ilanarama: me in Escalante (yatta!)
[personal profile] ilanarama
Well, I tried to make this scan to "You're So Vain" but "Casper, Wyoming" just doesn't have the same rhythm as "Nova Scotia", darn it, and "Sportsmobile" sounds nothing like "Learjet". Anyway...

Taking a picture

Don't expect any eclipse photos from me - the one I was taking with my smartphone in the photo above turned out terrible - but there are great ones all over the web, so go enjoy those.

We left early Saturday morning and drove north through the mountains. Shortly before we crossed into Wyoming, we passed a wildfire - I would call it a forest fire but it was on unforested rangeland - which was burning over quite a bit of land. We made it almost all the way to Casper that one day, but decided to stop a few hours short of our destination near Pathfinder Reservoir. It took us a while to find some land that wasn't privately owned by the massive Pathfinder Ranch, but we found a lovely campsite on a fishing access road that had the bonus of an excellent beach on the North Platte to have our cocktail hour:

Cocktail hour on the beach

The next morning after breakfast we drove out and realized we were near Fremont Canyon, where we'd done some climbing back in the 1990s, so we had to take a brief stop there. Then we skirted Casper on its outer roads as we were worried about traffic, but it really wasn't bad. The big problem we had was that the Wyoming cell phone service from T-Mobile seemed to be incompatible with our Project Fi phones, and so we didn't have any internet, which also meant we didn't have any good maps, as we'd neglected to download them to our phones before leaving Durango. Fortunately, when Britt had been scoping out a place to camp for sun-watching, he'd saved a few GPS marks, so even though our rough maps didn't have the roads they corresponded to, we were able to find the gas well access road he'd picked out as a potential camping area.

Fremont Canyon gorge

As it turned out, quite a few other people had the same idea, and there were maybe a half-dozen other vehicles scattered around the area Britt had selected via Google Earth, including a truck with a serious telescope and camera arrangement that turned out to belong to Fatali, the "Light Hunter" (warning, autoplays music). We drove off onto a flattish escarpment and camped there, well away from any of the other vehicles, and even later as several more campers filtered in, we had no neighbors anywhere close by.

Eclipse camp

You might notice the haze in the air - this was from the wildfires burning to the west. It was quite smoky that day, though the next morning, fortunately, it cleared up quite a bit. But doubtless it contributed to our very nice sunset:

Sunset at eclipse camp

The next morning, after breakfast, we set up our chairs and gear. We had two pairs of eclipse glasses, as well as a pair of inexpensive solar binoculars, and we tuned the van radio to a Wyoming NPR station, listening to their awesome eclipse playlist (You're So Vain! Here Comes the Sun! Moonshadow! Total Eclipse of the Heart!) interspersed with interviews at various totality spots.

As the moon ate away at the sun, we watched with our glasses and binoculars. The binoculars were good enough to see sunspots, which was pretty cool. I had the SkEye app up on my phone set to align with the moon, so we could check the progress on the app and gauge timing, and also identify the planets we might see at totality. We were also texting friends, one who was in Idaho and one who was in Nebraska, which was fun since we all saw totality at different times. Between our texts and the news on the radio, we felt very connected and social even though we weren't actually near anyone!

The actual eclipse was, to me at least, literally awesome. By which I mean it inspired awe in my heart, in a way that I have only experienced when seeing the beauty of nature on its grandest scale. The way the quality of the light changed in the 20 minutes or so to either side of totality is hard to describe, but the dimming was unlike either cloud cover or dusk. Maybe my brain subliminally noted the discrepancy of the shadows not matching those other situations. The best way I can describe it is that I swapped my sunglasses for regular glasses when it started darkening - then I kept feeling like I had my sunglasses on and needed to switch them! It also got notably colder (I put on jeans and a fleece jacket, when I'd been wearing shorts and t-shirt), and the wind died down.

At totality, it was dusk-dark, and there was a beautiful 360-degree sunset effect. (This had been mentioned on the radio reports but I scoffed because sunset reds come from the sun being below the horizon, right? Shows what I know.) This photo was taken at 11:42 am:

Darkness at (almost) noon

The moon and corona looked like a black-and-white photograph on the deep blue sky. I didn't see any stars other than what I assume was Venus (though my star app had Mars much closer to the moon - I'm unsure, now). It was heartstoppingly beautiful, and seemed otherworldly even though it's such a specifically earthly phenomenon. I completely understood why early cultures would freak out seeing it happen. I saw the first flashes of sun and then it was back to the glasses/binoculars.

We watched the sun come back, little by little. The sky lightened, the air warmed, and the wind started blowing again. We ate lunch and then drove to Casper, which was a complete and total zoo with a street fair down the center of town, but everybody was happy and cheery and people wore commemorative T-shirts and exchanged comments like, "That was amazing! Wasn't that amazing?" It really underscored that communal feeling we'd had.

From there we drove to the tiny town of Glenrock to meet a guy I've known on the internet for over 20 years, but never met in person - mostly because he lives in Switzerland! He and his girlfriend had flown over for the eclipse and for a vacation around the western US. We got coffees and chatted for about half an hour, then parted ways, as they were going north to Mount Rushmore and we were planning to go to Vedauwoo, a state park where we had been rock climbing many years before, and were hoping to do some mountain biking.

Fat chance. Just past Douglas on I-25 we hit an enormous traffic jam (later I heard from a friend who lives in Boulder that it had taken him 4 hours to drive to Douglas to watch the eclipse, and over 10 hours to drive home!) so we made a U-turn and headed back toward the west. Instead we drove over Grand Mesa, which is a part of Colorado I'd never been to and Britt had only visited once, and camped there, and rode our bikes out to the end of the mesa for a spectacular view of the surrounding country.

Sky over Grand Mesa, CO

Now we're thinking about the next moderately-local total solar eclipse, in 2024. It actually goes through Durango! Durango, Mexico, that is. Maybe we'll take a trip south of the border for this one. But we're definitely going to do our best to see it.

(no subject)

Date: 2017-08-25 01:27 am (UTC)
lara_quinn: Naked Lily (Default)
From: [personal profile] lara_quinn
Thank you for sharing your Eclipse 2017 experience. Hopefully we'll all be around for the Eclipse 2024 experience as well. :)

A_Boleyn
Edited Date: 2017-08-25 01:28 am (UTC)

(no subject)

Date: 2017-08-25 03:00 am (UTC)
yhlee: M31 galaxy (M31)
From: [personal profile] yhlee
Thank you so much for the photos and writeup--really gorgeous. :)

(no subject)

Date: 2017-08-25 04:42 am (UTC)
traveller42: (Default)
From: [personal profile] traveller42
Glad you had good weather.

Our original plan was eastern Nebraska (at the same park as Bill Nye). Clouds and storms looked likely, so we ran Plan B to Harrisburg, IL.

We deliberately avoided the zoo to the extent we could. Mostly locals with a smattering of travellers in the city park we found. High wispy clouds, but otherwise great viewing.

Incredible is the only way I can think to describe it.

We are also starting the 2024 plans.

(no subject)

Date: 2017-08-25 12:05 pm (UTC)
just_ann_now: (Default)
From: [personal profile] just_ann_now
Oh, wow, that 360 degree sunset.

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ilanarama: me, The Other Half, Moab UT 2009 (Default)
Ilana

August 2017

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My running PRs:

5K: 21:03 (downhill) 21:43 (loop)
10K: 43:06 (downhill)
10M: 1:12:59
13.1M: 1:35:55
26.2M: 3:23:31

You can reach me by email at heyheyilana @ gmail.com

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