I guess the way to begin this post is to say the total solar eclipse I experienced was not what I expected. I had visions of the moon bringing total midnight darkness to the middle of day. Not how it happened. I t happened very differently but still so awesome. More on this later but now first on how and where I got to observe it.
I was up early in my $387 dollar a night Econo Lodge in Idaho Falls. Actually, although overpriced for the eclipse I had a nice clean room and the staff was very friendly and welcoming. I was up early, around 5 a.m. and worked on a blog post until sunrise, around 7 a.m. here in southern Idaho, had a coffee and some oatmeal and was on the road heading north to Rexburg, a town in the path of the longest totality of the eclipse.
I was surprised to find so little traffic, with the reports of traffic jams in Oregon and warnings from park rangers to avoid traffic and stay at my hotel and watch it.
I, of course, wasn’t taking this advice and, after talking with a few local photographers I met, took their suggestions that anything in the Rexburg area and particularly two buttes west of the city, would be the best place to view the eclipse. I was told I may not get there with the traffic but I was surprised to find my way to the town Menan and it’s two buttes with very little traffic.
There were two buttes the first I reached was private and they were charging $40 dollars to park. I was told the northern Butte was the better location so I drove on and found a large parking lot and no fee to park.
There were a lot of vehicles, buses and campers but no were near what I was expecting. I arrived early, around 8:30 am and decided to hike the northern Menan Butte before the moon arrived to block the sun.
The local Idaho officials sure went out of their way to accommodate the visitors. Police directed and slowed traffic, fire fighters and emergency folks were at the ready and rangers provided water, eclipse glasses and information about the eclipse and the natural environment of the butte.
I began my walk up the butte, were many folks were going to observe the eclipse.
I decided, on my way to the summit, that after my climb, I would set up near this group of photographers and astronomers, who had the big cameras and telescopes, and observe the eclipse.
I walked up the sandy, slippery and rocky path to the summit of the butte, having to admit I took a few breaks along the way.
Aside from a few birds, including a hawk, the only critter I saw on my hike was this beetle.
There was a steady stream of climbers, of all ages, and from all over the country and world.
I was glad to see the many families struggling up the winding paths with their children, with some dedicated fathers even carrying infants.
The hike took about and 45 minutes to reach the top and I enjoyed the view on some rocks near the summit.
It was a much easier, and quicker, hike back down the butte and I returned to my car around 10:15 am. , 15 minutes before the eclipse was to begin.
I heard the excited voices of some Asian tourists shouting it had begun and put on my protective glasses to watch the moon begin it’s two hour journey across the face of the sun. I took this photograph of some of the many folks who climbed the butte to watch the eclipse.
I walked over to the group of photographers and set up my camera equipment. I am not, by any means, a professional photographer, I let the cameras do the work fir me, and was worried I had purchased an incorrect eclipse lens. I did take a few photos of the start of the eclipse with this being the best result .
I spent the next hour taking peak at the ever diminishing disc of the sun through my protective glasses and watching a slight change in the intensity of the sunlight.
It was amazing how, even at 95% of coverage of the solar disc, the intensity of the suns rays were still blinding without the glasses. Folks in the group next to me did notice a change in the shadows cast by the diminished sunlight,
and there was a slight noticeable change in the lighting in the landscape.
However at totality everything changed so quickly. It was wonderful and magical.
The skies rapidly darkened and the sun became a black hole in the sky surrounded by a halo of bright light. It was amazing..
Mars and Mercury appeared and a red sky, as seen on the eastern horizon at sunrise, and the western horizon at sunset, ringed the entire horizon. I was glad I was on the flat plains of Idaho to observe it.
There were shouts of joy from the group of people around me, dogs barked and babies cried. The temperature dropped and I reached for my IPhone to take this video, which can be seen on my YouTube channel at this link https://youtu.be/k0M_iZCyGv0I also reached for one of my cameras, my Canon 5D Mark III and took this and a few other photographs.
The two minutes of totality went so fast, I didn’t get a chance to take any landscape photographs of the butte as I planned and I missed seeing some of the stars other folks near me said thy had seen. It never good totally dark, just a late twilight feeling. Still something you could never really exactly describe without experiencing it.
It was a truly remarkable experience, but if I could do it over, and when I see my next one in 2024, I will spend more time enjoying it and not try to video or photograph this fantastic cosmic event. Here is a link to some more photographs of my visit to Menan Butte to watch the eclipse. http://www.keepyoureyespeeled.net/idaho-solar-eclipse-2017/nggallery/idaho-solar-eclipse-20017/Idaho-Day-Three-Solar-Eclipse-At-Menan-Butte-August-21-2017
As soon as the shadow moon moved just past the sun it once again became bright and you now again had to use the eclipse glasses to watch the event. After about ten minutes I decided to leave this area and get to the highway to finish watching the eclipse there, in hopes of avoiding traffic. Unfortunately, the local police directed me, and others with the same idea, in a northerly direction where we ran into a lot of traffic. I decided to try a shortcut from looking at Google maps on my IPhone but soon came to a dead end.
A local resident explained to me that my best bet would to re-trace my path and make my way to the major highway. I did and found the major highway route 20 with traffic at a standstill. All back roads heading south were also congested.
I decided to head back to the nearest town Rexburg, which to find something to eat and explore the town until the traffic subsided. I found traffic in the town to be heavy and all of the restaurants with long lines of folks doing the same thing as me. I waited in line at a Thai restaurant where I had a nice lunch.
After lunch I walked the streets of Rexburg for a bit and got back on Route 20 for my journey back to Idaho Falls. It was congested, but moving traffic for 15 of the 20 mile trip but traffic stalled again 5 miles from my hotel. I once again took to the back roads and this time did find my way to the hotel after driving some rural roads.
It was late afternoon when I arrived, and after a meal at a nearby Mexican restaurant I was back at my hotel. With a long day planned early in the morning I was soon fell asleep reflecting on the marvelous eclipse I had experienced and thinking about plans to observe the next, visible much closer to my home in Pennsylvania in 7 years. Here is a link to some more photographs from my drive back to the hotel. http://www.keepyoureyespeeled.net/idaho-solar-eclipse-2017/nggallery/idaho-solar-eclipse-20017/Idaho-Day-Three-Drive-to-hotel-August-21-2017
Nothing is there beyond hope
Nothing that can be sworn impossible
Nothing wonderful, since Zeus,
Father of the Olympians
Made night from mid-day
Hiding the bright sunlight
And sore fear came upon men.
[Perhaps written having seen the eclipse of 6 Apr 648 BC.]