I’ve never really been into Astronomy. Sure, I enjoy a starry sky, a full moon, and Southern Cross by Crosby, Stills and Nash, but Orion and the Big Dipper are as far as my constellation knowledge goes and we’ve broken out our telescope twice in the last 13 years.
When I heard that we would only be a couple of hours away from totality in the American Solar Eclipse, I planned on going. I’m an “experience as much as you can” kind of gal and seeing a total solar eclipse seemed like something one should experience in their lifetime.
The news was predicting Armageddon-esque conditions. Half a million people were expected to head up our little two lane I-25, gas and groceries would be depleted, and if needed, help would be a long time in coming. As I prepared our eclipse survival kit of water, food, and pillows, I wondered for a second if I should get some adult diapers. The news was making this feel like a scary undertaking. Common sense prevailed and I decided against the diapers.
Our 4:00 am departure gave us a seven hour window to make it up to Torrington, Wyoming; a drive that under normal circumstances would take two. As we cruised along at 75 MPH, I kept waiting for the masses to materialize. Sure, there were more cars on the road than normal for a Monday at 4:00 am going from northern Colorado to Wyoming, but we pulled into the large grass field of the Bucking Horse Steakhouse at 6:00 am, exactly two hours after we had left. Maybe the Armageddon warning had been overstated.
Torrington is an adorable little town on the Mormon Trail with a population of 6,501. It was my first time there and everyone is so nice! My original plan was to drive to Casper and park (probably illegally) on the shoulder somewhere, but my good friend called and she had a way better plan. She suggested Torrington (an hour and a half closer than Casper) and then made reservations for us on the back deck of the Bucking Horse. Having arrived several hours earlier than anticipated, it was quite a quality set up, and much better than trying to evade police while illegally parked on the side of the road somewhere in Casper.
After enjoying a delicious breakfast and some much needed coffee, the big event began at 10:25, which we were made aware of when the crowd began cheering. Wearing our “to code” viewing glasses, we then spent the next hour and 21 minutes watching the moon slowly cover the sun. It looked comparable to a waning moon on fast forward; cool, to be sure, but not all that exciting. When you took the glasses off and glanced at the sun, it didn’t look any different. You couldn’t see that the moon was there at all.
Very subtly, our surroundings began to darken. Someone in our group said it looked like an Instagram filter had been put over the earth, and that perfectly described it in very modern terms. Even when it was 99.9% covered, the sun still appeared to shine with all its brightness when you glanced at it without glasses, but the earth continued getting darker and darker.
Then it happened; totality. It was as sudden as a switch being flipped, and this is where words fail. We removed our glasses and for 2 min and 4 glorious seconds, we were in darkness looking at a big black circle in the sky surrounded by the sun’s corona. Bright white wisps, thicker in some areas, thinner in others; they didn’t move but were mesmorizing. I had chills on my arms and for a split second the beauty of it caused a lump in my throat.
Then just as suddenly, the switch was flipped again and the bright sun was upon us. We were all a little stunned and I noticed my friend had goosebumps on her arms too.
I’ll spare you the details of the drive home. It wasn’t as carefree as the drive up, but every bit of hassle was worth those 2 minutes and 4 seconds. Sometimes words may fail, but goosebumps and lumps in throats say it all.