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Archive for August, 2017

Totality Awesome

We were made for something bigger explains John Piper. We want to see beauty, power, symmetry, the unexplainable, the amazing, because we were made to fellowship with God. So, because of our separation from Him, we seek the beauty of His works. And those of us who know Him want more of Hm even when our tendency is to run and hide sometimes.

Today’s solar eclipse has a perceived spiritual element to it that even the most seared of conscience recognize. It points us, not to some vague internal spirituality or external, non-personal energy field of the universe, but to the Designer, the Artist, the Author, Who writes with power upon the sky this day, and in reality, every day. We are so apt to make idols of God’s works, gods in our own image, but if we would turn these deep emotional high’s into occasions of praise of the Creator, then our knowledge of and joy in Him would be deepened. I wanted to see it all and give Him praise.

When we arrived in the vicinity Huckleberry Knob around 8 AM, several thousand people and several hundred tents having preceded us. We had to park about a 1/2 mile from the beginning of the 1 mile trail. It was an easy walk, but it felt more like arriving a crowded ballpark than a mountain top wilderness area. People were quiet and polite and moving around to fix breakfast or clean up. We all shared the same objective. The top of the knob was partitioned by personal space, each little group selecting a patch of grass to sit down in. Closest to the peak dozens of tripods held telescopes, cameras, and video cameras. Neighbors swapped shop talk about equipment, procedures, and arrival challenges. The long wait was light-hearted, with much visiting, snoozing, games, and rechecking equipment

The top of the knob had a cloud slowly swirling around it. It would build and then fade, but was not going away. My sons and I made a decision about 20 minutes after C1, which was obscured, to move out from under the clouds. With just over an hour until totality we ran down the one mile trail and the older son ran on to the car about 1/2 mile along the Skyway while we watched the equipment. We stopped once about 3 miles down the mountain to see about 1/2 solar coverage, but the cloud again obscured the scene after a few minutes. We finally stopped about 8 miles away from the top at Santeetlah Gap. There were perhaps a dozen people here and at least one who had exited the top of the mountain as we had. The crowd was less intense. A man nearby had an eclipse phone app; he turned up the volume so we could all anticipate the events. My youngest son and I maintained the telescope screen alignment in order to follow the progress to totality. I spread a sheet on the ground. As totality approached the dimming light caused me to think that my eyes were mal-adjusting to light. Insects began chirping as though near sunset. Shadow bands appeared faintly on the sheet at about one minute before C2. The temperature began dropping and dimming accelerated. We saw Bailey’s Beads caused by mountains on the Moon, but we did not see the diamond ring. 

Totality was simply awesome. The corona streamed out in light and dark bands to left and right at least one and one half sun diameters. My first reaction upon removing my eclipse glasses was that this did not look real but like it was airbrushed on the sky. My second thought was to want to sing the Doxology, which I did later, because here I was looking directly toward the Sun without eye protection and without damage, seeing one God’s wonders. It felt like a dim reminder of what Moses experienced when placed in the cleft of the rock seeing the afterglow of God’s glory. The corona’s silvery-white sheen with black streaks shown with an eerie, flame-like beauty. We could see stars all around the corona, including Venus to the right. My youngest son discerned a red star above the Sun. I will go back and see if that was Mars. The insects got quiet, the horizon we could see in various directions between mountains all showed of sunset colors.  The older son said afterwards that it was the fastest 2:36 of our lives. People around us exclaimed “awesome” and “wow” throughout totality as if refraining from voicing amazement was not possible.

The diamond ring came without warning at C4 as a bright flash we were unprepared to see. Rushing to put the eclipse glasses back on, I saw Bailey’s Beads again, followed by shadow bands. Insects came alive again. With each passing minute the light increased.

The show was not over but after about 10 minutes we realized that there were going to be thousands of cars coming off the mountain soon and tens of thousands coming out of every tributary road toward home. We grabbed our simple equipment hastily, including the sheet which was very damp with dew, and sped off down the road. On the 4-lane we met our first 30 minutes slowdown. We began to move again and assumed we had dodged the traffic bullet. We even stopped for about 5 minutes to watch C5.

But ease of travel was not to be this day. On US74 we ran into a slowdown for 2+ hours at an average speed of less than 10 mph. After passing a major intersection we sped onward only to be stopped for 2 1/2 hours on I-40 near Ridgecrest where a semi and trailer had plunged off of an embankment and was being winched back onto the road. Certainly getting the driver to the hospital was a priority, but I wonder why during a record traffic event the truck could not have been left until the next day. My sons were about to come out of their skin, so I urged them to walk forward to see what was holding us up. They estimated that they walked 4 miles. One remembered that we were low on fuel with no reasonable way to obtain any. He saw a pick-up truck with a gas can and asked if it had fuel. He asked the man how much he wanted for it and gave him $10 for the can and about one gallon of gas. The vehicle behind him gave them another gallon of gas. Without this quick thinking and generosity we almost certainly would have been part of the cause of traffic problems. Instead, we made it home without having to get gasonline. I decided while I waited that the eclipse/traffic combination was an analogy for much of life- 2 minutes of glory sandwiched between many hours of drudgery and difficulty. But if you accept that God gives joy in the glory and contentment in the mundane, you may enjoy life and see His hand at work in both. It took us 3 hours to get to the mountain from our home and 8 1/2 hours to get back home. Was it worth it? Yes, it was in my mind for what I saw and expereinced, with whom I experienced it, and from Who’s hand it was given.

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What have we gotten ourselves into?

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A light-footed jaunt

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Tent City

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The Art of Waiting

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An all too close flyby

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Let’s get serious

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Humble equpiment

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set-up

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Clouds are beautiful but this one is poorly timed

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I love mountain vegetation

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Ontario to Florida

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Adjacent blog

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OK!

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The color of a partial eclipse

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It takes all kinds and their pets

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Now its happening

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Check the secondary lens image

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Just don’t have the fancy equipment

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Almost there

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Totality!

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It’s a pity when life gets in the way of blogging (just kidding!). But I have so many thoughts and experiences from the summer that I could blog for quite some time. It is not likely to happen as I see more things happening soon, but that’s OK.

I did want to share a few thoughts and pictures. I don’t often suggest books for several reasons. I do more technical reading than reading for pleasure, and frankly many books don’t meet my high standard of what I would unreservedly pass on to those I call friends, or enemies for that matter since I want them to one day be friends. A book that I can enthusiastically suggest is “The Book That Made Your World, How the Bible Created the soul of Western Civilization” by Vishal Mangalwadi. Because of his culture and his faith he simultaneously looks at the West as an outsider and insider at the same time. I keep having the feeling that he is correcting much error from lies our culture has fed us about how we got to where we are. He uses personal experiences and copious quotes to show the deep imprint of the Bible on western culture. I think that you will hear more about it here once I am finished with it.

My friend, colleague, and climbing partner, CC, took me to two boulders I’d never been to before. In fact, he had only been there a few days before with another climbing buddy for the first time cleaning about ten problems, laying a thick base of branches in a wet spot, and clearing part of a large fallen tree. I was privileged to try out the new rock. I like to go back to old familiar routes, but there is a particular excitement about trying new routes, and particularly ones that haven’t been climbed before. I was definitely not climbing at the top of my game, only topping out on a V1 and 3 V2’s. I tried two V4 and got shut down. Both problems involved a gaston with my left hand that I could not stick. It has challenged me to train that weakness. On the second one I discovered that if I did a side pull with my right hand instead, I could top out to the left much easier. We both agreed that it would rate as a V2. I decided to name it “Easy Out”. The two pictures are of me on the right sidepull and the topout. We saw several Cardinal Flowers in the wet, rich spots by the creek. I definitely want to go back, and hopefully clean some problems on new rock myself. (Photo credit: CC with his phone)

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Lobelia cardinalis

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Taking it “Easy..”

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“Easy Out”

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