Anatomy of an Eclipse Trip – DAY EIGHT – August 20, 2017
They came. They came in cars, and trucks, and jeeps and RV’s, some pulling trailers and some pulling campers. They represented all ages from children to teens to adults to seniors. Across the flat plain they set up cities of nylon and aluminium and wood and plastic. Some contained aligned structures of optical glass to peer into the universe. They all arrived with dreams of seeing the most spectacular sight of nature; a total solar eclipse.
Gary and I spent the early afternoon just relaxing. He did another practice run at imaging the Sun, but I let my telescope rest- it’s ready, and I’m ready. Our guests started touring the area both in the park and the town. The town was a bustle of activity with various vendors lining the streets, and restaurants serving only a portion of their menu to feed as many people as possible. The high school football field had tents on it because there was no room in the inn. NASA was setting up at the Army airport, and police were stationed at both ends of town to keep a steady flow of traffic.
And they came. More people arrived at our yurts, carloads of our guests set to work to construct their tents and stow their gear and talk about total solar eclipses. For many of them this would be their first one. They tried to process it in their own way. Leslie Gilda started her own eclipse journal, talking with people and collecting quotes. Some would image and talked about techniques and equipment. Others came along for the ride to just watch and see what all the excitement was about. And so they spread their tents and equipment along the ridge where our Yurts were situated, as others in the group prepared dinner.
At the Museum, Gary and I gave another afternoon talk on eclipses to over 100 people with standing room only. Adam R. Jones, our resident meteorologist, met us after our talk, and we discussed various weather scenarios over a dinner prepared by his family and friends at Yurt 4. He talked about two air masses one from the north and another from the Denver area both converging on Wyoming. The good news is that they would push each other apart and the one from the north was stronger, so we could expect a northerly breeze. The uncertainty was how strong the Denver cell would be, and how much the northern cell would deflect it to keep us in the clear. He would make the call at 4 AM, and he along with his entourage would drive up to Glendo which was closer to centerline.
They would be getting to bed early. Gary and I had another evening star party, and once again had huge crowds in attendance. Meade Instruments has donated two telescopes to Guernsey State Park and tonight I went over the assembly and alignment of them with Park employee Chris Delay. Chris is a friendly, hard-working soul who has the perfect temperament for dealing with people and situations. He would be handling the telescopes for future star watches, so he took control of the largest instrument and after a two star alignment moved the optical treasure to the ringed planet Saturn. Park Supervisor, Todd Stevenson, was also there and is the heart and soul of Guernsey State Park. Gary commented that he was the friendliest and most appreciative Park Supervisor he’s ever met. His love for the Guernsey is quite evident, and he runs it most efficiently. His boss was also in attendance to watch their largest crowd move through our presentation. With clouds. Many clouds. After a few hours of battling celestial objects that appeared through the slowly moving gaps of these floating masses of condensed water vapor, it was time for bed. There would be no observing tonight, and I slept in a hammock staring skyward through one of the celestial holes in an otherwise overcast sky.