Ah, the beauty of Wyoming and the awesome splendor of a total solar eclipse — what more could one ask for on a summer vacation? Last August, I finally checked these two long-standing items off my bucket list.
From the time I was young, solar eclipses have captivated my imagination, and I have been intrigued about Jackson Hole ever since I did some internet marketing work for a couple of hotels there several years ago. I just never seemed to have the time or opportunity to take the plunge on either one.
Little did I know that these two dreams would become reality on the same trip!
When the Great American Solar Eclipse first came to my attention about 3 years ago, I thought, “This is finally my chance to see this rare sight without having to travel halfway across the world.” And, as luck would have it, one of the best locations to view it from would be Jackson Hole!
I knew affordable accommodations would be hard to come by anywhere in the path of totality, but fortunately, a friend had already secured a place to stay in Jackson Hole’s Teton Village and invited us to join.
Perfect! Not only would I finally see a total solar eclipse, but I would get to visit Jackson Hole as well.
Jackson Hole is as beautiful as advertised. The alluring Grand Teton peaks pierce the majestic Wyoming sky, reigning over a wonderfully wide valley of forest, rivers, and lakes.
Teton Village, itself, is predictably quaint – a quintessential western United States ski town. It is at the same time opulent, yet refreshingly down to earth. And, the stunning Teton peaks with the ski runs that lay below seem to confirm its reputation as a wild and crazy experts-friendly winter resort.
We stayed at The Hostel in Teton Village. It was clean and relatively modern — more like a “real” hotel than a hostel. It was very comfortable and pleasant, with many hotel-like amenities, and we were even able to rent a private room to ensure more privacy.
Its large common areas offered a pleasant and comfortable, hostel-like atmosphere of camaraderie, perhaps heightened by the fact that most of the guests were there to see the eclipse. They came from all over, some from very far away — even China.
A Little Excursion to Yellowstone National Park
Although Teton Village featured many touristy, eclipse-oriented activities while we were there, we were drawn to the abundant natural beauty of the area. So, we spent most of our time driving through Grand Teton National Park and even made an impulsive foray to Yellowstone National Park (only two hours away) to see Old Faithful.
It did not disappoint!
We drove straight to the renowned geyser and joined the rest of the eager crowd just in time to witness the magnificent eruption of water, steam, and dust that has become one of the nation’s most revered watery displays.
Even though we had to battle the crowd a bit to get a good seat, we were rewarded with a great view of the awesome jet blasting some hundred feet into the air. The show lasted for several minutes and then settled once again into its steamy, otherworldly landscape.
The park, itself, is huge and had much more to offer if we had the luxury of more time, but we wanted to beat the eclipse traffic on its way to Jackson Hole. So, we were soon on our way back to get ready for the main event.
The hostel crowd was especially boisterous when we returned, and I doubt many people got much sleep that night. We, ourselves, did not. We stayed up late, discussing where we should go nearby to watch the eclipse.
We decided to avoid any last- minute driving on ridiculously jam-packed roads that thousands of would-be viewers would be using to get to some scenic site within the park. And earlier in the day, we noticed that the Sun was easily viewable right from the front yard of the hostel itself, so we chose to watch the event from there.
Our Great American Solar Eclipse
Finally, “eclipse morning” dawned, and we were ready!
We joined dozens of other excited spectators on the hostel lawn to experience the splendor of this spectacular cosmic event. Giddy anticipation filled the air as we and our fellow observers set up blankets, chairs, cameras, telescopes, and other eclipse-related paraphernalia to prepare for the event.
Before we knew it, the eclipse began. We threw on our protective solar glasses and watched the shadow of the moon begin to bite into to the Sun’s orb.
After the initial excitement of watching the moon’s shadow methodically gobbling up more and more of the solar disk waned, we focused our attention on our surroundings, and our fellow observers, while we waited for totality to come.
All around us, the more prepared and experienced solar eclipse watchers filled this time playing various eclipse-related “games”. They used the holes in hats and cardboard, telescopes, and various other clever props (even the shadows of tree leaves) to project the image of the eclipse onto poster board, cardboard, the lawn, and even other people.
They also made playful patterns of the eclipse, some spelling out family member’s names, quotes, and other quaint or amusing sayings, while others simply projected the event name and date.
Since we were not so prepared, we just feigned “horror” at the awesome sight unfolding before us.
As totality neared, the temperature plummeted, and the light dimmed to that of a dark dusk. Eventually, it got so dark that the automatic, sunlight-sensitive lights on a nearby bank turned on. Our moods became more introspective as we readied ourselves for the main attraction.
And then, it appeared. First, the magnificent “diamond ring”, and then suddenly — totality!
We shed our solar glasses as the moon’s shadow finally fully engulfed the sun. Unbelievable! Breathtaking! Almost indescribable!
The two and one-half minutes of totality seemed at the same time like an eternity, and a blink of the eye. Many thoughts raced through my mind as I watched this fantastic wonder of the cosmos.
I contemplated the mind-blowing celestial “coincidence” that the relative sizes and distances of the sun and moon have to be exactly right in order to fully block the sun while leaving its fiery corona in view. We giggled, laughed and screamed at the sight and the immenseness of it all. Some women compared the intensity of the experience to that of giving birth. I felt small. Very small!
Although we didn’t witness any unusual bird or animal behavior around us (there weren’t many nearby), we were later told that observers in Grand Teton National park watched flocks of birds in flight abruptly reverse course as the moon fully obscured the sun.
Then, just as suddenly as it appeared, totality was over, and we once again donned our solar viewing glasses lest the returning beams of light injure our eyes.
Once the main event had passed, we glanced only occasionally at the sky as the full disk of the sun slowly emerged. We gradually descended from our cosmic high, still in some disbelief, and still in awe, of what we had just witnessed. It was like a dream.
More to See in Jackson Hole
After the eclipse, we took the opportunity to further explore Grand Teton National Park itself, visiting the beautiful coastlines of Jenny, String, and Leigh lakes, as well as the educational Craig Thomas Discovery and Visitor Center. We also stopped by the iconic 1890’s Mormon Row settlements on our way back to the hostel.
We’re already planning our next Total Solar Eclipse adventure for 2024, somewhere inspiring that we’ve never been to before, in Texas or the eastern US. We also plan to return soon to Wyoming for more exploration of Jackson Hole and Yellowstone.