Tuesday, August 29, 2017

The Dark Side of the Moon

For the first time in almost one hundred years, on August 21st the moon moved between the earth and the sun over the continental US, giving some states from West to East the rare opportunity to experience a total solar eclipse. After a rainy (but still fascinating) total eclipse we witnessed in Germany in 1999 and a beautiful annular eclipse in Northern California in May 2012 we were excited to have another chance to see this spectacular natural event.

Since we are not living in the path of totality we had to figure out where to go. Months in advance we planned and finally booked a hotel in Boise for the night before because we had decided to either go North to Smith Ferry (which we had checked out on our way back from Yellowstone a few weeks before) or Northwest to Eastern Oregon. Both were excellent destinations for the eclipse.

In the weeks and days before, the eclipse craziness had the media in its grip and there were already horror stories about traffic chaos as well as shortage of fuel and food. We were well prepared with an ice chest full of food, an extra gas tank and, most of all, good mood with a spirit of adventure. Kaefer invited B., her friend and roommate, to come along and so we left on Saturday around noon.

We were prepared for everything. What we didn't expect was this:

Where was all the traffic? Definitely not on our route.

The girls had brought a lot of music for the trip which, of course, we called eclipse music. We listened to "Here comes the sun", "Daylight", "Highway to hell" (which it thankfully wasn't) and, of course, the ultimate eclipse song "Dark side of the moon". As you can tell, we were more than ready for the eclipse.

And where were the long lines at the gas stations? This was one of the longest lines we saw - so no, there were no real lines.

We stayed the night in Winnemucca in Nevada where almost every hotel was booked out. The little town was packed with eclipse chasers on their way, and everybody was in a good mood. On our way up to Boise the following day we met many more eclipse chasers and everybody was cheerful, happy to be on their way to see this rare greeting of the universe.

We arrived early in the afternoon and decided to check out the places right beyond the state line to Oregon. There were two options in the path of totality that interested us. One was Lime, an old abandoned cement plant and ghost town. When we arrived there, it already looked like this:

No facilities, no nothing. No thank you. We do like our adventure, but this wasn't the right kind of adventure for us.

So we settled for this:

This is Farewell Bend State Recreation Area right at the Snake River, just an hour and 20 minutes from Boise (without traffic). We drove back to Boise, had dinner and went last-minute food shopping at Trader Joe's whose staff definitely was totally in the eclipse spirit.

The next morning we got up really early, left without a breakfast and went to Farewell Bend. Thankfully there was a time change in between, we gained an hour and thus it was only 4:50 am when we arrived at the state park (yes, there was no traffic!). Volunteers were already busy, they even offered us eclipse glasses for free (which we declined since we had our own) and directed us to a parking lot where we could leave the car. Everything was masterfully organized with a lot of cheer. There were lots of very clean and always well re-stocked bathrooms, picnic tables and of course the beautiful Snake River.

We had breakfast, and then the long waiting started (totality would start at 10:26 and last for two minutes and seven seconds). The girls goofed around and played cards, I knitted and the Geek set up the equipment.

The park filled with people, but it never was over crowded. Some people brought very heavy equipment. The atmosphere was so cheerful and expectant, we talked to a lot of people and it was just a great feeling of belonging together.

Shortly after nine the spectacle started with the moon biting into the sun and pushing further and further in front of the sun.

The shadows started to change and you could see those crescents - this is something you can also see during a partial eclipse and is a very fascinating side effect.

The light started to change as well, there was a slight breeze and the temperature dropped. I tried to capture the weird light in this photo, but it is way too difficult. It is not like dusk, but a very eerie quality of light. You could feel how the excitement was rising minute to minute now.

Finally there was only a sliver of the sun left.

And then - boom!

It became dark from one moment to the next, and there was this wonderful glow around the sun. It was amazing, fascinating - I lack the words to describe this special moment, these short two minutes that are forever in my memory.

The photos don't do it justice.

No, it wasn't completely dark. It was like a very beautiful very dark blue, and all around the horizon glowed in light like shortly before the sunrise (or shortly after the sunset). We could see some stars as well. It was other-worldly.

And then the sun popped out again.

Time to put on those eclipse glasses again!

This is me after the eclipse - happy, grateful to have witnessed this beautiful play of the universe, still full of awe. Covered in crescents.

You might wonder whether we are completely crazy to be on the road for almost four days to watch just two minutes and seven seconds of a solar eclipse. We probably are (and so were many others). 

Was it worth it?

You bet.


krishna said...

Beautiful.. you had a great adventure!! love the pictures..

Elephant's Child said...

Had I been close enough I would have been with you in a heart-beat.
Thank you so much for taking us along.
And your photos were truly amazing. All of them.

My name is Erika. said...

Cool photos and a good story too. Here in NH we had no darkness, but what we saw was cool. Your photos make the full eclipse way better though.

Unknown said...

Wow Carola, what an adventure, that was just amazing & thank you so much for sharing your photos. We didn't see anything at all here in NE TX but the sunlight did take on a darker brightness that was very noticeable while the eclipse was going on. Amazing!!!

Jeanie said...

This looks so amazing, Carola. Your photos are fabulous and I love the ones of the kids in their glasses and the knitting and all as much as the gorgeous eclipse ones because it shows the joy and excitement of the day. So beautiful you could share this with others.

I was in Toronto -- not even a shading of the bright sun, but a kind bellhop watching outside shared his glasses with me, so I got a brief look at it. They say one is coming our way in another seven years where we'll be in a better zone, so planning on that! But I don't think I'd ever get photos as good as yours!

Darla said...

Thank you so much for sharing this with us Carola. We didn't see the eclipse and your personal story and photo's are the best I have read or seen about it.

Misty said...

Thank you for sharing your lovely adventure!

Magic Love Crow said...

Amazing, beautiful, experience!! Wow!! I would have loved to be there with you! So lucky you had no traffic!!! Thank you for sharing all of this! Truly loved the pictures! Big Hugs!

Anonymous said...

Totality was far from us here in Maine, so I watched the eclipse on television. What a lovely spot you found to experience it from! You must be so glad you didn't settle for that first place.

baili said...

wonderful family gathering and how marvelously you captured the eclipse ,i am non native english and finding myself helpless to show my appreciation for your enchanting work .
you a beautiful and graceful lady in this pic!