Monday, August 21, 2017

the line of totality

Chris promised that a total solar eclipse would be unlike an 80% or even 99% eclipse and as usual, he was right. 
We left early (too early) for Smith's Ferry, where Grace Church and the local community had set up reserved parking in a field, and rented portapotties and set up food trucks.
As we waited, people played mah jong and vaped and did embroidery and set up tents. They flew drones.
Little kids wandered around. A lot of people brought their dogs.

The corvette club arrived in style.
We had stocked up on supplies at every convenience store for the past week. A cooler filled with chex mix and cheese and banana bread and beef jerky.
We settled into our comfy chairs, as the time keeper announced the start. Chris and Adam played with shadows.
It was a gorgeous day by the Payette River.
As the eclipse approached 80%, a chill came over us and the park seemed muted, as seen through a filter.

Denise worked on photographing the eclipse.
At totality, we took off our glasses and gawked. Our announcer noted the maximum moment and played an eerie tone. A cheer went up. (From Chris' video)
I'd expected birds going wild, but it was blissfully quiet as darkness fell rapidly over us. And then less than three minutes later, sunlight returned, first with a bright burst of pearl in the upper right
We'd been warned about traffic so we dawdled by the river for an hour, and then spent 3 hours going 12 miles in the all-American eclipse traffic jam.
We are already discussing where to go in 2024, and how to expand it into longer trip. It seems silly to travel so far for two and a half minutes.
But it was also inspiring, as a country in deep crisis, to come together in our love of science and astronomy.

Making pinhole cameras from cereal boxes, collectively looking to the moon and the stars: this is the America I believe in.


Postscript: Here's a video of totality shot through a telescope, with an excellent explanation of the corona:

Sunday, August 20, 2017

Idaho trail

This morning we headed north to Craters of the Moon national park and discovered that everyone else had the same idea.

The park was CLOSED because of overcapacity, with rangers reduced to telling eager eclipse goers we couldn't walk in to see the caves and cinder cones we'd been reading about.

Oh well. It was a stunning drive, past stacked bricks of hay and potato fields.

I loved looking at the lava formations. Was this lava or petrified wood? The last eruption was 2000 years ago. They happen—every 2000 years. 

Adam admired the headline writing in the local paper.

I thought the AAA "tips" were amusing: avoid standing in the middle of the road? Chris suggested carpooling.

We made it to Boise! Our eclipse glasses are tested. Our cooler is ready. Alarms are set for dawn. The forecast is thankfully clear. Now all we need is the traffic to cooperate. See you on the other side.

Saturday, August 19, 2017

scenic byways

We set off early from Zion. First stop: Checkerboard Mesa, which Chris proceeded to climb. After an hour we turned right onto Scenic Byway 12, and drove it start to finish. This is a road.

My memories of Red Canyon from last year did not disappoint. Real Thelma and Louise territory. Adam: Why did you make me watch that film?

Next was a quick visit to Inspiration Point at Bryce, the first time for Chris and Adam.

Afterward we took a short hike to the mossy cave and waterfall. Did I take the same arch pictures last year?

Continuing east on 12 took us to through the Grand Staircase of the Escalante. Is there a more beautiful road in America with its twists and turns and canyons of every color?

We made it to the Anasazi Museum in Boulder just before closing. This state park houses thousands of artifacts of early native Americans in the region. This is a recreated fire pit.

We drove through rain (rain!) at 9600 feet on Boulder Mountain, and then descended to lovely Capital Reef in time to chase the sunset. Highway 12, end to end.

Adam drove us deep into Capital Gorge, as the steep sheer rock faces rose above us.

How, we wondered, did the Mormon wagon trains cross these enormous mountains?

Waterpocket fold continues for nearly 100 miles. The only cuts across it are washes, which can be full of water in dangerous flash floods.

Fruita, the oasis of Capital Reef, is green with water from the Fremont River. Settlers—no more than 10 families at a time—planted apples and peaches and pears. You can still taste the fruit of their labors today in the orchards.

Also along the river are giant sandstones with 13th-century petroglyphs. So wonderful that they've survived this long.

Thursday, August 17, 2017


The sun rose over the canyon walls.

We took a short stroll by a weeping mountain. Denise spotted a black-headed blue jay.

I loved this yellow flower, growing in what looked like hay.

The mountain does appear to weep, with ferns and lichens lapping up the moisture. 

Why yes, that is a tarantula.

Later Denise and I walked to the emerald pools.

These are cactus flowers: tuna.

The rain falls down from the upper pool.

I liked this bridge across the Virgin River.

All in all, not a bad day's work.