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The Great American Eclipse | A Crack In The Wall

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This is the story of my journey to see The Great American Eclipse of 2017. 

First, let's explain a few things about the eclipse. An eclipse is an astrological event where one object passes in front of another. In this case, we have a solar eclipse which means the moon will pass in front of the sun. The moon is much smaller than the sun but it's also much closer which makes for a very rare event. The moon's distance from earth in relation to the sun makes the two almost seem identical when an eclipse occurs, this provides the effect of blocking out the sun 100%. During The Great American Eclipse, this will happen along a line that stretches across the entire US (hence the name) this line is called the Path of Totality. While in the Path of Totality the sun is completely covered and the only thing that illuminates the earth is solar wind. Directly in the center f the path of totality, the eclipse will only last 2:30 Minutes. 

Now I've always been fascinated by astronomy even since I was a kid. Being this close to an event this rare was too tempting for me to pass up. So I hitched a ride with some friends to go and see it. Originally, my plan was to go to Big Lake MO (which is sort of funny because my hometown was Big Lake, MN). This plan changed when I looked at the weather in that area and it said partly cloudy, so I moved my landing point to Grand Island NE. So when I left town I when south through on 169 through Shakopee, Mankato, Fairmount, and then parked my car in Spirit Lake Iowa where I met up with some friends. We left from there in his Mini-Van and headed West into Sioux Falls SD. From there we checked the weather in Grand Island and it said 30% chance of rain and Partly Cloudy. We also looked further west to Casper WY and saw 0% of rain and Sunny, we liked those odds better so we headed to WY. When we hit Rapid City, SD at about 12 am on Monday the 21st. we looked at the map and the radar and say similar 0% chance of rain and Sunny in a small town East of Casper called Glendo WY. So we hit the road and we arrived at about 2:30 am. 

As we got closer and closer the Path of Totality we started noticing that we were not the only ones out there in such a remote place. We started seeing hundreds of cars that all had the exact same idea we did. When we arrived at the center of the path of totality we pulled the van off into a ditch and setup camp for the night. If you ever find yourself in WY at night take an hour or two to get out and just look at the stars. I have never seen so many stars with such clarity in my life. This was probably one of my favorite parts of the whole experience. What made the stars especially interesting is that the solar eclipse happens during a new moon which isn't even in the sky. The Perseids meteor shower happened earlier in the month but I must have seen a dozen meteors still on the 21st. Venus was in a position where it was visible in the sky both at night and even during the eclipse. All of this made for some of the best stargazing I have ever witnessed. I don't know if it was excitement, caffeine, the stars, the elevation, or simply the lack of a bed but I didn't get any sleep the night of the eclipse.

The thing about WY is there are lots of hills and the thing about where we were, in particular, is we were at the bottom of a big hill, in fact, the whole road we were on was as well. So I may or may not have climbed a barb wire fence and climbed a 4000ft hill to get a better view of the sunrise and because I didn't get any cell signal at the bottom of the hill. On my way down the hill in the morning I wasn't exactly watching where I was going and almost stepped on a Rattle Snake, it caught me off guard at first because it hadn't even occurred to me that there were rattle snakes in that area until I heard it. I looked down at the sound and saw the snake disappear into a whole, then I noticed that there were about 12 of those holes around me and I quickly and carefully ran back to the van. I hung out down there until everyone else got up. We then packed up camp so we could make a quick getaway after the eclipse and then we may or may not have snuck back onto that hill and climbed 4000ft AGAIN. 

When we got to the top of the hill we noticed that another dozen people may or may not have snuck onto the same hill. We introduced ourselves and talked for a little bit. They were from Boulder CO and we said we were from MN and they said they figured that out by out accents (whatever that means). So we got settled in and waited to Totality. As we got closer and closer we noticed the temperature drop about 20-25 degrees, we started hearing crickets and all the birds disappeared. The sun Hit Totality for us at 11:45 am and lasted until 11:48 am. Totality is very hard to describe let alone photograph. I only took a few pictures because I wanted to spend my time enjoying it, when I look at my pictures and compare them to others I feel like they turned out pretty good. When I look at my pictures and remember what I experienced it's not even close. 

Totality is very hard to describe let alone photograph. I only took a few pictures because I wanted to spend my time enjoying it, when I look at my pictures and compare them to others I feel like they turned out pretty good. When I look at my pictures and remember what I experienced it's not even close. I sort of knew this would be the case but I photographed them anyway. Towards the end of Totality, the sun starts peaking on the top right side of the sun, this resembles a beautiful diamond ring. 

Once the Eclipse was done, we walked down the hill, hopped the fence and took off towards home. We stopped in Keystone SD and saw Mt. Rushmore. We drove all night until we got to my car in Iowa, from there me and my grandpa ate at a nice authentic Mexican restaurant, and I got to see where my grandma works. From there I headed home, I got home around 8 pm on Tuesday night and went to bed around 10 pm. I was awake for a total of 60 hours. It was a long trip but it was totally worth it. 

 

 


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