A month ago, my girlfriend and I quit our jobs, left Portland, OR and put everything in storage. Awhile back we decided that something had to be better for us than living in a large city and working long weeks just to have a flush bank account. Since we already had an old Toyota pickup and a penchant for being in the wilderness, it only made sense to combine the two and create a life for ourselves on the road.
The planning began as it usually does for any trip; fantasizing about the amazing places we will visit, imagining the exotic tree-lined vistas that will serve as campsites, pouring over maps and other people’s trip reports to create a very loose itinerary. As we told more people it became very real, the trip was going to happen and it was going to be an adventure of a lifetime. The truck was ready to go, our bank accounts were as full as we could make them, and it suddenly hit us. This. Is. Terrifying.
We pulled our safety net out from under us as adeptly as anyone can and we set off. We had very few initial hard-set plans; drive straight to the Midwest and put everything in storage, see family there, get to North Carolina to experience the eclipse. The first three weeks were stressful, scheduled too tightly, and far more expensive than we had budgeted. When the time came to head south and get to NC for the eclipse we couldn’t have been more excited and optimistic.
We had known of the solar eclipse for quite some time and spent countless hours researching and talking to people who had witnessed them before. Sight unseen we booked a campsite in the middle of the Nantahala National Forest in January of this year and invited our friends from Jacksonville, FL to come up and join us. Expectations were high, plans were set, and we found an amazing cliffside lake to watch the magic unfold. Then the actual day came to witness history.
I wanted to get to the lake as early as we could and reserve a patch of grass; assuming that the lake would be packed, traffic would be awful, and everyone would have the same idea as we did. Needless to say, we didn’t wake up early and it took far longer than I planned to get moving from the campsite. Much to my surprise when we arrived there were only about 6 cars in the parking area and the lake never had many more than 50 people there. It was one of the most picturesque places I could have possibly asked for in an eclipse viewing spot. The anticipation of the entire crowd grew as it got closer to time for the moon to make its way across the sun. Sadly, the cloud cover grew at the same rate.
Aside from an initial peek at the sun you could not see anything in the sky except thick grey clouds. Thunder rolled through, some rain drops started to fall. We sat in our spot and watched people pack up and leave one by one as it got closer to the moment of totality. Jealousy set in as we received texts from friends who had clear skies, it made us question where we were and whether we should chase down the road and seek blue skies. The nature of the event was still amazing; songbirds came out in droves, the crickets chirped louder, the ducks became still and perplexed by the darkening sky. Then it happened. At the exact moment that the entire landscape became completely dark a small portion of the clouds broke. Through that small opening in the sky we watched the entirety of the eclipse.
It was one of the most amazing experiences I have ever had with the natural world. I was surrounded by the woods and very few people, four of which I had invited to experience it with me. Emotions ran over me, I couldn’t talk or do anything but sit back in my seat and cry tears of pure joy. I knew, right then and there, that everything was going to work out the way we want it to as long as we kept our intentions pure and our minds positive.
For the first time in a long time we had an actual, real world, affirmation that we are indeed doing exactly what we are supposed to be doing.