Our eclipse road trip exceeded my expectations. I worked long days, somewhat cleared my schedule, and Ben and I started driving Friday morning towards Utah. My summer had felt busy… busy but somehow not productive. And, as always, time passed too quickly. I needed a vacation but still had deadlines lurking. I waffled but made the final decision to go a few days before.
My professor defines working every day on your “vacation” as “being an adult.” I’m not convinced quite yet.
After a day in Salt Lake City we headed up to the Tetons to meet friends of friends and join a large group of eclipse watchers inside a massive migration of eclipse watchers. As usual I thought everything would be fine: traffic, access, gas, parking, accomodations. As usual, Ben did the worrying for the both of us. This took the shape of an unplanned detour to buy a gas canister, fill it up, and strap it to the roof of the Element before we hit Jackson Hole. Rumors of Jackson running out of gas filtered down to us. It made me excited to see a somewhat post-apocalyptic scene in the ski town. Ben was worried about traffic.
Driving through Jackson was uneventful. We waited a bit at one light for one left turn… but that was the extent of the chaos. The streets were, indeed, completely full of tourists. But the gas stations were working as normal and we filled up again.
Once we were in the Tetons the scene was calmer, more majestic. It was my first time there and I was completely distracted by the rock and the views. I felt some regret about never making it out there as a climber and missing my chance to explore those mountains. We successfully found a spot in the group camp site we were sharing and then went for a bike ride. I was really happy that the park had long bike trails that were perfect for soaking in the views. I’m learning how to visit places like the Tetons and keep busy, do the things I can do, not grieve too much for the things I can’t, and enjoy as much beauty as my frame can hold.
The next morning felt like a real treat: we slept in (rarely happens), our new friends made us pancakes (the best kind of friends to have!) and then we made our way to the beach where we would be watching the eclipse. Though seeing the moon take little bites of the sun through the dark glasses was interesting and we enjoyed noting how the temperature dropped and the shadows darkened, I wasn’t too impressed until totality. I also wasn’t prepared for how new, how stunning, how surreal that sight turned out. It made me want more minutes of that pseudo darkness. Photos don’t capture the beaming of the corona, the sunset colors on the horizon, the experience of being in a landscape of subtracted light. Right before totality we saw bands of darkness move across the scene. Clear patterns of wave peaks and troughs. Sunlight unraveling into constituent parts. Sunlight acting like a beam coming from a single source. These are called ‘shadow bands’ and are wonderfully mysterious. The eclipse reminded us of our universe. It changed something so fundamental to reality that you had to stop taking it for granted. What does it mean to have a sun? I can go on and on.
Afterward, we took a walk and stayed long enough in the park to avoid traffic coming home. The eclipse trip was a success! And nothing bad happened except we accidentally forgot the full canister of gas at one of the gas stations.
The rest of the “vacation” was allocated for physical therapy and for some paragliding with Project Airtime. I was pretty thrilled to try flying. I have the opposite of a fear of heights. Views from above always fill me with joy. I’m excited about this new way of chasing them down.
Paragliding is very weather dependent so our schedule revolved around texts to Chris, the person taking us flying, and his take on the winds. On days we couldn’t go we went biking up in Park City. Jeff at National Abilities Center, one of the amazing humans I feel incredibly fortunate to meet through my injury, hooked me up with a fun mountain bike despite very short notice.
I’ve written a lot already. I won’t say much about Paragliding. Except to say it was just a taste — I hope to do more, later. It made me curious. The feeling is unreal and more gentle float than I expected. I love leaning a new world, feeling it open up. Leaning to navigate in three dimensions is a mind-altering experience.
Here is a video of my first flight with Project Airtime: