Tuesday, August 28, 2012

A Total Eclipse of the Sun

Well almost. When I heard that there was going to be a(n almost) total solar eclipse centered directly over Northern California on Sunday May 20th, I decided it was a good weekend for an escape.

Our start on Saturday was delayed by Frost Revival, the first concert in Stanford's Frost Amphitheater (site of several famous Grateful Dead concerts) in 35 years, headlined by Modest Mouse:


We left campus around 7 PM and drove to a surprisingly nice National Forest Service campground on Black Butte Lake about halfway between Sacramento and Redding. Fortunately, some kind (or forgetful) soul left the gate open, so we were able to drive in and get a campsite at 1 AM. Since it was so nice out, we decided to sleep with the fly off the tent, which ensured a good early start (around 6:30 AM), once the sun started cooking us.

Four hours later, we stopped for a hearty breakfast in downtown Redding and then walked over to the nifty Sundial Bridge - a bridge that happens to be a sundial that's completely accurate on the summer Solstice. While Jenny finished up some work I wandered around, napped, and watched fisherman lazily float down the Sacramento River.


The bridge was awesome! The work not so much...


Around 1 we left Redding, heading west of CA 299 until we got to Weaverville where we turned north on CA 3. Over the course of the next two hours we officially arrived in the middle of nowhere. After about an hour on paved roads we turned onto a gravel road leaving 13 miles to the fire tower on the top of Bonanza King, elevation 7040 ft. Since we had an hour or so till the eclipse, we wandered around on top of the peak enjoying the views west across to the Trinity Alps:


And east toward the monolithic Mount Shasta.


Eclipses are dangerous for viewers because the sun is obscured enough for people to bear looking into the sun, even though it's still damaging. Being the eclipse newbies that we were, Jenny and I hadn't devised a method to watch the eclipse, so I ended up seeing black dots for the next 4 or 5 hours. I did manage to snag a decent shot of the eclipse, even though the scant number of clouds in the area managed to be right in front of the sun during the eclipse.


 Our nearby neighbors had devised a much more effective method for viewing the eclipse (this photo doesn't do it justice). The eclipse was surprisingly clear projected onto a the paper:


After taking in the scenic Trinity Alps for a few more minutes we trudged back to the car, and began the epic drive six hour drive back to campus. Whew - what a trip!


And although our trip was a whirlwind, I want to give a special shout-out to my #1 adventure buddy, without whom I wouldn't get to do even half of what I do now.


And anyways, this was just a test run for the REAL total solar eclipse - August 21st, 2017. I'll be ready.

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