Totally Eclipsed–Cuyahoga Valley National Park

I got up Sunday morning before the scheduled solar eclipse feeling better than I had in several day, but I wasn’t convinced that I should make the approximately seven-hour drive to Cuyahoga National Park to observe the total eclipse. From my residence in Maryland, I could set up on the outside deck and get the 87% effect anticipated in that location. In fact, much of the United States would experience some level of eclipse, but the area of total eclipse would cover a specific line from Texas through Maine.

But I wanted it all! The next total eclipse isn’t scheduled in the United States until 2044, and if the Lord keeps me here that long, there is no guarantee that I will be able to see it. So, I grabbed my new eclipse t-shirt, and a lunch box, my telescope, and cellphone and left Sunday evening, heading northwest.

I try to learn from each trip, especially things that make the journey easier or more difficult. For this one, I learned that when I preset Waze with a route, activating it immediately in SB is necessary. Otherwise, I risk ending up 50 in the wrong direction! Despite this, I pulled into the lot at the nearby park visitor’s center at 7 a.m. The lot was already rapidly filling, and I took full advantage of my handicap parking decal to get a reserved spot. It also appeared that local press were setting up to record the event.

The eclipse wasn’t scheduled to begin for several hours. The weather was surprisingly rather rainy and cold at that hour–neither desirable on a day where cloud cover could seriously affect the view. (Here, I have to admit that most folks were wearing jackets and heavier coats, so there was some weather forecast that I missed.) I napped a bit, then I walked down to the visitor’s center, where I got date stamps for the park and for the date of the eclipse, plus my usual magnet and walking stick medallion. One of the rangers staffing the center gave me a couple of the eclipse glass cards prepped by the National Park Service.

The wait for the big event was actually quite pleasant. Recognizing that giving up choice parking was ill-advised, visitors with car licenses all over the region (I certainly wasn’t the only one with Maryland tags) created a temporary community right there in that parking lot. Little kids who likely wouldn’t understand or remember the day to elderly who would have the opportunity to add a special layer to their storehouse of memories were all gathered. The hours moved surprisingly swiftly when a man called out a two-minute warning that the eclipse was scheduled to begin.

I had set up my telescope in the hope that I could get a closer look at the eclipse, but the addition of the protective filter I had to add to it and to my camera significantly impacted my ability to get any decent pictures. It quickly became clear that I was asking way too much of my equipment and skill level. I’ve shared a few below:

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Fortunately, once the four-minute-long totality began, I could remove the filter from my camera and my eyes and see the awe-inspiring moments myself. I posted a few of my better pictures of the corona. Then, towards the end of the totality, I saw something that still evades my ability to explain. I created a video below, but the cascade of lights across the corona was to far beyond my camera’s ability to capture:


A local feed video from Cleveland, one of the nearby metros, gives you more details and play-by-play at

I wanted to allow myself time to absorb what I had seen, and my situation gave me that option. So I sat in SB for a while. The noise around me was the busy sounds of families trying to quickly pack so they could get on the road and try to beat the crowd. Note, however, that the time is now approaching 4 p.m.–evening rush hour had already begun. Eventually, I departed the park and found a Fazoli’s fairly close by. Under the shade provided by several trees, I napped and read until I thought enough time had passed for the masses to have departed and traffic to reasonably have cleared.

There seems to be three categories of travelers: the ones who leave early hoping to beat the crowd, the madding crowd itself, and those of us who try to wait out the madness. I thought I had guessed correctly until shortly after I crossed the West Virginia state line into Maryland. Then, suddenly, everyone who had waited converged into one massive traffic jam at two in the morning!! My poor Waze tried to reroute me around some of it, but it was a hopeless cause. And I didn’t want to try to wait it out because I suspect that it would bleed directly into the DC Metro morning rush hour, an event I wanted to avoid like the plague and would certainly add hours to my trip.

I admit that I said a prayer of thanks when the gray building where I live appeared in SB’s windshield. I pulled into a space, turned off the engine, and closed my eyes. I don’t think I was awake a full minute after that.

At some point, I dragged myself out of SB and into my apartment. Tuesday was, as I expected, a lost day. I felt so sorry for those who had shared those finally hours on the road with me who were scheduled to go to work or to school that day.

Was the trip worth it?  Heck yes!!

I do want to go back when I can experience the park itself, including the scenic railroad, which is scheduled to open in early May.



As always, I thank the Lord for granting me the stamina to make the trip, the damn good reflexes to steer the SB as she needed to be guided, and the ability to enjoy His handiwork as it whizzes by my windshield.

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