Total Solar Eclipse

Jennifer and I left Alberta on Aug 15, heading south to see the total eclipse of the sun in the Idaho desert. We left early because we knew that good camping locations might be hard to find and/or extortionately expensive.

We eventually found an isolated spot, surrounded by desert, just off Hwy 33 on BLM (Bureau of Land Management) land. BLM land is generally free to camp on (for up to 14 days). We knew a small camping community would form around us in the next few days as we waited for the eclipse. Besides enjoying our quiet surroundings in the middle of “nowhere”, we visited the St Anthony Sand Dunes and hiked up and around the rim of Menan Butte, an extinct volcanic cone. We could see our trailer in the distance, alone in the desert below.

The day before the eclipse, we went on a cycling excursion with a few people who had set up camp next to us. We cycled to Menan and then around the butte. Soon after our return, a knock on the door and orders to get ready to leave at a moment’s notice. Panic as we smelled smoke. A wildfire was threatening what had become a tight-knit community. Some left and returned later. We got ready to pull out, but hoped we would not have to leave. We watched as firefighters worked to contain and put out the fire, which they eventally accomplished.

August 21 dawned clear (as every day there had been) and promised a great view of the eclipse. Jen and I in turn climbed onto our trailer roof for some panoramic pictures. Great excitement as the moment of totality approached (see my short video on YouTube). The light had dimmed; everything was still; and the air had cooled dramatically. In the moments leading to totality, you could actually see the moon’s shadow overtake the surrounding landscape. Looking around in the darkness, you could see twilight in all directions. The umbra had not yet reached the distant Grand Teton Mountains. Everybody present was experiencing something like a moment of spiritual ecstasy. I took some time to taken in the awesomeness of the scene.

I then ran to my Nikon D800, which I had set up on a tripod earlier, to grab some 300mm telephoto shots of the eclipse. No filters were required during totality. And then after the blast of intense light that forms the diamond ring effect, it was over, a little over two minutes after totality had started. In our “afterglow”, we sat around and shared our thoughts. We glanced from time to time at the waning partial eclipse with our funky eclipse glasses. After sharing contact information, we cleaned up, broke camp, said our goodbyes, and headed out. Only then, as we soon sat in a 7-mile-long traffic lineup, did we get a sense of how many eclipse-gazers had come to the area.

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