After 14 hours in a car, and a long weekend camping in the Idaho wilderness, author and former wildland firefighter Jerry Mathes says it was all worth it.
“It was the most amazing thing I’ve seen in nature, really,” Mathes said.
He, his daughters and some friends camped in an undisclosed, southwest Idaho location over the weekend. Mathes pulled his car over in Emmett to refuel and restock the snack bin, prepping for the long drive back to California after watching the once-in-a-lifetime sky show.
Friends who hadn’t ever experienced a total solar eclipse warned his interest would be overblown and that it would be like a glorified sunset casting shadows everywhere.
“Well, it’s not like that at all. Basically, it looks like somebody’s punched a hole in the sky and you’re looking into the void beyond the universe. It’s crazy,” Mathes said.
He had been prepping for months, learning how to properly photograph the moon overlapping the sun in that brief moment known as totality.
Mathes had witnessed two partial eclipses before – one as a kid and another when he was stationed in Antarctica, but he says neither is close to what he saw here.
“There’s nothing to compare to totality. When the light changes and becomes that darkness, you can see Mercury and then the corona is spreading out across the sky.”
Both his daughters got to skip school for the event. 17-year-old Sophia says it definitely lived up to the hype.
“I’ve been making fun of my dad for being obsessed and stuff, but as soon as I saw it, in my mind I was just like, ‘This is totally worth all the crazy obsession and the preparation and the packing and the sleeping on the hard ground for a couple days. It was all worth it,” she said.
During the two-minute eclipse, she captured the sky’s color palette by quickly smearing paint on her fingers and smudging it onto paper. Once she gets back home, she says she’ll grab the biggest canvas she can find to finish her masterpiece.
Now, the Mathes family is hooked.
They’re already planning a tip to Argentina or Chile to watch the next total solar eclipse in 2019.
Find James Dawson on Twitter @RadioDawson
Copyright 2017 Boise State Public Radio