20 hours for 2 minutes

To be honest, I wasn’t nearly as excited about the Great American Eclipse as my space-obsessed, nerdy husband. So when he asked if I wanted to take a 20-hour round-trip journey to see the eclipse in totality (or total solar eclipse) to North Carolina, I was a bit reluctant.

Figuring it was a once-in-a-lifetime experience, we loaded our car with copious amounts of caffeine, camping gear, and road trip essentials, and began to cruise down 95 south. Originally, our destination was Dupont National Forest in Western NC, but we opted to keep driving (what’s another hundred miles when you’ve done 600?) to Clemson University in Clemson, SC.

We pulled into Clemson’s half-empty parking lot around dawn. After a quick yoga sesh, we headed up to Clemson’s quad, where the celebration unfolded. There, scientists, eclipse chasers (people that plan international trips around the eclipse), and amateur astronomers started to unfurrow their blankets, test out their glasses, enjoy the local radio station’s killer playlist (I wear my sunglasses at night, pure genius!), and the waiting game began. By noon and two hours to go until totality, every inch was packed with space spectators. In between snoozes in the car, we noticed a small farm adjacent to campus. We grabbed our chairs and cooler and made our way down to giant oak, an oasis from the August heat. Under the canopy, our viewing party included two local families, an AP photographer, and the farm’s employees.

The air was abuzz with excitement as the moon danced across the sky and temperatures began to dip. As the sky grew darker at 2:00 p.m., our little band of eclipse enthusiasts grew quieter and quieter. At 2:08 p.m., the moon took its place in front of the sun, creating a glowing white circle around the moon in an otherwise dark sky. Coyotes wailed. Locusts chirped. Skylights went on around us. For two minutes, the entire country stood in silence, in awe of this incredible phenomenon. In those two minutes, it hit me why we needed to make this pilgrimage.

We returned to our car and started to make our way back to our campground. After a delightful barbecue feast, we crashed early at our campsite. The next day, we took a long way home, stopping in state forests to hike waterfalls, visiting caverns, observing majestic mountains at overlooks, and grabbing lunch and shopping at the artsy Asheville.

I tried to make the trip as restorative as possible, only using my phone for trip-related tasks (directions, check bank account, etc.), and it reminded me how important it is to stay be present. While I may have to wait a few more years for totality in driving distance again, I can certainly unplug, enjoy my surroundings, and look up at the sky in awe any day.

Photos by Kyle Hudson. 

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