Eclipse fever!

As the big day approaches, a 2-hour drive to the path of totality becomes tempting

MATTHEW BARTMANN These photos taken in Larimer County during the October 2014 partial solar eclipse, holding eclipse glasses over the lens of a Canon SX50hs.

No need to book an overpriced motel for the August 21 solar eclipse, because getting to the “path of totality” is easy to do as a day trip when you live in northern Colorado!

Easiest and quickest: Drive straight north.

You only need to go about 115 miles north of Fort Collins, straight up I-25, to hit prime viewing of the 100% total phase of the eclipse—a once-in-a-lifetime experience for most of us.

The eclipse starts about 10:15 a.m. (depending on location; check before you go), with totality about an hour later, so get an early start. To check exact times and percentage of totality for any location, just use the nifty simulator at https://eclipsemega.movie/simulator

Be ready to take back roads, in case everyone else has the same idea and traffic on I-25 turns out to be a nightmare. Gas up before you go, and bring food and water with you.

SCREENSHOT FROM EXPEDIA.COM
Make a day trip to view the total eclipse—about 4 hours total drive time from Fort Collins—and you won’t need an astronomically priced motel. These are in Casper for the night of August 21.

Park your car anywhere that’s safely off the road—a fast food place, a parking lot, a highway rest stop, a back road, wherever you can get well off the road to ohh and ahh over the eclipse.

The show lasts about 2 hours from start to finish, as the moon moves across between us and the sun.

If there are trees nearby, all the better, as long as they don’t block your view of the sun. You don’t want to miss the leaves acting as “pinhole projectors,” casting shadows that show real-time progress of the eclipse. Watch for those shadows to become crescents as the show progresses.

Many organizations are hosting get-togethers with telescopes and explanations, but you can just marvel at it with your own eyes, then read the explanations later if you’re so inclined.

The totality band runs in a wide, downward-curving arc across eastern Wyoming, roughly east along I-75 and then U.S. 26, from Casper through Glendo, Fort Laramie and Torrington, WY.

Those towns are smack dab in the middle of the totality zone, and motels that usually run $60-$80 a night are going for unbelievable prices.

But here’s a secret—you don’t need to be at the center of the path of totality to see the total eclipse!

You’ll see a genuine, 100% total eclipse, that famed glowing circlet of gold, anywhere within the path, not just at its center.

That means you can see the total eclipse from any pull-over area within the totality path, without spending a dime or dealing with hordes of people. Pack a lunch to enjoy while you’re watching.

The band of totality is about 70 miles wide from top to bottom, and even within its bottom edge, say, near Wheatland, WY, you’ll still see a total eclipse.

Only difference: totality will last about a minute less than in the center of the band. Instead of being able to stare at it for 2.5 minutes, you’ll get to see the total eclipse for about 1.5 minutes.

As the sun darkens, watch and listen for the sights and sounds of normal twilight—robins, thrushes, and other birds singing evening songs, bats coming out, hummingbirds leaving the feeder to seek shelter for the “night.” When the moon moves off from blocking the sun, the bird calls and activity of daytime will begin, just as they do at a normal dawn.

A once in a lifetime experience in our own backyard! No wonder eclipse fever is starting to set in. Make your plans now for Monday, August 21, or just take off and head north on impulse on eclipse morning. And let’s all hope the weather is good.

If work or other obligations don’t allow for a road trip, you will still see an almost-total eclipse. Fort Collins and north will see 96% or better coverage of the sun by the moon, and that’s darn close to the thrill of totality.

Wherever you watch from, DO NOT LOOK AT THE SUN WITH BARE EYES. Even when fully eclipsed, the sun’s rays are powerful enough to damage your eyes for hours, days—or forever. Eclipse glasses are selling out fast at grocery stores, drugstores, and other retail outlets, but you can make a quick and easy “pinhole projector” out of a cardboard box (https://www.timeanddate.com/eclipse/box-pinhole-projector.html), for safely watching the show without looking at the sun.

 

 

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