The Great American Solar Eclipse fell on a very important date to me: my six year anniversary with Charlie. We learned of this well over a year in advance. Our initial plan had been the Tetons but after adopting our rescue mutt, Lily, we wanted to share the adventure with her. We wanted to find a city within driving distance of our home that fell in the path of totality. A few internet searches later and voila! Bryson City, it was.
The magic of Bryson City was, unlike the west, the prices hadn’t skyrocketed in anticipation of the eclipse. Even better, Swain county put together an event specifically for viewing the eclipse that costed ten dollars and included the eclipse viewing glasses. The venue was dog-friendly, plus they had arranged for a band and some food trucks. It was in a grassy knoll with 360 degree views of the mountains. The sky stayed clear, the crowds were nothing like we heard in other areas, and we had a cabin all to ourselves for the weekend.
In Bryson City, our cabin was nestled just outside the Great Smoky Mountains National Park and the Nantahala National Forest. We chilled some beers, made dinner, and sat outside enjoying the soothing sounds of the creek with a gorgeous view of the stars. Lily got to go with us everywhere during our trip. It wound up being a great thing. She trusted us a lot more and she even skimmed through a Pynchon novel, very high brow for a pup. Lily’s favorite part of the trip was hiking the Oconaluftee River Trail, one of the two dog friendly walking paths in Great Smoky Mountain National Park. It was shady the whole way and adjacent to the river, which made for a great trail to take her on early morning.
After, we explored Bryson City then spent the rest of the evening at our cabin, hanging out on the back porch in the hot tub drinking beers. We celebrated our 6 year anniversary the night before the Solar Eclipse, exchanging “gifts.” Our presents were handmade. Mine was a letter to him and his was a book where he compiled our greatest hits over the last few years. The best part was that he used the greatest hits book to propose! I said yes! The proposal was perfect and Solar Eclipse day was even better since it was our first day engaged.
On Eclipse day, I woke up way earlier than usual because I was too excited to get good sleep. I didn’t realize how rare a treat Total Solar Eclipses were until I did some research. The coffee shops were packed early, but we waited patiently in line stocking up on treats for the day. We brought a cooler of ice and a shade pop-tent to tailgate in at the event park. We got to the park early. I was jittery with excitement. My main goal for the event was to just enjoy the Eclipse. We sat in the tent, reading books and hanging out. We talked to our tailgate neighbors, walked Lily around the park, and monitored the sky with our rad paper eclipse glasses.
The scenery was beautiful, which was good because there was a whole lot of waiting. Even with the glasses, looking at the sun made my eyes and head ache. For the first hour or more, the sun was merely moving towards a crescent moon shape. About half an hour before totality, the light in the sky started to dim in a dusk-like manner. I felt like I was going blind. The moon was like a dimmer switch being put over the sun. As it got darker, the temperature dropped noticeably. It was a hot, humid day with full-on sunshine. During the half hour before and after totality, the sweltering heat and humidity subsided with the added treat of a cool breeze.
Totality lasted for nearly two minutes and it was nothing I expected. Unlike in my picture, the sky was not black. Jupiter and the bigger planets made a brief cameo, but the sky was a deep blue, too bright for a starry night. The sunbeams emanating from the corona glinted like a diamond; pure white light bursting with flints of prism-esque color.
The sheer awe and wonder of totality made me feel removed from myself. I felt connected to the universe in a way I hadn’t before. The miracle of our planet aligning to create such utter, pure beauty is such a foreign experience. We are fortunate science has enabled us to understand the cosmic nature of these events. There is infinite beauty to be found on our planet, but totality was something beyond us: cosmic, universal. A solar eclipse is beyond manufacturing. It is protected from our touch.
We stayed until we got too hot and hungry to enjoy ourselves. We picked up a pizza and savored our last night at the cabin. We couldn’t stop talking about the Eclipse. We decided we have to go see the next North American Solar Eclipse in 2024.