Voices from the river

Voices from the River: Calm before the chaos

By Chris Hunt

It’s a big weekend. The last one before Apoca-Eclipse hits eastern Idaho, and it’s the peak of the Perseids.

The full solar eclipse set to darken daytime skies later this month is on everyone’s minds here in Idaho Falls. We’re in the sweet spot of its path of totality across America, and we’re in the most dependable swath of real estate for cloudless skies during the once-in-a-lifetime event.

The city is manic. Gas prices have jumped 30 cents a gallon in the last week, and they’ll keep going, I’m sure. Rumors of $1,000 nightly room rentals are rampant. Reports of people coming to our little corner of America from all over the world with notions of mystical behavior lead our insular local newscasts. Our community is hosting “Moonfest,” a four-day music festival, which will bring in even more folks who’ll make even more bad decisions.

We’re hearing horror stories, of course. One woman at the local Albertson’s was chatting with the checker yesterday as she scanned her items, and said, “I heard everyone will be running around naked. Naked. In Idaho Falls.”

The checker nodded in agreement. “It’s supposed to be the best time to conceive a child,” she said. I visibly watched the blood drain for the poor customer’s face as she put the threat of public nudity together with all that child conception entails.

“Oh, my lord,” she said quietly. “I don’t think we’re ready for this.”

Me either. Lock the doors. Bar the windows. It’s going to be a naked invasion.

The locals have been advised to stock up on groceries and essentials, because the shelves could be bare by the end of next week. We’ve been told our cell phones might not work over the weekend leading up to the eclipse because of network traffic. And vehicle traffic in town will be, at best, an adventure usually spared for those who live in places like southern California.

Most of us have plans at home—backyard viewing parties with the grill going full boar. It’s going to be quite the experience. Yes, I’d rather go fishing, but L.A. traffic in Idaho Falls might make getting out of town a bit difficult. Best to hole up in a defensive crouch. Things are going to get … interesting.

But this weekend? No. This weekend is the weekend to be out there. The crowds haven’t arrived yet. The grocery store is navigable. The backroads are still uncongested.

And, of course, there’s the fishing. It’s “hopper time” in the dry, arid West, when terrestrial bugs occasionally end up in the water, where our trout are patiently waiting. Dry fly fishing at its glorious best.

Even better, though, will be the nighttime sky. The peak of the annual Perseids coincides with a fading moon. There might not be a better weekend to huddle around a campfire, poke the embers with a stick and then, just after midnight, look up.

It’ll be the calm before the storm. I’ll be out there, soaking it up.

Because next weekend, when the skies darken and the crowds arrive to turn my little town into a temporary refugee encampment, I’m not going anywhere.

Chris Hunt is the national editorial director for Trout Media. He lives and works in Idaho Falls.

By Chris Hunt.