Part Three

Solar Eclipse

Bridger-Teton National Forest







September 4, 2017

Solar Eclipse. My only recollection of one was standing on the playground with my 4th grade class in San Diego looking through cardboard cutouts at a partial eclipse. I wasn't impressed and was certain the playground could be put to better use.

Forty-eight years later I'm willing to drive across two states and take nine days out of my Mongolian adventure-preparing life to stand on a grassy hilltop in Wyoming along the path of totality.

Jim and I went mainly because of two people: Jeff, a fellow Eastside resident and professional photographer, and Judith, a Dutch friend who has followed our sailing adventures for several years.

Back in January Jeff mentioned going to a spot near Jackson to be in the Path of Totality. I was enthusiastic - not because I was keen to gaze into the sky - but because I'm deliriously enamored with the Tetons. We all agreed that having another self-contained vehicle would be useful in securing a spot so I half-heartedly committed.

A few months ago Judith said she was coming to the US and would like to meet. For work, I asked. No, to watch the Solar Eclipse. She and her partner witnessed one in Europe in 1999 and now follow them around the world.

Well, if it was this important and we had the opportunity, Jim and I figured, maybe...

And so on August 16th we found ourselves Sprinting out of Mammoth towards Wyoming.

Sometimes the rat rides shotgun so I can stretch out in the back.


BLM Land somewhere in Northeastern Nevada - August 16, 2017

The sun was low in the sky as we grew weary of driving. With our Nevada atlas sprawled across my lap, I was throwing out ideas of where to stop. This whole area was BLM land which meant we could camp anywhere.

Barbed wire fencing lined both sides of the road and, here and there, were gates with signs asking people to keep them closed. "We can go up any of these dirt roads," I said to Jim. He kept driving.

Finally I said, "Let's turn around and try that one back there." He balked about the uncovered e-bikes hanging off our stern getting dirty and wondered aloud if it really was okay, but slowed and made a U-Turn.

I opened and closed the gate as he pulled through and we followed the dirt road up to where it started to enter a long canyon. Horses came out! We slowed. They kept coming. We stopped and decided to stay right there, on the road, so as not to bother them any further.

They all moved past except one who went to the top of the hill in front of us and another who went off to the side. They kept watch until dark. In the morning there were more than 50 munching grass on both sides of the road between us and the gate.

We lingered in bed watching them out the back window as the sun slowly lit up the land. Eventually I eased the side door open. They looked up but stayed put. When we climbed on top to take some photos, some moved away, others stayed. Once breakfast was finished and our coffee cups refilled, Jim backed up slowly as they sauntered away. We were on the road by 8:30am.


Campsite along river near Falls Campground, Swan Valley, Idaho - August 18, 2017

Our route from Mammoth to the Bridger-Teton National Forest took us along mostly secondary roads. We prefer those to freeways, especially when speed limits are 70 and 80 miles per hour.


Fireside Resort Campground, Moran, WY - August 18-23, 2017

Jeff had made reservations at a campground with hook-ups, showers, and a wide open view outside Grand Teton National Park. This was our base and back-up for the solar show on the 21st.

Together with three of Jeff and Lori's other photographing friends, Jerry, Ralph, and Michelle, we caravaned around the park looking for good light, flat water, and nice landscapes.

The others all had serious camera gear; I had my iPhone and little Sony waterproof point and shoot. While Jim took scenic photos, I captured people taking their pictures.

When they went out at night, I stayed in the Sprinter to read and sleep.

This old barn is a favorite for photographers of all skills. A group from the UK was setting up for the eclipse and a lot of other tourists were there as well. Instead of wishing they'd all disappear, I just went with the flow. Jim, on the other hand, got a really cool shot of the solitary barn.



















Disbursed campsite on Shadow Mtn. - August 20-22, 2017

Jeff and Lori had scoped out spots and staked out a campsite on Shadow Mountain for the actual eclipse. We stayed in the campground until the day before the eclipse when we moved to the ideal location.

Not long after we settled in, Dan came up in his Landcruiser and asked if he could join us. Turns out he's a Navy pilot just getting into photography and solar physics. Lori saved his lens by offering a sheet of solar film. He had a cool pair of solar binoculars which he passed around during the event. Way better optics than our cardboard and film glasses!

Between Jeff, Ralph, Jerry, Michelle, Lori and Jim, there were dozens of cameras mounted on as many tripods. Anticipation was high as everyone set up Monday morning, August 21st.

The eclipse was to begin about 10:17am with totality - which would last 2 minutes 15 seconds - beginning about 10:35.

As the moon began to block the sun, the sky lost its light and the air lost its warmth. It was weird because unlike a normal sunset in the west, the entire 360 degree view darkened at the same time.

Jim had one camera set on time lapse facing the Tetons to capture the shadow and another aimed at the eclipse with solar film protecting the lens.


Check out Jim's time lapse of the Tetons here:

A minute of eclipse Zen:

Listen to the collective oohs and aahs (kinda like a group orgasm) during the eclipse here:


As the sky began to brighten after totality Dan and I noticed a contrail arching across the sky in the direction of the eclipse. "NASA has two planes following the eclipse," he said, "I wonder if that is one, it's a pretty sharp angle."


Togwatee Mountain Lodge, Moran, WY - August 22, 2017

Judith and Eric watched the eclipse in western Nebraska which wasn't too far from our location. It seemed the closest we'd be while she was in the US so we planned to meet at the Togwatee Mountain Lodge about 15 miles down Hwy. 26 from our campground.

What fun it was to finally meet in person. She's writing a book about a place we've been so we talked about that a lot. Well, until my stomach rebelled at something I'd eaten and I had to bail to a newly reserved room upstairs. It's no fun being sick in public bathrooms.

The next day I was fine so Jim and I headed home via West Yellowstone.


Flatrock Campground outside of West Yellowstone - August 24, 2014

A nice, quiet campground right off Hwy. 20. Some sites have hook-ups. Clean and stocked toilets.



Wild Horse Crossing Campground, Elko, Nevada - August 24, 2017

A pretty and quiet campground along a river on NV225 a little north of Elko. $4.00 for folks with NPS Senior Pass. Clean and stocked toilets.


While we were in WY Jim and I celebrated our 25th wedding anniversary. Our present to ourselves: a silver permanent marker.

We are off to Mongolia next. Hope to share a fun story of horses and camels and eagle hunters and good company when we return.


Logs from Current Year

Logs from Previous Years



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