I had never seen a total solar eclipse. When I heard that an opportunity to see a total solar eclipse would happen this month, I decided that it was a once in a lifetime (my lifetime) event not to be missed.
As soon as I heard about the eclipse, I started researching locations within the path of totality. From viewing the map of the path, I determined that the closest place would be Charleston, S.C. Numerous phone calls to hotels in the area resulted in a list of very discouraging no vacancies . Luckily, with perseverance, I was able to find a room in Savannah, GA which is only a short drive to Charleston. This was exciting! I was going to be able to see the eclipse!
Oh, wait. I needed some of the special eclipse glasses. I thought that would be easy as surely every place in town would be selling them. Of course, since this whole trip was somewhat last minute, I couldn't find any glasses. They were either sold out or the stores never got them in the first place. A check on line showed glasses available for $20 a pair. Ouch, some dark film and cardboard didn't seem to warrant such a high price. But fate would step in and a local television station announced they were going to give away free glasses on a particular day within a 2 hour time frame. I made sure to arrive early and, as anticipated, the line was fairly long even at an hour and half before the event was to start. Still, I was able to get the free glasses and was all set!
Sunday morning I loaded up the car with a cooler, picnic blankets, snacks, drinks, solar glasses, the dog (of course), camera and everything I could think of to take to the eclipse. A quick stop along the way to obtain last minute items finalized everything. I had heard that due to the large numbers of people planning to view the eclipse, cell service might be interrupted. I stopped to get an old fashioned, paper map at the Welcome Center in case my GPS stopped working. I was afraid that traffic would be bad heading up to Savannah, but all was clear on I-95. A check on weather leading up to the eclipse showed partial cloudiness along the southern east coast. This might prove a problem for eclipse viewing. I was glad I got that map as I could look to see if there was a location that was better, weather-wise.
Sunday evening, at the motel, I again checked the weather. It didn't look good for Charleston. I found the map of the path of totality on the computer, and with my paper map, looked for another place to see the eclipse. Parameters for choosing a place were: not too far to drive, within the path, good weather forecast, some place not too populated to avoid traffic issues and, if at all possible, in an area with some elevation. I settled on Edgefield, S.C. A look on Google Earth showed a small town to the west of the coast accessible by back roads. It looked perfect!
6:00 AM Monday morning I was re-loaded the car and got an early start to avoid any traffic. Fortunately, I-95 was mostly clear and a short drive lead to the exit toward western South Carolina. The day had dawned partially cloudy and up-dated weather forecasts warned of thickening clouds and possible rain in the Charleston area. I was glad I had an alternative plan.
GPS indicated that the drive to Edgefield would take approximately 3 hours. I had left plenty of time in case of traffic, which wasn't necessary as it turned out. The eclipse was due to happen around 2:30 PM eastern time and I arrived in Edgefield at 10:30 AM. The town square was already filling up with people setting up tents, telescopes and chairs to view the eclipse. A quick look around showed parking to be filled up and people were still streaming into town. I decided to drive out of town and find a better place to set up. While driving around, I noticed that the day was beginning to cloud up. Darn! I pulled out the map and decided to head further west. I re-set the GPS and headed for Saluda, SC.
Much like Edgefield, Saluda's town square was full of people and I drove out of town and found a great place to watch the eclipse at a church parking lot. Other people had gathered there as well and the sky cleared up allowing us to get a clear view of the eclipse. Here is what we saw:
The day began to darken as the shadow of the moon started to cross the sun as you can see in these photos.
Darkness fell all around us, the temperature fell and crickets, confused by the nightfall, began to chirp. Everyone stood in awe looking at the sky. It was an awesome sight and I was so happy I was there to see it!
The entire eclipse only lasted a little over two minutes and it was all over. With a long drive ahead, I hit the road and then did find that traffic I had dreaded earlier in the day. Part way home, it started to rain and at one point, a double rainbow appeared in the sky. What a day!
It's a little faint, but you can see the extra rainbow to the left of the brighter one. Traffic as heavy and I didn't arrive back home until almost midnight. The long day was worth the trip and I was happy to have been able to experience the eclipse. The next one is in 7 years. Maybe I'll get to see it.