The Eclipse Experience 2017-8-21
“It was surreal, weird and amazing at the same time. Everyone was screaming and excited and the lights on the street started to
turn on. Very cool experience. Can’t wait for 2024.” CN – Blue Ridge, GA
About two weeks before the total solar eclipse, my wife and I went scouting. Our objective was to find a somewhat secluded spot where we could observe the eclipse without too many people around. We had looked at the interactive map of the eclipse and found just the spot. A small TVA recreation area just East of Spring City, TN. The drive from our house was about an hour long. The small one and a half lane road leading into the area told us our hunch was probably right on. This was a rare find.
“Totality was the most beautiful natural phenomenon I have ever seen. It was overwhelming.” Bob S. Greenville, SC
We drove into the park and saw that only two vehicles were there. Probably launching their boats and fishing on the lake. The park had a bathroom, 42 picnic tables, and space to park 20 cars. And it was located right smack dab in the middle of the totality. We had found the perfect place. No way there were going to be many people here.
The day came. We got up early, exercised, ate breakfast, and assembled a nice picnic lunch. We took our time, knowing that our secret place was relatively unknown. We loaded the car and headed out at 9 am. The first thing we noticed on Corridor J (SR 52) was a few more cars than usual.
As we approached Dayton, TN (Scopes Monkey Trial), traffic was really getting heavy. We passed a Wal-Mart. The parking lot was jammed with cars, tents, and RVs. Every spot of ground was taken.
The parks, playgrounds, schools, and churches were full. A shred of doubt began to grow.
Spring City was the same story. The recreation area was only a few miles out of Spring City. As we got closer, more and more cars were joining our caravan. We were shocked when we arrived.
The 20 car spaces were taken. The more than 500 cars that were there made their own parking places. We drove back to the gate and found a space there where no one else had parked.
“Set in the more rural hills of Georgia I was surrounded by crowds of what would seem to be locals. To be honest I have lost a little faith in the South that grows around me. Just before, during, and after the eclipse, some of my pessimism began to fade away. The eclipse of the sun was a forced growth that you could not escape regardless of your desire to do so or not. I truly believe that the people who experienced totality (myself included) are better for having lived it.” Max F. – Blue Ridge, GA
But not for long. Cars continued to arrive. They parked on all sides of us. It was a steady stream of cars right up till 2 pm.
By this time I estimated there were about 2000 people in this little, secluded, “out-of-the-way” park.
You’d think they’d all be locals, since this was so out of the way. But no. Cars were there from New York, Michigan, Ontario, Maryland, Delaware, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, West Virginia, Virginia, North Carolina, Florida, Georgia, Alabama, Minnesota, Massachusetts, Illinois, and Indiana. There was even a car from Washington state.
“I was struck by how bright it was with only 3% of the sun exposed. I felt it gave me the best understanding yet of the vast distance of space. Next time I will do all in my power to get to a totality zone!” FS – Atlanta, GA
I asked two college-aged men how they found this place. They said they found it on the map. It looked like the ideal place. They drove down from New York state, camping one night in Virginia at the Natural Bridge.
We met Steve and Cathleen – famed ham radio operators – collecting data along with thousands of other ham operators around the world, which they would gather during the eclipse.
A man with a thick Russian accent asked when the eclipse would start.
This van from NY wasn’t keeping their destination a secret.
Some people had arrived the day before. Everyone found a way to pass the time – anticipating the great moment.
There were hundreds of people with cameras, with all types of filters in front of the lens. Some protected their cameras with covers while they waited. The day was blazing hot, with high humidity. No one seemed to care. I myself couldn’t wait to get back to the AC.
As the eclipse began, the light coming through the leaves of the trees started to change shape. We realized that the shadows were changing from the usual round shapes, to crescents, mimicking the phase of the eclipse.
“It had been very hot and still. As it slowly became less bright, the breeze picked up. The people at Grumpy were talking enthusiastically and alternately peering up, then at our surroundings. I was looking up as the last sliver of orange disappeared when at the same time people were cheering and clapping, one woman even weeping. The darkness didn’t last long at all but the whole experience was amazing and awe-inspiring. I hope to be in a premium spot to witness Eclipse 2024!” ljs – Blue Ridge, GA
The lights began to dim. The sky took on an eerie glow.
During the total eclipse, we saw a 360º sunset. Spectacular.
“My eclipse experience was interesting since I had to work that afternoon…. We usually have a meeting on Mondays at 2 pm. We had a 15min chat, when I convinced my boss for all of us to go outside and watch the totality happen! The store was empty so, all of us, managers and employees went to the parking lot and viewed the eclipse happening. We even took turns wearing the sunglasses, since not all associates had them. There was a big crowd in the parking lot. They had tents, picnics, and chairs all on the back of their trucks… As it got dark and we could see the Corona, everybody clapped and cheered! It was very exciting…. even though we went straight back to work afterward, everybody had a great time!” Camila N – Blue Ridge, GA
The solar corona was the most fascinating thing to see. We removed our glasses during the totality and looked at the sun with binoculars. You could see the flares shooting off the sun in the corona. The corona reaches out millions of miles from the sun’s surface. The surface of the sun is about 6,000 Celsius. Oddly, the corona is much hotter than the surface, reaching temperatures of several million Celsius.
“John and I were exploring a beautiful, small cemetery on a hill in Tellico Plains as we waited for the big moment. When it finally came, it was eerie, surreal and so awesome. We could hear people cheering miles away and the cicadas were going wild. Something we will never, ever forget!” LB – Tellico Plains, TN
Then it was over. What took days to assemble, now headed home, all at the same time. It took an hour to get to the park. It took over 3 hours to get back home. It was bumper to bumper the 39 miles from Spring City (population 2,000) to Soddy-Daisy (population 13,000). I did a rough calculation of the number of cars on this stretch of road at that time. I estimate there were 4,200 cars in that stretch at any given time, for the next 3 hours, traveling at an average speed of 15 mph.
It was a wonderful experience. It was also tiring. Preparation, the short trip of 54 miles, plus the wait time and the return trip home took exactly 12 hours. Well worth it though. A great time was had by all!