How to Experience a Once-In-A-Lifetime North American Solar Eclipse
Photographer, film maker, adventurer & writer Max Lowe met up with friends in Ross Lake, Wyoming for a trip worthy of nature's most-talked about event.
A single thin, opaque cloud drifted lazily across the sky, like a lone antelope wandering the plane when all the rest of the animals had already fled, unaware of the lion hiding in the grass. As the minutes drained from the hour, a strange muffled darkness slowly overtook our group of friends, like the light was bleeding from the world around us. Suddenly, like it had happened thousands of times before across our earth and like it will happen thousands of times again into the future, long after humans are gone from this planet, the moon fit neatly into the sphere of the sun like the shaped blocks we all played with as kids, and the totality of this August 22nd, 2017’s solar eclipse shined pure white in eerie and aweing brilliance.
Elliot Ross was the ringleader in getting us all out here to this nook of natural bounty, the oblong turquoise gem of Ross Lake, in the Northeast corner of the Wind River range, Wyoming. Elliot had come ahead of the pack, camping for 4 days and nights prior to our arrival and ahead of the crowds to lay claim to our prime camping spot. Our home for the days we were here was a natural amphitheater that sat a stones throw from the waters edge, and just a little more from the jumping rock where we would plunge into the lakes icy breach each afternoon to clean the dust from our skins.
As the day and hour of the “event,” as everyone else we encountered camping around the lake referred to it as, came closer and closer, a buzz started in the air and in conversation. It being my first backpacking trip to the Wind Rivers, I was simply and utterly amazed by the rolling geomorphology and cover that surrounded us. Sharp granite spires rise a thousand feet off the lakes edge, with some of the last remaining glaciers in the contiguous US falling from their shadows, slowly melting away into the watershed below. As the eve of the eclipse’s coming fell, a tangible presence of expectation fell on our group of 12 friends, new and old, who had traveled from as far as Southern California and New York City to be here. From next to a roaring fire, we howled at the moon, and told whiskey stories, knowing that within a half day, that shining disk in the sky we all knew would change its face and maybe just maybe give us a glimpse of something we would never forget.
11:17 am marked the moment before the moment that mattered. With solar eclipse glasses purchased at a gas station en route to Wyoming, we could look into the fiery heart of our home star and see its light slowly slipping into dark. We gathered below the lip of a massive rock mound, hiding from the cold wind that hailed from its namesake mountains beyond, each of us preparing in our own ways for this thing that rushed in for us. That instant before the corona, before the moon and sun became one brilliant alien entity in the sky above, giving infinite insight into the epic complexity and yet beautiful simplicity of our cosmos, was what stamped magic into the memory most for me. Like that first morning you remember sneaking down to discover that Santa Clause had come for Christmas; we were all kids, unburdened of everything around us but for the moment.
"Like that first morning you remember sneaking down to discover that Santa Clause had come for Christmas, we’re all kids, unburdened of everything but the moment. "
*Many thanks to Max for sharing his adventure with us!