Grand Canyon and the annular solar eclipse

View from the top

Last week I went to the Grand Canyon with Dave, Pinguino, Grace, Craig, Ana, and Marcus. It’s a place I had been meaning to visit so I gladly joined the trip after Pinguino and Dave suggested they go there for their birthdays. I’ve camped with most of the group before so I knew that despite the 8.5 hour drive, I would definitely have a good time.

I was in Grace’s rental Suzuki SX4 (which I guess broke the 10 minute barrier on Pike’s Peak last year; no it doesn’t look the same) and we left a little after 9AM on Saturday. We met up with Craig’s Jeep in Barstow and traveled together the rest of the way. On our way in, we stopped at Bearizona, which I was certain Pinguino was only excited about because of the wordplay; after 8 hours in a car, barely anyone can resist a terrible pun. I definitely recommend the Bearizona’s Drive Through Animal Park featuring bison, bears, goats, sheep, wolves in the park as well as separate walk up exhibits with smaller animals like beavers, javelinas, porcupines, and swift foxes.

The Grand Canyon crew

We stayed at Mather Campground which is part of Grand Canyon Village on the South Rim. The sites are designed for 6 people and 2 cars but offer a good amount of space. We arrived after dark and even though most of the campsites were occupied, it was incredibly quiet. The rangers running the campground we met with the next day were very nice: we spent $18/night on the site and they didn’t make us pay a $25 vehicle fee for entering the park (we arrived after the entrance booth was closed, but they said we didn’t need to pay it). Elk and deer are constantly wandering through the campground (usually to distract you from the ravens stealing your food). There are shuttle busses a short trek from the campground that take you to the store and the visitor center. It really was a great camping experience. Plus, pinguino made veggie sushi (you camp with a rice cooker right?)!

Solar eclipse viewers

On Sunday, we went to the visitor center for 45min presentation by a NASA scientist on the annular solar eclipse and what current missions they have collecting data on the sun and the moon. The parking lot behind the center was filled with solar telescopes brought in by astronomy groups. We built our own eclipse viewers. tacitus pointed out that I could buy welding helmet shade 14 filter glass from Airgas for $1.75 a piece so I bought 9 of those and we attached them to pieces of cardboard. Key benefits over regular eclipse viewing glasses: they make a nice big sunshade when not viewing and you can doodle on them.

On our drive home Monday, we left the park taking highway 64 east. It’s worth seeing that side of the park since it features lots of scenic overlooks that you can park at. We also stopped at Sunset Crater Volcano, a cinder cone created 1000 years ago where you can walk on the lava flows.

I want to thank Dave and Pinguino for really pushing to make this trip happen. Hey, we can all go to my house in 2017 to watch the total eclipse!

You can see more photos from the trip in Grace’s Facebook album.

Update: Pinguino’s trip photos are on Flickr.

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