On August 21st, 2017, part of the US experienced a rare total eclipse of the sun. Wanting to see the eclipse in totality, I researched a few different areas. I finally settled on Big Scaly Mountain in the Southern Nantahala Wilderness area for its relative remoteness and proximity to the center-line of totality. Aside from some intermittent cloud cover it turned out to be a great location to view the event.

Some fun facts about a total eclipse- There are several factors that have to be just right (think Goldilocks) to see a total eclipse like the one we saw August 21st. Obviously, you have to have a luminous body (the sun), an obstructing body (the moon) and a platform to observe from (the earth). But that’s just the beginning. The orbits of the earth and the moon have to coincide at just the right angles for the eclipse to be observed. The moon’s size and distance to the sun relative to earth has to be in the right proportion. If not, it will either totally block the view or it will not block enough of the view. It just so happens that the moon is 400 times smaller than the sun, but the sun is 400 times farther away than the moon. This makes their observed size in the sky relatively the same. Additionally, the atmosphere has to be conducive to long range observation (i.e. clear). The calculations have been performed, and the best place in the entire solar system to observe a solar eclipse is from the earth. So, the one place that has observers has the best observation of a solar eclipse. And really that’s just scratching the surface. For a more comprehensive discussion see this video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zk5y5ykeQGY An amazing amount of coincidences must align perfectly just for this one event. Or are they coincidences…

Along for the ride were my youngest son, Nikolas, his fiance, Angela, and my nephew, Bryan. If you have watched our videos, you may remember Bryan from our previous visit to this area last year. Nik and Angela had never been on a hike of this magnitude before. Angela is from Michigan and has no experience with mountains like those of the Southern Appalachians. They both enjoyed the hike and the trip, and hope to get out to do more. Unfortunately, Cathy was unable to join us because her school had made special preparations for their students to observe the eclipse.

We made an early start to make sure we had time to get there, and drove up to the trailhead. The hike was only about 4ish miles or so, although it was up Big Scaly Mountain so there was some climbing involved. We arrived at the summit with time to spare, so we strung up some hammocks we brought for just such an eventuality and had a nice snooze and some lunch while waiting for the solar event to arrive.

All I had to take pictures with was my not-so-smartphone, so you really can’t tell the different phases of the eclipse very well, but you can see the glare shrink as the eclipse progressed and during totality I was able to capture a couple of cool shots of the corona and also some shots of our surroundings. All in all it was an enjoyable day, and a really cool (possibly) once in a lifetime experience. Here are some of the pictures I took during the event.

Our view from Big Scaly
The eclipse had started. You can’t really tell from my phone pics except for the irregular shape.
You can follow the progression as the glare from the sun shrinks.
As the eclipse progressed the lighting started to resemble early morning or twilight.
The horizon looked like sunset, but the sun was directly overhead.
I took this panorama during totality. The glow on the horizon was the same all the way around.
Totality. I was able to get a shot even through the clouds.
You can see here how dark it really was during the time of totality.
The actual time of totality passed so fast! It started lightening up, resembling a 360 degree sunrise.

It was really awesome to be able to experience the eclipse this way. Thanks for sharing the experience with me. Happy trails!