Summer Road Trip 2017, Part 5: Totality at Grand Teton
I woke up reseted on Sunday morning, excited to make the 2-hour drive into Jackson. The fact that I'd finally reached Wyoming from Dallas via San Diego only added to the satisfaction.
The road to Jackson wasn't very busy so I was optimistic that crowds might be less than predicted. I was still concerned about finding a place to camp so I drove with some urgency.
Passing through Bondurant, 4o miles from Jackson. the Bridger-Teton Ranger Station had a tent set up to provide eclipse information. I grabbed a map and some free eclipse glasses sporting Smokey Bear on the side.
My plan was to camp in Grand Teton National Park, but I asked about eclipse-watching options in the National Forest just in case. One of the rangers showed me some potential dispersed camping areas on the map but said there were already 100's of thousands throughout the area already..
I continued to Jackson, arriving just before noon. I made a quick stop at Smiths for fuel, food, water and ice. With gas and provisions, it was time to find a place to camp and watch the eclipse.
My first stop was the Craig Thomas Discovery and Visitor Center to get information. I asked a ranger at the desk if any campsites were available. She told me not in the park but that there were a few overflow areas that still had space. Most were at least an hour's drive into the National Forest east of The Park.
I bought fishing license in Moose and decided to grab a beer at Dornan's Pizza Pasta Company. I sat at the bar and immediately met Ed, a retired metal worker who rode from Northern California to Wyoming on his motorcycle.
Ed's a recent a widow, who made the eclipse trip in honor of his late wife, Bonnie. He has a campsite in the Gros Ventre Campground east of Hwy 89/191, near Kelly. He suggested I park at his campsite since he's allowed two cars and only has a motorcycle.
I accepted and offered to take him fly fishing as a gesture of my appreciation. Come to find out, Gros Ventre Campground had the most sought after campsites in the park in the weeks leading up to the eclipse. Gros Ventre is directly on the eclipse path and practically centered within its path of totality. I couldn't have asked for a better spot.
The next morning, the sky was clear and I was ready to witness a total solar eclipse. Ed's campsite backed up to a huge meadow with a great view of Grand Teton. It was a perfect place to watch the eclipse so we headed out about 10;30 a.m.
The eclipse would be over us at 11:26 a.m. The sky above Grand Teton and shadows from the trees got very strange just after 11 a.m. I had an Igloo cooler sitting under some trees to keep it cool and out of the sun. The sunlight poking through the leaves made a collage of illuminated crescents on its white lid..
The crescent sliver of sun got smaller and smaller, ultimately disappearing when looking through the eclipse viewing glasses. The irony of eclipse glasses is that they are too dark to view the actual eclipse. Through the glasses, the sun shrinks from a thin crescent to a single point of light that just vanishes.
When the glasses went dark, I pulled them off and saw the most incredible thing I've ever seen. Nothing even comes close. You instantly realize that this experience is a very special thing. It's magical. It's no wonder people come from all over the world to be a part of it.
At that moment, the sun, moon, earth and I were all in perfect alignment. I knew my position in the solar system. It certainly seems improbable to me that an event like this happens purely by chance.
Nature went silent, the temperature dropped, the sky got dark and the sun became a black hole in the sky. The hole was surrounded by the sun's corona, a fiery ring of pulsating light.
It was absolutely mesmerizing.