August 21st, 2017 had been saved in my calendar for two years. My partner loves space and watches astronomical events closely so when we realized that a total solar eclipse would be within a couple hours of us, we knew we had to be there. We tried looking for hotels and airbnb’s near Casper, but they were either sold out or out of our price range. Then we found a campsite, in the path of totality and even closer than Casper. It was perfect, but I was a bit worried. We had never been camping together and I hadn’t been since I was a kid. We’ve been through far more stressful experiences together, so I knew we could handle it, even if I’m not the most outdoorsy person in the world.
Camping turned out to be lots of fun. There were so many other people there who were excited to see the eclipse! Our camp was in an old rodeo arena and within walking distance of the Oregon Trail ruts. The ruts are where over time, the wagons carved a path in the rock as they traveled across Wyoming. It was incredible to see stone so clearly altered by humans, hundreds of years ago. And yes, there were lots of jokes about dying of dysentery!
Even though our campsite was in the path of totality, we wanted to get even closer. We drove to a spot where we would be on the line of perfect totality. That means we would get an extra few seconds with the black hole in the sky. We were also near a bunch of cows, which I was really excited about. I wanted to see how animals reacted to the eclipse. The farm was very large and they were probably scared off by all the people, so I couldn’t really see them but I did hear them mooing!
I was intent on experiencing the eclipse unencumbered but my partner wanted to photograph the event so I set up a camera and left him to it. I had another camera on a tripod taking video of the cows and the 360 degree sunset. You can watch the whole video below, just excuse the shakiness from when I picked it up to get a glimpse of the eclipse itself.
There is no way to describing the sight of a total solar eclipse, that would do it justice. I had seen so many photos and videos and heard from people who had seen them before and I was completely unprepared. And being near the path of totality, but not in it, is not even close.
The “diamond ring” shot
As it got closer to 100%, it started getting darker around us, but not quite like the sun was setting. The sky looked hazy, and the sun was still visible, high in the sky. Then the sunset in all directions started to appear and we could hear the cows mooing and crickets chirping. But when it got to 100% totality, I immediately started crying. It was the most incredible sight. We had about two and half minutes of totality, but I don’t think any amount of time would have been enough. As the sun came out from behind the moon, I was able to see the “diamond ring” effect and my partner was able to capture it! I then raced over to the nearest white car to see the “shadow bands,” the snake like shadows from the edge of the sun shining through the moon’s mountains and valleys. And just like that, it was over and we had to head home.
A composite showing the sun’s corona
The trip home was not quite as easy as the way there. It took us 8 hours to get home. It would have taken 2-3 hours normally. Eventually, we made it back to Colorado and stopped in Fort Collins for some much needed tacos. We already have plans for the next one to go through the U.S., seven years from now!
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