2017 Solar Eclipse - The Trip to the Path of Totality
As most people (hopefully all) know there was a solar eclipse that traveled over America on this last Monday, and there was a 71 mile wide line, roughly, which cut through the U.S. and in this line you were able to see the total eclipse. It so happened that Andrew and I weren't far from this so we decided it was a must to travel down to southern Illinois, specifically Carbondale, to get a better look. Originally we had planned on a trip to Nashville, but with further investigation we noticed that we would be able to view the total eclipse for a longer period of time in a closer location which was Carbondale. Carbondale is a small-ish town (compared to the massive chunk of populated area that is Chicagoland) surrounded by smaller towns, mainly agricultural which is something I can get down with since that's like where I grew up. We left the house on Sunday at around 1:00pm--- an hour later than we planned. Nevertheless, we were on the road finally and anticipation was growing as we raced along with a herd of other vehicles making their way south. It wasn't long before we ran into what we had been afraid of: traffic. Like not even in the city; just in the middle of nowhere because of everyone traveling in one direction. Some of the vehicles we were next to during this time were loaded down with camping gear, solar eclipse messages written on the back window, or huge RVs with young, hippy-looking people piled inside. Every single stop along the way was packed and if the eclipse did one thing it was bring a lot of business to any town along its path. We finally got to Carbondale at a little after 9pm that night; a drive that was supposed to take 5 hours took 8--- we did stop and eat but only after we realized we weren't getting anywhere anytime soon. Our sleeping plans were to just sleep in the car (I had fixed up a makeshift bed in the trunk/ backseat area) and we were just going to park in a campground for the night. However getting to Carbondale we soon realized that people saying they made reservations almost a year in advance was no joke, all the actual campgrounds were full and the people renting out lots on their big field wanted $100 a night for us to sleep in our small car for 8 hours (if that). No biggy, we decided to find a Walmart to sleep at. I had done it a couple times to save money on road trips and it always works in a pinch, Andrew had even done it after me suggesting it to him. Walmarts don't mind travelers resting in their parking lots and I always buy something when I do stay there, as a courtesy. We pulled up in the far back corner with other people who knew what was up and were settling in for the night too! We found a nice secluded corner with some trees that we could back under to shield us from the streetlights. It was only like 10pm when we were all finished and it was a little early to fall asleep so we decided curtains are necessary and we could easily DIY some with some fabric and duct tape! So, into Walmart we went to pay our dues as a thank you for us sleeping there (AKA buy snacks and the required material for our redneck curtains). As we got back to the car and started cutting up the fabric we were approached by a hired security man who was supposed to go around and tell people they couldn't sleep at Walmart tonight, I'm guessing corporate knew it would be busy and didn't want any trouble. He apologized for the crummy situation and advised we try Kroger which was just down the road. Finally, we found our place to sleep amongst other car campers (one with a flatscreen TV outside and lawn chairs like it was his living room) and people with tents set up on
the grass next to the parking lot. We put up our curtains and headed off to sleep that night in our humid and cramped quarters.
photo of the car (before curtains, I was too exhausted afterward to even think about photos) and an adorable vintage beetle we saw on the drive down:
The next morning we were woken up by a man peaking into the window we had cracked for some fresh air asking, "is anyone in there?" I assumed it was the police and answered, half asleep, "yup, yes!" It turned out to be an employee of Kroger warning us that they had a semi truck that was about to unload back here and he wouldn't want our car getting hit. So we peeled the fabric off of the front windows and windshield so that we could drive over to the other side of the parking lot, we had been in a side lot meant for employees. I was awake and ready for the day at this point. The car had been a lot hotter than I thought and I didn't sleep very well. We went and got some coffee at the Starbucks that was attached to Kroger and discussed where we should go first. It was only like 5:30am but the excitement was making me restless. We had watched a video on youtube about a shop owner painting the direct line that the eclipse was going to pass in bright orange because it was going right through his store and it was very close to Carbondale so we drove on over to Makanda, IL. This tiny little "town" if you can call it that was apparently a hippie village in the sixties and all of the old hippies still live there and run all these little shops. We were talking to an older couple that was telling us all about it and they said to just wait until they all wake up. It was awesome! I could totally see what they were talking about as we explored the area and found an old little castle garden one person had made and kept it open to the public. As we walked along the path we even found someone fast asleep in a hammock with a blanket over their head! We met another woman who wanted to take photos of us over the orange line, and I'm happy she offered. Within a couple hours we were both finished walking around and were getting annoyed with the people yelling parking directions at cars and demanding $20 from each vehicle (gotta get your dollar somehow...), so we went back to the car and moved onto the next location. Andrew wanted to be on a tall cliff or hill anyway for best viewing results.
photos taken in Makanda, IL. Sorry we look like homeless children, we slept in a car!!!
Once we left Makanda we headed for Ferne Clyffe State Park which was only about 30 minutes away. Once we parked we grabbed our tripods and cameras, and a bag with some crackers and drinks in it for the hike. We didn't want to be around a bunch of other people and Andrew had a place in the woods he was looking at going on the map. As we marched through the woods with Andrew navigating through the fallen trees and spiderwebs, we hiked and hiked. We stopped to rest for a while once and then continued on until we found a clearing just at the very end of the state park line. Mind you- we didn't use any hiking trails; we started on one but ventured off after not even a minute. When we got up to the clearing I looked down and discovered I was crawling in little ticks, and they got on Andrew too! I was just in a dress and my converse so my bare legs were getting bit! Andrew rushed over to me and helped me get them all off and then made sure my clothes were insect free too. When we thought we were both free of the bugs we moved all of our stuff into the shade and sat down to rest. It had gotten really hot and we ran out of water. We also hadn't eaten anything that day and the salty crackers where not an ideal choice since we were stuck out there without any water. We had like two hours until the eclipse, so we sat there talking and eating crackers. When the eclipse finally started we would get up and take turns using the glasses to see the moon slowly moving over the sun, and when it was getting close to being completely covered we both got up, set up the cameras, started rolling, and ran into the field hand in hand. It was such a great experience and worth the drive and hike! I was so taken back looking at this black ball in the sky with the thinnest ring of light around it. Even when it wasn't totally covered the lighting was beautiful. The shadows seemed sharper and everything was very dark orange like an old photo. When we hiked back and actually found a trail that lead right to our car (of course)! We changed our filthy clothes and found a water pump where we cleaned off before hopping into the car to head home. The traffic was even worse on the way home but our GPS led us through small towns and we stopped at a gas station with a gas pump from the 1950s! It was cool, but I was like.. is this serious? Sure enough, it was! When we finally made it home that night we both ran inside, leaving everything in the car since it had started down pouring right as we pulled into the driveway. I think it's safe to say it was a pretty memorable trip. And as for seeing another eclipse, well Andrew and I have plans for April 8, 2024. ;)
photos at Ferne Clyffe State Park: