Chasing a Darkened Sun…

Monday, August 21The Great American Eclipse of 2017... Alice & I, and several of our friends, really wanted to see the Darkness of Full Totality that would come with this Eclipse.  The problem? The Line of Totality would be 160 miles away, and we had commitments to be elsewhere the day before, and the day after.   So… if we were going to see Full Totality on Eclipse Day, we would have to leave early in the morning, drive the distance, find a comfortable spot, get set up, and only then… sit back and relax to enjoy the event (10:27 AM, MST) . And that is just exactly what we undertook to do.

In our initial planning for this unique event, we made plans to go to Alliance, Nebraska, 140 miles away, where we had reservations on a quiet prairie farm six miles west of town – But, upon waking early on Eclipse day, we found that the weather forecast for Alliance had turned ‘cloudy’… so we shifted to Plan ‘B’ – an ‘open space Wyoming’ Eclipse Totality site located approximately 160 miles away on US Hwy 85, roughly 20 miles south of Lusk, Wyoming…  where the forecast was ‘Sunny skies’.  

To get there, we left Hart Ranch at 5:02 AM…

First crack of daylight, ‘on the road’, US Hwy 18, just South of Hot Springs, SD.   Click on Image to expand.

Our route to “Plan ‘B’, Lusk, WY”, is shown below… about 160 miles… and we were not at all certain about the traffic we would encounter…. which turned out in the early morning to be relatively light.   Please click on the map below for a better map view of our travel route…

Route from Hart Ranch to Eclipse point south of Lusk, WY.   Click on Image to expand.

We stopped at the ‘Fresh Start Market’ in Edgemont, SD for a brief break… and as we stepped out to stretch legs, we noticed our Goal… rising behind us…

A brief stop in Edgemont, SD... as the soon-to-be-dark Sun was rising.

At a brief stop in Edgemont, SD, we noticed the soon-to-be-darkened Sun was beginning to rise. Click on Image to expand.

After breakfast & bathroom breaks, we got back on the road again, heading for Mule Creek Junction, then a turn left (south) to Lusk, Wyoming.   It was a beautiful morning!

Traveling (hurring) west down US Hwy 18... towards Mule Junction.

Traveling (hurrying) west down US Hwy 18… towards Mule Creek Junction.   Click on Image to expand.

We made good time getting to Lusk.   There was increased traffic due to the Eclipse… but not too heavy, and we maintained a steady speed of 65 – 70 MPH.   In the little crossroads town of Lusk, we stopped again.

Another brief stop in the little town of Lusk, WY...

Another brief stop in the little town of Lusk, WY… at this point, we are barely inside the zone of Totality.   Click on Image to expand.

The whole town of Lusk was set up for the Great Eclipse!… T-shirts were being sold… signs to the fairgrounds for parking were visible everywhere… Police were at intersections directing (yet to peak) Eclipse traffic.   A beautiful little Wyoming town! The store owner below had his priorities in the right place.   

One store owner was not going to miss this Eclipse!

This store owner was not going to miss the Eclipse.   Smart person! Click on Image to expand.

However, our destination was approximately 20 miles south of Lusk, right where the center of Totality would be.   So after our break, we again mounted up, and headed south on US Hwy 85… until we ran out of people & reached the 20-mile south mark. There, we found the quiet site below… along the Highway on a recently mowed Hwy 85 easement.   Victor, our guide car driver, pulled over and soon we had shop set up!

20 miles south of Lusk... US Hwy 85... we found our spot!

We found our spot – no crowds, 20 miles south of Lusk on US Hwy 85…   Click on Image to expand.

Our group is all set up… and Victor is checking out our Eclipse glasses.

Getting set up - Checking out our Celestron Sun Viewing glasses...

Getting set up – Checking out our Celestron Sun Viewing glasses… Click on Image to expand.

A Fun bunch of people… waiting.

A relaxed group... Beautiful day, sunny skies.

Finally… A relaxed group… Beautiful day, sunny skies.   Click on Image to expand.

The Eclipse starts!   Notice the indentation of the Moon on the upper right-hand side. 

The beginning of the Eclipse… note the indentation in the Sun at about the 1:00 O’Clock position.  Click on Image to expand.

We were all fascinated… As late comers arrived, driving down the Highway, Donna pointed out the Eclipsing Sun to them… Look!   Look! 

The Eclipse has started!   Donna is pointing that out to passerbys...

Look!   Look!   The Eclipse has started! Donna is pointing that out to drivers… Click on Image to expand.

As the Moon covers more of the Sun, the landscape darkens… 

The Eclipse gets more visible...

The Moon’s cover over the Sun becomes more visible…   Click on Image to expand.

Late arrivers parked about a half mile further south… and hurriedly climbed up to the top a nearby butte for a better view.

Many people climbed to th etop of this Butte for a more better view.

Many people begin climbing to the top of this Butte for a better view.   Click on Image to expand.

It is clearly getting darker… we are eagerly… and patiently… waiting.

Waiting... Full Totality is almost here.

Waiting… Full Totality has almost arrived.   Click on Image to expand.

Eclipse Totality arrived.   Words can’t describe the feeling at this moment… below are six pictures, taken about 5 seconds apart, in numbered sequence of 1600 – 1605, of the Eclipse arriving:

During Totality, the landscape looked like below…

The Buttes... Full totality has arrived.

The Buttes to the south… Full totality has arrived.   Click on Image to expand.

During this time, Alice & I noted the following thoughts & observations about the Eclipse Totality:

  • The Eclipse came on slowly… taking about 21/2 hours in total.
  • The beginning of the Moon eclipsing the Sun… is hard to detect – with Eclipse glasses, the edge of the blocking Moon can be seen (in our case) at about the “1:00 O’clock” position on the Sun’s orb.
  • About 15 minutes before Totality, the temperature started to slowly drop… eventually to about 12° cooler during Full Totality.
  • As Totality came closer, there slowly appeared a darker ‘360° sunset’ aura of light… like the best sunset that you have ever seen, only coming  from all sides around you.
  • During Totality, it did not become pitch black… but it did become quite dark… stars could be seen…. and in our case, just an ever-so-slight sliver of sunlight glowing around the orb of the ‘black of the Moon’. (see pictures)
  • During Totality, Eclipse glasses were not needed.
  • During Totality, crickets came out… and started to chirp.
  • During totality, it cooled so much that several of our group put on their jackets (prior to totality, about 85°).
  • During totality, the  prairie wind came to an ‘almost stop’.
  • Immediately at the end of Totality… a glittering ‘sparkle point’ of the sun’s glow appeared on the edge of the black Moon at about the 1:00 O’clock position point… and slowly grew larger.
  • As the sun began to slide out from behind the Moon… the ‘360° sunset’ aura took on the strangest of colors… kind of like a ‘pumpkin’ orange…
  • After Totality, the temperatures began to get warmer… crickets disappeared… and the wind picked up again.   After 30 minutes, still cool, but had become comfortably warm.

And the general consensus feeling of our group? Greatly in awe of what we had just witnessed. Not life changing, but an enhanced awareness of a Universe bigger than us.

The Sun is Dark... Twilight all around.

The Sun is Dark… a 360° sunset surrounding us…   Click on Image to expand.

All to soon, after roughly 21/2 minutes, the Totality begin to show the passage of the Moon.   The below five pictures, taken about 5 seconds apart, in numbered sequence of 1619 – 1623, show the last half-minute of Totality:

It was just awesome… 

The below picture shows the view to the East just after the Eclipse totality was over. 

Coming out of the Eclipse... the landscape is lightening up.

Coming out of the Eclipse… the surrounding landscape is beginning to lighten up.   Click on Image to expand.

As the Moon passed on beyond the Sun, things quickly lightened….

The passing of the Moon is clearly visible... the Eclipse is almost over.

The passage of the Moon towards the left is clearly visible… the Eclipse is almost over.   Click on Image to expand.

And, as things lightened, people begin to leave.

Now that the Eclipse is all but over... traffic on US Hwy 85 resumes.

Now that the Eclipse is all but over… traffic on US Hwy 85 resumes.   Click on Image to expand.

However, we continued watching until the end… 

All but over...

All but over… Click on Image to expand.

After the above picture, the sunlight continued to reappear quickly… seemingly more quickly than it had disappeared as the Eclipse approached.   We stayed until the Eclipse was fully over, then battled heavy traffic going back home using the same route that we had come in on.  We were tired… but completely in awe of what we had just witnessed and experienced.

This concludes our post about ‘chasing The Great American Eclipse of 2017’.   For those of us fortunate to be a part of this… it has become an unforgettable experience.   And, for those who have not yet experienced a Full Totality Eclipse… You get another chance on April 8, 2024 – Click here to check it out!  

Thank you for viewing.   Any questions or comments please feel free to contact us!  

Jim & Alice LaPeer

To view a full-screen, high-resolution slideshow of Chasing a Darkened Sun, click the ‘curved arrow‘ just below the picture on the right.   To return to normal display, hit [Esc] key.   Otherwise, place cursor over the picture to display the slideshow control buttons.   Comments are Welcomed!


13 thoughts on “Chasing a Darkened Sun…

  1. What a great commentary and the photos are amazing! Thanks for sharing your experiences from beginning to end. Almost like being there 🙂
    Brad and Elaine

  2. What a great commentary and the photos are amazing! Thanks for sharing your experiences from beginning to end. Almost like being there 🙂

  3. It appears your wonderful journeys continue. The pics of the eclipse are fantastic. Kim and I thought we would be in Oregon for the event but took a turn North to Canada where is was cloudy that day, then on to Alaska for a couple months. We have no trips planned except to leave NY for our Florida home right after Christmas. If you ever find yourself near Dunnellon, Fl in the winter, you should come for a visit. Here’s to good travels and great friends.

    • Thanks for the update, Kim & Jan! Boy… we would sure like to sit and hear about your Alaska trip. That would be something. For us, the Eclipse is turning out to be the highlight of 2017. Something about seeing the Sun disappearing… and then reappearing… slowly. We will keep in mind about Florida. Enjoy your travels, and lets stay in touch.
      Jim & Alice LaPeer

  4. Thanks for sharing. Very interesting. I traveled down to lower Indiana yo watch the eclipse and all went well till the total eclipse and ONE dark cloud come over and blocked the view. Just a couple of minutes and the dark cloud moved and I saw the rest of the eclipse. Darn, but it was still worth the drive and experience.

    • Hi Arlyn – good to hear from you! Hope all is well… haven’t seen you since Cabela’s parking lot in Sydney. Yea, we were afraid of clouds blocking us… so we picked the ‘Plan B’ option at the last minute, and it did pay off. Glad you got to see the Eclipse, even if a little cloud came over.

      Very much worth while!

  5. Thank you Jim and Alice for sharing your eclipse experience. Sounds like an awesome time. Gene and I took our 4 year old grand son Rylan to The Score where there was an eclipse party (and where Ryan works). Rylan still talks about watching the eclipse, very good teaching and learning experience hopefully he will long remember. Looking forward to the next one in 2024!

    • Hi, Diane. Good to hear from you!

      Glad Rylan enjoyed the Eclipse… quite an event for a 4 year old. And 2024 is not that far away…

      Say hello to Gene for us. See you in December.
      Jim & Alice

  6. Excellent commentary! We watched from our back porch in Omaha. Not as spectacular , as we had about 98% totality. It’s amazing what a difference that 2% makes! Thanks for sharing!!

    • Hi, Cindy. Yes, when the Eclipse first came up as a ‘thing to do’, Alice and I thought of you and Ron in Omaha… Well positioned!

      We will be heading to Arizona in a couple of weeks. We are in Wellton, close to Yuma. It would be nice to see you and Ron again this Winter, if it works out. We will probably do Sedona again in April… that is closer to where you are. ?

      Take care,
      Jim & Alice

    • Thanks, Bill.

      Truly, the Eclipse was an extraordinary & fabulous event for us… The chase was fun, but the Full Totality was just awesome.

      Thanks for the comment… maybe see you and Dixie in Demming? We will be passing thru in about three weeks.

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