Jackson Solar Eclipse and Wedding, August 21, 2017

Postby Tony Crocker Thu Nov. 23, 2017 10:23 pm

Before we knew of each other, Liz and I independently wanted to see the 2017 eclipse from the top of the Jackson Hole Ski Resort at 10,450 feet. We began pestering the resort in 2014 and they finally developed a plan for the tram about a year before the eclipse. We bought tram tickets for 57 people on September 15, 2016 and organized lodging in Teton Village for about half of them.

In July Liz and I decided where better to get married than on top of a ski area on a day with a total solar eclipse. The key challenge was finding someone to officiate a wedding in Jackson on such short notice. Jackson, like many areas anticipating a total solar eclipse, feared gridlock, gas and food shortages and crashing cell and internet service. Many locals feared they couldn't get from their homes to Teton Village on eclipse day. Outside Magazine writer Gordy Megroz wrote an article about the eclipse from the perspective of Jackson locals, with Liz and me being the featured visiting veteran eclipse chasers. https://www.outsideonline.com/2235826/jackson-hole-got-wild-eclipse .

Fortunately retired judge Terry Rogers lived in a big RV and the Jackson Hole Mountain Resort allowed him to park there the nights before and after the eclipse. This was ideal for us as he was available all day in case we had to flee Jackson for better weather elsewhere. Terry could go with us or officiate our wedding after we returned.

We arrived in Teton Village Aug. 18 after a busy day picking up condo groceries, the wedding cake, marriage license and visiting an alternative eclipse viewing site in Rigby, Idaho. On August 19 we went up the Jackson tram to scout viewing locations that could handle the size of our group and have a secure line of sight for photographers. Here I am at the top of the tram with Glenn and Judy Flayderman.

Judy was with us on the Damai II scuba liveaboard, where we viewed the last total solar eclipse on March 9, 2016.

Veterans Joe Cali from Australia (13 totals) and Bengt Alfredsson from Norway (17 totals) came with us August 19 and selected this area maybe 200 feet below the tram terminal and 100 feet below the small Corbet's Cabin shelter.

As we had 30+ tickets were for the first tram at 8:00AM, we knew we could secure whatever site we chose in advance. The pic above is of our group about an hour before totality. The slope drops off unevenly below our site, so it would be difficult for anyone to set up in front of us

Here's a visitor by our Teewinot condo.


On August 20 fourteen of us had lunch at Jenny Lake Lodge. View of the Grand Teton from there:


After lunch we took a short walk to Leigh Lake.

Mt. Moran is in the background. We then took a 5PM cruise on Jenny Lake.

We had dined out at Snake River Grill and the Wort Hotel the previous nights but we knew most people would want to stay in the night for the evening before the eclipse, so Wayne and Susie Nelson prepared pulled pork and strawberry pie for 19 of our group.

Despite the crystal clear weather of August 18-20, the weather forecast models were calling for a thin band of clouds to pass over Jackson sometime on the morning of eclipse day. The European climate model showed the clouds past Jackson well before the eclipse while the American GFS model showed Jackson under the clouds at eclipse time. Each model was consistent in its forecast for the last day or two through evening of August 20, but they continued to disagree with each other. Even though the European model is more often accurate we had a meeting about 10PM to discuss the situation.
Joe Cali is at left. He and Bengt had been following the weather models closely ever since we arrived in Jackson. Joe was also the organizer of 100 people for the eclipse in Australia in November 2012. In order to escape the dicey weather around Cairns he had arranged a 1 1/2 hour charter flight to the Pormpuraaw aboriginal settlement, which Liz and I used. He also scouted the road over the mountains into the Outback, and about 75 people in the group got up at 1:30AM, followed him out there and successfully viewed the eclipse just after dawn while many other groups that remained on the coast were clouded out.

With models still in disagreement we were likely to wait until dawn to decide whether to stay in Jackson or drive west into Idaho behind the clouds. Further updates of the European and GFS models for cloud predictions can't be done at night. However the NAM infrared model can update clouds and Joe got up at 3AM to see a final forecast from that.
We got up at 4AM to chat with Joe. The dark cloud areas in the eclipse time prediction are mostly past us but the small Y-shaped cloud just east of the Idaho-Wyoming border is right over us. On that basis Joe decided he was leaving for Idaho at 4:30AM, just to be sure he would be ahead of any traffic plus gaining flexibility to drive farther into Idaho in case the cloud band moved more slowly. Liz and I decided to wait until dawn as our backup site in Rigby was only two hours away, and from that map I figured it wouldn't be necessary to drive farther than that.

Michael Gill, moderator of the Solar Eclipse Mailing List through which Liz and I met in 2010 and veteran of 22 totals, had brought a group of eight friends and relatives from the UK to Jackson. He joined Joe and me on a conference call and he decided to take his group west into Idaho also. I sent an e-mail to the rest of our group at 5:30AM explaining our respective decisions and providing directions to the horse ranch in Rigby if anyone else wanted to go to Idaho.

The cloud was over us at dawn 6AM but by 7AM all the clouds were to the east or northeast so the remaining 40 of us felt confident going up the tram. I was on the second tram and when I got off the tram I climbed the short stairs to the top and was pleased to see the sky clear to the western horizon, so all the clouds were indeed past us. The low early morning sun was in cloud to the east but it rose above them by 9:30AM. Here are Liz and Jack and Leslie Vaughn watching the partial eclipse not long after first contact.


Here I am with Patsy Prince and Wayne Nelson.
Patsy and husband Adam are from the UK and had met Liz at the 2006 eclipse in Libya. Wayne and Susie Nelson live in Yakima, WA, which experienced the last continental US total solar eclipse in February 1979. They did not see it because local authorities had spread false information that it was unsafe to view. By the time of my first total eclipse in 1999 it was easy to learn the truth via online testimonials of veteran eclipse chasers.

Here are our wedding witnesses before totality: Hal George (seated), Al Solish (waiting), Judge Terry Rogers (center)
With less than 15 minutes to go, the temperatures were dropping so we put our jackets back on.

As totality approached Liz and I went up to the ridgeline to view the approaching shadow from the west.
Two minutes before totality, Cody Peak is at left, haze from Idaho fires on the horizon. The black haze over the sign is already in totality

Here's part of our group with the total eclipse overhead and the horizon sunset.

Totality by Judy Flayderman:

Third contact diamond ring and red chromosphere by Judy Flayderman:

Liz and I slowly walked back to our group during totality. I sat down for a closer view with binoculars. Here's a view of close-up prominences (solar flares) photographed by Moshen Chan in Oregon.

Totality from Whiskey Mountain, about 50 miles east of us in Wyoming at similar 10,000 foot elevation. This is a 42 image composite by Miroslav Druckmuller, Czech Republic.
Druckmuller pictures are enhanced to include features not visible to the naked eye, like the features on the moon's surface. However, from 10,000 feet the corona streamers were really visible to a great distance.

Liz was thrilled to see shadow bands on the gravel path after third contact. Some of our group said the shadow bands were even more distinctive just before totality.

About half an hour later we assembled for the wedding about to begin.

Vows and rings, Judge Terry Rogers:

"You may kiss the bride."

Eclipse wedding reading by Tony Richardson:

Confetti celebration:

More celebration:

The Weather Channel filmed our wedding and interviewed us afterwards.
They aired a clip of the interview at 5:05PM and 9:05PM. Larry Agin alertly got this screenshot during our dinner.

Liz designed this shirt for the eclipse on Rendezvous Peak.


Al Solish prepared his famous chicken for 23 of us for dinner after the eclipse, a slightly smaller group than we have at our Iron Blosam timeshare, to which Al first invited me in 1996. As at Snowbird I brought wine and champagne. I have only missed the Iron Blosam ski week in 2016 because it conflicted with the total eclipse in Indonesia.