free polished rock from the vendor. Gwen held tight to hers for the rest of our day.
I had to take a picture of these small animal carvings! They really are very tiny!
Our next stop was the home and hobby building, which is right next door to Mission Tower. We had never actually been in here before, but I’m glad we were able to this year! It is full of collections of different objects: rockets, disneyland pins, quilts, matchbooks, Star Trek memorabilia, even fake plastic food. If you can collect it, it was probably here! The baked goods competition was also here (my secret reason for wanting to come take a look). I am considering entering next year.
I hope you have enjoyed reading about our trip to the fair. I know that there are no pictures of the rides, but they would have been quite expensive for all the kids to ride everything (although some years we have gone on the rides and they are a lot of fun too!). Usually for our family, the fair is a place to learn and still have fun!
Every year, if possible, we attend Lego Star Wars Days at Legoland California on Saturday. It is one of the highlights of our year and we had been looking forward to this year’s Lego Star Wars Days for a few months! We were not able to attend last year since we did not all have membership passes.
This is definitely a geeky post so feel free to skip if Star Wars is not your thing! This post will also be mostly pictures.
This year’s banner at the main stage near Miniland was great. I really liked the Death Star logo. This is where most of the contests for Star Wars Days takes place: Jedi Trivia, Family Build Challenge, and Costume Contest.
After taking a quick ride through the Lego Ninjago ride, we went to the Model Shop Rooftop, which is also very close to Miniland. Usually, when we go to Lego Star Wars Days, we don’t really ride many of the rides. We are off having too much fun being Star Wars fans! The Model Shop Rooftop is where you can pick up some free goodies: this year’s giveaways were a poster, two pop badges, and a pin.
For the droid hunt, you walk around Legoland, usually near the Beginning or in the Star Wars Miniland area to find a costumed member of either the Rebel Legion or the 501st to “catch” you. This year and the last year we went, we were caught by members of the Rebel Legion I think. They will say to you, “How long have you had these droids?” Usually, we just smile widely and say, “We’ve been looking for you!” Then they put the red ribbons over our droid hunt ribbons and give us each a raffle ticket for a 4:30 PM drawing for prizes.
There were also two contests to enter at the Model Shop rooftop, one was a drawing to win a piece of Star Wars artwork, and the other was to guess the number of Lego bricks used to build a full-scale R2D2.
The highlight of our visit to the Model Shop rooftop though is the fan gallery. Star Wars fans and Lego fans bring their own creations (called MOCs) to display.
We were able to talk to two MOC creators and we were so impressed with their models that we went and bought two power functions motors to play with at home! It helped that I had a 15% off coupon to use at the Big Shop.
I LOVED this Lego Star Wars Ferris wheel. We are also big fans of the Star Wars Rebels (minifigures on Ferris wheel left side) cartoon series as well as the Freemakers (minifigures on Ferris wheel right side). Can you find Grand Admiral Thrawn on the Star Wars Rebels side?
Isn’t this carousel awesome? Poor Chewie is probably not enjoying waiting his turn.
We also picked up our Scavenger Hunt entry forms at the Model Shop rooftop. The Scavenger Hunt is always fun for the kids.
One of the questions from the Scavenger Hunt entry form: How many Y-wings are in the battle around the Death Star? Answer: Zero! Because X-wings are cooler, and Y-wings are slow (sorry to any Y-wing pilots out there).
We also got to see the newest Star Wars Miniland addition: the planet Jakku and Kylo Ren’s Star Destroyer The Finalizer.
Another highlight to our day: seeing the 501st and the Rebel Legion walking around in costume. Of course, we took their pictures and also had our pictures taken with them.
The most impressive costume to me: Kylo Ren’s.
We haven’t had the kids enter the costume contest for ages 12 and under for a few years, but we always enjoy watching it at 4 PM. This year’s contest was hilarious. Kids say the craziest things!
This year’s three winners were 3rd place – General Grievous, 2nd place – Lego minifigure Emperor Palpatine, and 1st place – a probe droid. You can see the prizes they won on the platform.
After the contest, they had the raffle for the tickets we received during the droid hunt. We didn’t win, but there’s always a chance!
We had a blast at Lego Star Wars Days 2017! Hopefully, we will be able to make it again next year. Until then, may the Force be with you!
Living in Washington, D.C. when Josh was stationed there from 2003 to 2008 was not always easy, but there were two events that I loved, and we tried our best to experience annually: Cherry blossom time in the spring and Christmas at the White House in December.
Since it is cherry blossom time in Washington, D.C. now (article linked here about how peak bloom was March 25), I thought I would post about it. It’s been 9 years now since we moved back to SoCal after living in D.C., but I imagine that it is still much the same and still beautiful during cherry blossom time.
The following pictures are all from either April 2006 or April 2008.
Two-year-old Corran at the Washington Monument. This boy is now taller than I am! At this age, Corran was very interested in space shuttles and rockets, so to him the Washington Monument was a “rocketship stuck in the ground.”
Cherry tree by the Washington Monument – April 2006
It is magical to walk under these trees. Yes, there were crowds everywhere, but somehow, it didn’t matter very much. We were all there to experience beauty.
These, of course, are not cherry blossoms! These are tulips at the Floral Library run by the National Park Service. The Floral Library was always a must-see when we were at the Tidal Basin for the cherry blossoms. It is a lovely photo opportunity and a wonderful place to take your children.
Jefferson Memorial with cherry blossoms in foreground
A close-up of the cherry blossoms.
When you visit D.C., be prepared to walk, and walk, and walk some more! We went to this area numerous times when we lived there and still did not get to everything that there is to see!
This year, we were able to go to Borrego Springs with Josh’s family. It was a fun day trip with our kids, our nephews, Josh’s parents, and his sister. During a superbloom year, there are a LOT of people who visit Borrego Springs to see the wildflowers. We left as early as we could and were in Borrego Springs by 9 AM, but there was already quite a crowd there!
We like to stop at a turnout on the S-22 before heading into town. The overlook we stopped at last year was busy so we had to stop at a different turnout.
Our first stop in Borrego Springs was the Borrego Desert Nature Center near Christmas Circle. They offer free daily wildflower maps every year. The staff there has always been kind. The store there is also a good place to browse for books and gifts. My son, Matthias, is a rock hound and picked up a pocket-sized book about rocks during our visit last year. I wish I had taken pictures of the building when I was there. The Nature Center is located at 652 Palm Canyon Drive, Borrego Springs, CA. The Nature Center is not related to the Anza-Borrego State Park Visitor Center. In fact, when we drove past the street to the Visitor Center, there was a police officer directing traffic just at that intersection!
Once we drove into town, the traffic let up a little bit but it was still very busy. It was not too difficult to find parking near the Nature Center though. Josh and I were able to run in for the day’s wildflower map.
This was today’s flower map. It’s really informative and the lady who gave it to us explained to us which places were the best to go. We didn’t make it to every place on the map unfortunately. I think we needed another day or two to hike all the trails and visit all the flower fields.
It was very sunny and quite warm while we were out so sunscreen and lots of water were a must!
Palm Canyon Trail, Hellhole Canyon, and Little Surprise (the trail we hiked last year) would have been difficult to find parking, so we decided to go visit the flower fields off of Henderson Canyon Road. This is the area we visited when we only had two kids, Corran and Matthias, in 2008. The flowers were spectacular here.
The desert sunflowers were everywhere here. We also saw sand verbena, desert lilies, and brown-eyed primrose across the street, away from the hills.
We saw quite a few creatures during our walk, fortunately, no rattlesnakes! There were many of these caterpillars around. Later, I found out that these are white-lined sphinx moth caterpillars.
Can you find the ladybug? Always nice to find these helpful insects around! We also saw a beetle or two as well as a lot of gnats and flies!
After taking pictures of the field of desert sunflowers, we headed down the road to the west end of Henderson Canyon Road. This was an interesting hike. We saw quite a few different flowers than we did in the flower fields.
This is the area in which most of the metal sculptures are located. We did not visit too many of them this year, though we did make the sea serpent sculpture our last stop before heading out of Borrego Springs.
The beavertail cactus were in bloom. Their hot pink flowers are so bright they almost don’t look real!
The flowers in this area were mostly desert dandelion, desert chicory, and blue phacelia.
There were a few flowers that I wanted to see that we didn’t find – monkeyflowers, dune evening primrose, and canterbury bells. Maybe we will find them next year!
The flower fields are beautiful, but the trail hikes are also beautiful and a lot like a treasure hunt. We almost stopped at Little Surprise Canyon on our way out of Borrego Springs, but three of our five kids had fallen asleep! So we will have to save that hike for another time.
Some links to more information about some of the flowers and plants we saw:
Josh and I were married 15 years ago on January 5th, 2002, a few months after 9/11 and the day after Josh’s 22nd birthday. That certainly was a crazy time. It was even crazier a year later. We had been planning to go to Las Vegas for our 1st anniversary, but the military changed our plans. We hadn’t had any concrete plans to go to Las Vegas anyway; maybe we kind of knew that we would not be able to go.
For the next 14 years, every anniversary, we threw around the idea of trying to go to Las Vegas, but it never happened until this year. We weren’t entirely sure what to expect, since we had never been there, but we ended up having a great time!
We really enjoyed just walking around and looking at all the hotels and shopping, but I think the food is what we enjoyed most.
Our first night we went to a restaurant near Paris called hexx. This is also where I discovered the only bean-to-bar chocolate seller in Nevada. I buy from Nibble here in Southern California, but hexx’s chocolate was about equal in taste and texture.
The food here was very good, but also very expensive! It was worth the price though because everything tasted delicious and fresh. We thought about coming back but later decided we would try the buffets for the next two days.
The buffets actually worked out well for us. We would eat breakfast at our hotel (loved our free breakfast at our hotel!), head out for the morning to play tourist, skip lunch or eat a light snack (one day our light snack was macarons!), and then go to a buffet for dinner.
I did some research before we went to any buffets and had read a lot about Wynn hotel’s buffet. It lived up to all the reviews. I wish I had taken pictures of the actual buffet, but it went on forever! And the dessert buffet was like a dream.
The hotel itself was gorgeous inside. So many flowers everywhere!
We ate too many desserts as you can see, but they were so small that we didn’t feel too bad about eating all of them! Each one was beautifully presented.
The next day we ate at Bellagio. They were still running their holiday pricing for their buffet so it cost us quite a bit to eat there.
We wanted to see the gardens at Bellagio, but I think they were in the middle of changing from their Christmas decor.
There was a LOT of seafood at the buffet, so that is what I ended up eating! We don’t eat seafood at home since I am the only one who really likes it.
The dessert buffet had just as many (or possibly more!) beautiful desserts as at Wynn. There were also cannoli! I haven’t had one of those in such a long time. We used to live in Philadelphia when I was a kid (when the base was still there), and I still remember the cannoli my mom and dad would buy for us!
After our dinner at the Bellagio, we had to watch the dancing fountains. We got to watch them twice!
We were only in Vegas for a few days so we did not get to try any other restaurants. I guess that just means we will have to go back someday!