Exploring the wild west and my first solar eclipse

It’s been nearly 2 years since I updated this online journal of mine. I had all but decided to let it go completely.

Yet something kept nagging at the back of my mind.

Finally, a few months ago, I was paging through old stories on this site and it hit me – I really like keeping a record of my travels. It’s fun to have something to go back to and look at, to remind me of the wonderful little nuances of my trips that I would have otherwise forgotten completely.

And so, here I am again, resurrecting the old Sinbad.

I’m not even going to attempt to write about everything that’s happened over the last two years. We did, however, have a pretty significant trip a few months ago, so I figured that’s as good a place as any to pick up the torch again.

In August, Michael and I witnessed our first total solar eclipse. The “Great American Eclipse” happened to be passing directly over Yellowstone National Park, so we made a vacation out of it.

By the time I’d gotten around to booking lodging (6 or so months before), the entire valley was already booked up in anticipation of the eclipse. We ended up having to stay about 2 hours away from the entrance to Yellowstone. For the eclipse, though, that didn’t matter, as it also passed right over the little campground we were staying in in Rigby, Idaho.

The eclipse was everything I’d hoped for and more. As we sat there in the moments leading up to totality, we marveled at how unchanged everything looked. The sky was still blue. The air was still warm and bright, even when only a tiny sliver of the sun was actually visible.

As soon as the sun slipped entirely behind the moon, however, it was as if we’d stepped into a different world.

The birds stopped chirping. The light disappeared abruptly, and the temperate dropped at least 20 degrees. In the sky, the moon’s black circle was surrounded by the brilliant aura and magnificent solar flares of the sun, millions of miles behind it. Even the fact that we were able to see all of that with our naked eyes was incredible.

For two and a half minutes, we stood there marveling at the stark beauty of God’s creation. And then, just as quickly as it began, totality was over. The sky returned to normal, the birds resumed their song, and life continued just as if it had never happened.

I, however, was profoundly affected. For nearly an hour after totality ended, my heart was racing and my hands were shaking. It was one of the most intense experiences I’ve ever had in my entire life. Observing firsthand such wild beauty, such a perfectly choreographed natural dance…it was breathtaking. The heavens truly do declare the glory of God.

Seeing totality alone made the entire trip worth it. But we still had over a week to explore the magnificent wild west!

We downloaded a nifty little app that was like a private tour guide. It was GPS-enabled, so as we approached different sites it would automatically start talking to us and tell us relevant things. We named him Jack, and he was really quite knowledgeable! Jack told us all sorts of fascinating tidbits about the history of the park, the flora and fauna that live there, and more. It was well worth the $10 investment!

Most of our time was spent exploring Yellowstone – the bubbling hot springs, the hissing mud pools, and of course the majestic geysers. It is truly a breathtaking area of the country. I kept wondering what the original explorers who found Yellowstone thought when they first came across it – it must have been so disorienting and scary to be walking across boiling land!

We also, however, spent a day exploring Grand Teton National Park, a much smaller park that is “across the street” by western standards. Yellowstone has the pull of the ethereal, but the Tetons are just simply breathtakingly stunning. They are unusual as far as mountain ranges go because they don’t have any foothills – they seem to come up out of nowhere. The lack of foothills to obscure their view makes them some of the most memorable mountains you may ever see.

I could go on…I probably should go on. But the reality it that it would take me way too long to tell in detail all of the amazing things that happened to us there, and I have to pack for our next trip (we’re leaving tomorrow!). I’ll have to be content with a summary and lots of pictures. Hopefully the next entry will be way more detailed (and timely!)