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!