Solar Eclipse – August 21, 2017

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Partial eclipse as viewed from our hill in Wyoming (Photo courtesy of Jeff Gross)

Some months ago I posted a description of a scouting trip for the then upcoming solar eclipse. Well, as most people know, it happened on Monday, August 21st. It was quite an event. A couple of guys I know were all over this thing and   planned it out so well, I’m not sure how it could have been better.

Our trip began on Saturday, August 19th at 9:20am when we departed for the hill north of Esterbrook Hill in Esterbrook Wyoming. Esterbrook is 40 minutes west of Glendo, Wyoming via paved and then graded dirt roads. The traffic was light and it was smooth sailing all the way. We stopped for gas two times. Not because we needed it, but we were concerned that given all the hype fuel stations might run dry at any time ad we wanted to be prepared. We arrived in mid-afternoon, and found our advance party (Marty and Troy) with minimum re-routes. (we were shooting for Esterbrook Hill but there were several camps already there.)

Lisa and I slept in the back of the Avalanche with the mid-gate down, which makes for pleasant sleeping conditions. We took a walk to the top of “our” hill and had a look around.

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Atop our eclipse viewing hill near Esterbrook, Wyoming

Dinner was relaxed, insects were minimal (or, so it seemed to me) and it was a beautiful evening. I brought the “new” 1926 Coleman Model #2 stove for our main cook stove. The rest of our crew planned to drive up on Sunday afternoon.

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Marty and Troy relax during dinner

We woke on Sunday morning to brilliant sunshine, though there did seem to be a low-lying haze. We heard that there were some fires out west and figured that must be the reason.

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Preparing breakfast on the Coleman Model #2 stove

After a late breakfast, Lisa, Jeff and I went for a hike over to Sunset Ridge. It was only 1 mile, as the crow flies, from our hill, but the up and down and around turned that into 1.9 miles.

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A Saturday evening photo of Sunset Ridge

As we hiked we began to realize just how many people were camped around our hill and it was a bunch. Tents, campers, RVs, cars, trucks . . . pretty much everything and everywhere. WOW!

We got to the highest spot on Sunset Ridge without much trouble. Using my Brunton Pocket transit I checked the elevation difference from our hill to Sunset Ridge Hill and to my surprise there was virtually none. So, I turned on my GPS and it showed the elevation of the two locations were within 40 feet of each other. That was a confidence builder.

When we got back to camp Paul K and his kids had arrived and setup camp near us and a rattlesnake, and then later a telescope on the hill near Marty. I went and got my Astro Compass and new Tamaya MS-833 sextant and practiced using them. We generally goofed around all day, I guess.

At this point we were inviting everyone who walked by to come up and join us for the eclipse. We met at least three people who had seen other total eclipses and said that the more people around the more fun it is.

The Total Eclipse – Monday, August 21, 2017

Thankfully, we woke to another beautiful, clear day on Monday. One guy we met had read that if you really want to see an eclipse look for the place with the most reliable good weather. Wyoming is a good place for that in August. Hot and sunny, windy and clear.

We finished breakfast and the anticipation began to grow. A stream of people headed up the hill. We gathered our chairs and filters and cameras and solar glasses and joined them.

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Marty and Paul’s setup just before the eclipse begins

Marty, who organized the whole trip, had two telescopes and a myriad of other toys for viewing the eclipse. It was great. Paul also had his telescope setup near Marty’s and both were inviting people to come and look at the partial eclipse as it was happening.

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We had lots of this with which to view the partial

As it got closer to totality the 60-plus people on that hill looked up and then around to see what was going on around us. We thought the shadow would be more noticeable, but it was just a gradual change. The temperature dropped enough that 15 minutes before totality I went back to the truck to grab a light-weight fleece shirt. The temperature change was really noticeable.

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Almost there . . .

We were looking up with our glasses when we could no longer see and then someone yelled “you can take your glasses off”, and then . . .  WOW!!!! I’m not totally sure what everyone else said, but I said WOW very loudly several times. It was SPECTACULAR!

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Photo of total eclipse, courtesy of Jeff Gross

Many people were looking through binoculars so they didn’t notice at first the star to the lower left of the eclipse. So cool! And then straight over head was what appeared to be a planet. I still don’t know what that was, but it seemed so amazing to see during the middle of the day. The photo above taken by Jeff, is pretty close to the way I saw it, minus the zoom and the sky was a little more blue (that’s the way I remember it anyway).

It wasn’t a dark, middle-of-a-moonless-night dark, but people who used cameras had their flashes going off automatically.

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Here my time-lapse camera makes it look lighter than it was as Marty snaps a photo while the flash goes off

It was gone all too quickly and everyone seemed to be trying to take it all in. I know I was. I tried taking some photos but they just didn’t come out. The photos taken by Marty, Paul, Jeff and Sheri came out great. You can see solar flares. Afterwards we talked to people hanging around, since Marty planned to stay for the completing taking a photo every minute.

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Our group who traveled for the eclipse

About 2pm we were done and packed up and ready to hit the road. The traffic would be really, really bad, but we knew that and so did most other people, so it went as well as could be expected.

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A last look at our eclipse hill

It took us 5 hours to get to Esterbrook, but 8 hours to get back home. Was it worth it? I don’t even need to hesitate. The answer is a resounding YES!

Thanks for visiting my blog.

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