Tuesday, August 22, 2017

Catching Totality at Dream Lake

There are tons of better photos than this online.  But this is one I took at Dream Lake about 2:37 PM yesterday.
For years my 'Dillo friends have gathered at Dream Lake located in the northwest South Carolina foothills for camping, partying, and relaxation. (You can read about some past trips here, here, and here).  So it was only natural that we should all come together when we discovered the 2017 Total Eclipse would occur there, only 5 miles from the center of the totality's path.

Some arrived on Saturday.  Jeffery and I got there on Sunday. There were about 11 of us on hand for swimming that afternoon and for the usual decadent dinner that evening. Another 9 or 10 joined us on Monday.  We were all far more fortunate than most.  We had all that wonderful isolated space to ourselves for the event.

On Sunday afternoon we all enjoyed swimming in Dream Lake.  It was over 90 degrees and the water felt very refreshing. 

Gathering in the shade of the shed at the dock.  Lots of conversation, booze, and water.
Jeffery and I arrived at Dream Lake about 12:30 on Sunday, having stopped for lunch along the way. We took the longer (distance-wise), but a bit faster (time-wise) route of heading down I-75 to Atlanta, then across to I-85 and up to South Carolina.  We would have arrived sooner but unfortunately I realized my four pair of solar glasses were not in my ditty bag.  We turned back to Twin Oaks even though we were already 35 minutes down the road.  

Jeffery took it all in stride but I was furious with myself for being so forgetful.  Only I didn't realize how forgetful I really was until we arrived back home to discover the glasses were not where I thought I had left them.   Not seeing them there instantly brought to mind where I had stashed them.  They were in my camera bag instead - which was with us all along, of course.  Ugh.

I stewed about my iffy 58 year-old memory all the way up to Dream Lake.  But soon the combination of the pastoral space, the water, the companionship and plenty of Stellas mellowed my mind. Swimming in the lake was relaxing as always.  The day was sunny and incredibly hot, so hot that the top 8-10 inches of the water felt lukewarm.  But it quickly and refreshingly cooled as you got deeper. I used my hands to push the warmer water down over my body into the cooler depths, which felt fantastic.  Soon most everyone was swimming and the temperature distinction was less pronounced as the lake got churned up.   

There was a light breeze to help keep things cool once we got out and relaxed under the dock shed. The cooler of beer we brought down from the cabin in the golf cart brought superb refreshment.  Clint had some wonderful laid-back Pat Metheny playing on the bluetooth boombox that usually accompanies his iPad on such trips.  The afternoon included the first time I had ever paddle boarded. Mark and I went out and traversed the lake together.  It was all very tranquil.
At some point in the early evening I took nap only to awaken to a marvelous dinner feast of various fruits, salads, grilled meats, and sweet corn on the cob.  It was another stupendous Cumberland Island Armadillo feast.  We ate as darkness fell. I slept nine hours afterward - a true rarity for me.

Breakfast Monday morning was prepared in the cabin.  None too soon for this bunch.

Jeffery and Bob converse over coffee.
On Monday. I had my game face on for the eclipse. No booze, just plenty of water all day as it was hotter than Sunday.  We enjoyed a wonderful eclectic breakfast featuring one of Jennifer's excellent frittatas, homemade biscuits, bacon, fruit, etc.  Everyone kind of scattered to do their own thing.  Some went swimming, some tended to work-related matters over the cabin's Wi-Fi since it was a Monday, after all.  I began checking my camera and solar glasses after I cleared out some work emails and briefly piddled with my Flipboard maintenance.

Others arrived.  Everyone relaxed under the shade of the giant trees out on the lawn on the edge of the field while awaiting totality at 2:36.  The action started way before that, of course.  And we all watched the Moon slowly traverse over the surface of the Sun starting about 1PM.  We were careful not to look too long even with the glasses.  The rule most of us agreed upon was that three total minutes of viewing was safe.  So, it was more glancing than staring at that point for me.  I tried out the view in Mark's homemade cardboard device, Bob's welding masks, and my solar glasses (whose location was now fixed in my mind's eye - it was my water bottle I kept misplacing at this point.)  Appropriately enough, Clint had a series of Pink Floyd albums playing out on the lawn.  We listened to Meddle and Wish You Were Here before Dark Side of the Moon came up.  I fully enjoyed the music and it went with my tee shirt (see photo below).

Christine and Clint relax in the yard awaiting the eclipse.

What better time for me to wear my Dark Side of the Moon tee shirt?

Mark made a handy viewer for catching the eclipse.

Bob brought a couple of welding masks which worked very well.

Traditional solar glasses were also in abundance.  We were careful to make sure they all sported the proper certification.

Jennifer was all set with her glasses.  There were dozens tiny crescent reflections of the tree-filtered sun on the sheet she placed on the the ground behind her.  
Then it arrived. About 2:30 the light slowly dimmed.  My experience of it was that my depth of view was flatted and everything slowly took on a bluish hue, the colors muted. Then came the 2 and a half minutes of totality.  The cicadas and other night bugs started making themselves known.  A rooster crowed from some distant farm.  I don't recall any of us saying much to one another, we were all transfixed by the actual site of totality.  It was safe to take off the glasses and just admire the sky.  It did not get as dark as I was expecting. Only the brighter stars and Venus, Mars, and Mercury were in view, which still pretty cool in the middle of the day.  The horizon looked like any other sunset - only it was 360 degrees all around us.  

I had to remind myself to take pictures.  The Moon covering the Sun was simply stunning and transfixed me for a moment.  Those couple of minutes seemed to pass in like 20 seconds.  It was probably the most remarkable natural event I have every witnessed.  What an inspiring experience, made even more special by the gathering at the lake.

This give you some idea of the luxurious open field space we enjoyed catching the eclipse.  Certainly plenty of room for 20 people or so along with the inevitable assortment of dogs, of course. I took this photo only a few seconds before totality began.  Although you can't really tell it, the light had started to dim and the natural color slowly became muted.

My photos don't really do it justice.  Catching it live was exhilarating.  It was the first total eclipse any of us had witnessed.
We didn't linger very long afterwards.  There was some concern about traffic and getting back home. Jennifer and I took a route through the north Georgia mountains on the way back.  Turns out that was the right move, even though it still took us almost five hours to make the 3 and a half hour trip. Traffic was horrible in places with people descending from northeast Georgia and North Carolina onto the limited road network of the mountains.  Still, it was a scenic trip with nice views of Lake Burton and other areas. 

Meanwhile, Jeffery attempted to go back the way we came only to discover I-85 was basically a parking lot with all the folks headed back to Atlanta from South Carolina.  He bailed about halfway to take the back roads, but those were pretty crowded as well.  He arrived home about an hour and half after we did.  Mark, Eileen, Bob, Clint, Christine and the other Atlanta dwellers had to tough it out all the way into the city.  It was not the best way to experience the afterglow of the celestial event.

But it was worth it.  How fortunate we were to have totality visit a private getaway spot that we have visited for over 25 years.  Dream Lake has a lot of memories for me but this past weekend takes the cake. 

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