2017 total solar eclipse

I was lucky enough to be one of the tens of thousands of people that flocked to one of the 14 states across North America to post up within the path of totality while the moon completely covered the sun for two minutes on August 21.

I took pictures. I made a time-lapse. I sat in awe during the moment of the total solar eclipse. In reviewing the photos I took, I can definitely say that no picture can fully capture the beauty and amazing experience that I had. If you have the means and ability, I highly suggest trying to make the pilgrimage to one of the cities within the path of totality in 2024, when the next total solar eclipse is scheduled to cross North America.

Some highlights of my experience

2017 total solar eclipse

Though the entire event was inspirational and stunning, there were a few observations that stood out for me. Watching an eclipse is about more than just looking at the sun through eclipse glasses for an hour. When you take a moment to look around you, you see some amazing and unusual things.

  • The temperature dropped significantly in a very short period of time. The standard temperature for the day in Salem, OR was in the high eighties. During the 15 minutes or so before and after the total eclipse, it dropped by about 20 degrees.

  • As the moon moved in front of the sun, the darkening of the sky was different than just a sunset. The sky had a sort of flat lighting that I've never seen in nature before.

  • When the eclipse reached slightly more than half, the mosquitos started buzzing. When it reached about three-quarters, crickets began chirping.

  • When the eclipse reached 100%, I saw a bat fly overhead and streetlights turned on automatically.

  • The moment I took off my eclipse-viewing glasses and looked up at the total solar eclipse was one of the most impressive natural events I've ever experienced.

Some suggestions for the next eclipse trip

2017 total solar eclipse

Because this was the first time in nearly 40 years that much of Northern America would experience a total solar eclipse, there was no substantial data to predict what travel would be like. Some cities overstocked for big influxes of people that never arrived. Other cities were bogged down with massive traffic jams that lasted for hours.

I can only speak to my personal experience, but I definitely think my suggestions could help across the board for those hitting the road in 2024 (or whenever you want to chase the next total solar eclipse).

  • Don't leave right after the eclipse ends. There was a bit more congestion throughout the weekend than is normal, but was otherwise fine. It was the drive back home afterward that was crushing. It took us four hours to go 40 miles. People arrived within the path of totality at different times, but all left to go home at the same time. Wait it out for at least half a day before heading home.

  • Don't use alternate route suggestions from map apps to avoid traffic. The problem with this method during a heightened level of congestion is that alternate routes end up getting bogged down with traffic, too. Google Maps may suggest taking a rural road that parallels the freeway to cut traffic by a half hour, but if everyone else is also taking that suggestion, it'll end up taking much longer than just using the straight freeway route.

  • Have water and snacks on hand in case you're stuck in traffic longer than you anticipated. I only had time to eat a single piece of toast before leaving for the eclipse in the morning. Due to the four-hour return trip, I didn't have anything else to eat until after 3:00 p.m.. Thank goodness I had plenty of water. But, that created another problem; needing to use the bathroom.

Watching a total solar eclipse may happen more than once in your lifetime, but it's still a once-in-a-lifetime experience. If you're able to take a trip to see the next one that comes around, I highly recommend it. The experience is truly remarkable.