Chasing Totality

With the “Great American Eclipse” drawing nearer, I was compelled to seize the opportunity and see the phenomenon for myself. Startup work is too unpredictable to make firm plans, so I made vague plans to set out for a National Forest that would allow wilderness camping without a permit at the last minute. Wyoming was my original plan and, after checking the weather forecast a few days out, I locked in Bridger-Teton National Forest as my destination (with a work stop in Fresno on the way). I left San Diego, solo, around 5am – I’d find old and new friends along the way, and catch the awing wonder of the universe in full display, but this is a report on the journey.

No room at the campsite

After completing business in Fresno, I typed “Granite Falls Campground, Wyoming” into the GPS and was shocked to see 15 hours and 34 minutes… oops. It’s only 15 hours from San Diego, and I’d already driven 5 hours in the right direction, but (embarrassingly for the second time in my time in California) I’d forgotten how much time it takes to cross the mountains. At least the scenery is spectacular. I added another hour to the estimate by heading through Yosemite (both for the scenery and to avoid wildfires along the direct route).

Saddlebag Campground
Around 10,000 feet, at the top of the Tioga Pass, is Saddlebag Lake. There’s a small area of drive-up Forest Service camping and, further up the road, some spectacular hike-in sites. Clean air, mountain views, and icy cold air even in the summer.

All the campgrounds were full in Yosemite (no surprise), so I climbed out toward the Tioga Pass and the Inyo National Forest in hopes of finding space in one of my favorite campgrounds of all-time: the hike-in sites at Saddlebag Lake. I’ve been lucky enough to score a spot up here a couple of times before, but no such luck on this trip. The National Forest sites were full everywhere, and true wilderness camping would have been too much in the middle of this 20-hour drive across the West – so I pressed on.

As evening descended, there were fantastic colours over Mono Lake (and the largest crowds I’ve ever seen at the Lee Vining service station) that eventually became an epic alpine sunset. I watched it in the rear view mirror and blasted forward into the Great Basin Desert.

Alone in the desert (almost)

When I’d finally run out of steam, some 17 hours after departure, a quick search yielded a free camping opportunity at Spencer Hot Springs. I’m certainly glad I dropped in. The road was well maintained and well marked, so it was easy to find a spot near the hot springs to set up camp. The view was stunning. With amazingly clear skies, and the remains of the Perseid Meteor Shower still on display, I set up my bed in the back of the truck (with a camera next to me) and listened to the coyotes and burros as I drifted off to sleep.

In the morning, haven forgotten to stop my long exposure and generated a battery-worth of star trails, I was greeted by some surprises: neighbours, one of the best sunrises I have ever seen, and a little hot spring to soak in. What a spot!

Arrival in the mountains

After two full days on the road, I facially arrived in the Bridger-Teton National forest near Jackson, Wyoming. Another special spot. Time to get my bearings, recover from the drive and find somewhere appropriate to watch this thing!

The complete route

More than 20 hours to drive from San Diego to the Bridge-Teton National Forest in Wyoming. Worth it!

 

 

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