Eclipse chasers

Looking up into the cosmos


SUMMARY: Students Nicole Hatcher and Chris Timothy chase the total solar eclipse all the way to Vermont in an unforgettable experience.

Looking out from the mountain top as far as our eyes could see, a golden haze painted all sides of the horizon as the sliver of sun unobscured by the moon slowly dwindled away. The temperature dropped dramatically as the wind picked up in every direction and birds responded frantically to each other in unison with the cheers of people in wonder of the anomaly of the sun disappearing.

These were the sights and sounds on top of Mount Pisgah in Vermont as we witnessed the total solar eclipse above Lake Willoughby on April 8. Because it was the only total solar eclipse to occur in the United States for the next 20 years, we knew we had to be in a place to witness the wonder and awe of totality. In the weeks leading up to the eclipse, however, the weather and early predictions of cloud coverage indicated that the eclipse would not be visible from many spots in the United States where eclipse chasers would be gathering.

On account of this daunting forecast, we had to take eclipse chasing to the next level. Our original plan was to view totality in Cleveland, Ohio, but the weather predictions there were too dynamic to rely on. Our next plan was to watch the eclipse at the beautiful Niagara Falls in New York, but the risk-to-reward ratio also wasn’t quite up to our standards. As the days until totality dwindled, an unlikely hero emerged as the prime destination to view the eclipse, with clear skies, full totality and iconic views to its name — Vermont. 

Having visited 48 of the 50 U.S. states — Vermont not being one of them — Chris saw it as a no-brainer to make the long trek northward, even knowing the risks. We hopped around a few bucket-list spots like the Green Mountains, Burlington and Stowe, but we struggled to land on a final spot for totality due to increasingly unpredictable forecasts of high-altitude cloud cover. April’s traditional “mud season” in Vermont was not on display, as a storm had dumped 2 feet of snow on the region just one day prior to our arrival. Thus, finding a hiking trail was on the table if we were willing to trek through the snow. The decision to opt for a true summit rather than a roadside pull-off led to one of the most meaningful moments of our lives. 

The experience of looking into the cosmos to peer upon prominences, solar flares and the sun’s corona is not one that can be prepared for. Not even a 99.5% partial eclipse could have possibly conveyed the emotions that we felt in those three minutes, and our perspectives on our place in the universe have broadened significantly. Words simply cannot describe what we witnessed that day, so we will let the pictures do the rest of the talking.


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by Nicole Hatcher and Chris Timothy

Published: Friday, April 12, 2024

Last Updated: Wednesday, April 24, 2024

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