I have admittedly been blessed to see some magnificent places in my twenty three years. None, however, will ever compare to the empyrean experience I witness beside some of my dearest friends in the High Tetons on August 21, 2017.
There had been much buzz surrounding the event throughout the Western United States. We started heading Northbound two full days before the eclipse. We ventured North into Idaho expecting jammed freeways, gas stations that had run out of gas and hiking trails that felt like amusement park lines… But it wasn’t anything like that. We went to a movie in Rexburg, ate dinner at Wingers and spent the night at a friend’s family member’s house, all the while marveling at how little traffic there was. The movie theater parking lot had been sectioned off to be repurposed into a RV parking lot, charging $50 a stall… It sat empty. It’s almost as if all the talk of crowds in the months leading up to the eclipse had, well, scared the crowds off. That night we slept soundly (I did at least) in the comfort of a home in Rexburg, anticipating the alarm clock that would soon beacon us to the high craggy heaven that is the Tetons.
We set off from a trailhead on the West side of the Teton Range the day before the much anticipated Total Solar Eclipse. Joining our group of “regulars” were two traveling Australians, Barra and Jake. I’ll admit… When I first heard that we had invited two vagabonds to journey into the woods with us… I was nervous. They ended up being comic relief and newfound lifelong friends.
About five miles in, we stopped on a dry, exposed slope for a moment to rest and readjust our packs. Someone casually said, I think that’s a bear… IT WAS A BEAR. AND IT WAS NOT CASUAL! We set off down the hill speedily to get a better glimpse (because what else do you do when faced with a notoriously dangerous animal?). We found him alright, and he ended up being a little bit too close for comfort if you ask me (JK, there’s not such thing, I love bears, wink wink). We followed it up the hillside for a couple of paces and then Christian wisely said, “He guys, don’t you think we should give him some space the clear out?” Years of training as we worked side-by-side at a Boy Scout Camp on the Teton/Yellowstone border had escaped us all momentarily. To our boss, friend and teacher Delose, if you’re reading this, I’m sorry. We knew better.
After our friend had meandered off we began moving again. Then, casually, we ran into a mother moose with her baby. THIS IS NOT CASUAL PEOPLE. If science had somehow made an error in their calculations and the moon had ended up missing the sun completely, this had already been an awesome trip.
That evening we made camp along a alpine lake, Granite Basin Lake #2 . Having sweat our way up an extreme slope all day, we were eager to take a tip in the cool waters (even those who had not thought to bring a swimming suit, haha).
We made freeze dried delights that night and settled in for what would be the last night before our lives changed forever (I kid you not, I take this experience that serious).
We arose early the next morning and set off to find a towering High Teton ledge where we would gather to watch the total eclipse of the sun occur… Not at the time knowing that it would be the ledge on which our lives would be refined forevermore.
It began. The moon slowly (and I mean slowly) started to edge its way onto front stage. The sun, not one to be outshone, stayed brightly beaming until the very end. The moon was in no hurry so as we sat and waited, we snacked on red vines and taunted the moon to get a move on it (See the video, haha).
Then, although it had been hours in the works, neigh, years in the works, the lineup occurred. All went dark, and cold. The mighty Tetons were silhouetted against a soft orange and periwinkle sky. At first there was silence, awe, disbelieve, then came hysteria, shouts of glee and exclamations of disbelieve.
It was outer-wordly, celestial and planetary.
Victoria wisely reminded us “Remember guys, we’ve only got two minutes!” No amount of time would have seemed long enough.
The horizon was a beautiful perpetual sunset 360 degrees around us. Tears sprang to my eyes as I felt as though I was closer to heaven than I had ever been before.
And then, just like that, it was over. The sun was back to blinding us as the terrain began to brighten, coloring the landscape around us an eerie greenish-purplish. We grabbed for our jackets, still without words, chilled from the night air, at nearly noon, on the afternoon of August 21st.
I didn’t take any photos during the eclipse, but I did video our reactions and what I could of the eclipse. I was simply too busy experience my life. As we all should, whenever we want to.
I found myself wandering back to camp, away from the group, still processing what I had just witnessed. I never wanted to forget it. I longed (and long) for everyone I love to experience it.
The rest of the day, for me, was a reminiscent blur. We packed up camp and began to head down the hill, 7 miles back to the trailhead. When we weren’t huffing and puffing our way up the hills, we chattered about the juicy meal (usually involving beef with this group) that awaited us in Jackson Hole that evening. We curiously questioned every group or individual we met on the trail about their eclipse experience, eager to share in what had been the most enchanting episodes of our young lives.
Eventually the trailhead came into sight. We dumped our packs on the ground and sliced into a luscious watermelon my friend Dallin had thought to bring. Now, ya’ll know I’m not one to ever shun a cultural experience… But let me tell you, vegimite is one delicacy I definitely could have lived my life without. Barra and Jake if you’re reading this, I love you and your culture, please forgive me, haha!
We then loaded up to head across the divide into Jackson Hole where we descended on Liberty Burger. Remember what I had said about not finding the crowds we expected? Well that was not the case in downtown Jackson–the lines were long and the prices were high.
After properly stuffing ourselves with sweet potato fires and savory burgers, we laid a map of the mighty Wind River Range out on the table and begin planning our next adventure… Which, as luck, or perhaps misery, would have it, began tomorrow morning…
Tune in to my next blog post for my wanderlust wonderings in the Wind River Mountains.