Total Eclipse ’24 in Vermont

There are a lot of things these days that are overhyped. 2024’s eclipse is not one of them.

In a whirlwind couple of days, NeutronLad (17) and I went to an accepted student event at RIT (a five-hour drive). Then we headed to Burlington, VT to visit StarlGirl (21) at the University of Vermont (another five-hour drive), crashed for the night, and then watched the total eclipse on Monday, April 8.

It was bonkers, with thousands of people at the Lake Champlain waterfront to listen to live music, drink beer, smoke pot (it’s legal in VT; I didn’t partake) and wait for the sun to disappear.

With songs like Soundgarden’s “Black Hole Sun” playing in the background, folks chatted and periodically broke out their eclipse glasses to watch the moon drift across the face of the sun.

I’ve seen lesser eclipses before, including a partial eclipse at Lock Haven, PA in 1993 while I was in college and an annular eclipse in Easton, Pa. in the 2010s.

This was so much better.

When you see an eclipse in photos or movies, you think “that’s cool, but there’s no way it looks that good in real life”.

But it does. Hell, it looks better.

First, there’s the build up to the eclipse – everyone’s talking, joking, and happy. It was a sunny, warm April day, with some high-level clouds, but none big enough to block the sun. As the eclipse draws closer, light levels drop. People start looking at the sun through their special glasses in between sips of beer, and breaks in conversation. It starts getting cooler as the amount of solar radiation decreases, and people start getting out sweatshirts and jackets.

And then … totality. My pictures don’t do it justice, but suddenly there’s this perfect black circle in the sky, ringed by white fire. For three minutes, the world goes dark … but not perfectly black. It’s like a weird kind of dusk or down, with the edges of the sky tinged with color and the sky dark enough that a few bright stars and planets (Jupiter and Venus) come out.

Then totality ends and the sun begins to re-appear. The light quickly returns, as does the warmth. Within another 30 minutes or so, the world is back to normal.

Except for the 160,000 people in Vermont who came to see the eclipse, and need to go home. We waited a few hours to head out, but it didn’t help. Traffic overwhelmed the back roads and even the interstates. What should have been a six hour trip back to Pennsylvania took nearly 10 hours.

It was a long, hard, exhausting drive, but it was totally worth it.

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