Hey guys, my gf and I went to CO to watch the Solar Eclipse. She headed back to DC after the eclipse, and I stayed back for another week of camping/photography.
Saturday, 8/19: Our flight was at 9:20 am to Denver, from BWI. I got up at 4 am to finish off my packing. I had more things to worry and pack about, as I was going to camp for a week after that. We left at around 6:30 am. We parked our car in the daily lot, and cleared the security very comfortably. The flight was on time and it was quite comfortable. We reached Denver at around 12 noon. After collecting our baggage, we caught the Hertz shuttle to pick up our rental car, a midsize SUV. Turns out it was a Nissan Rogue. We first went to Whole Foods, got some coffee. Once we felt revived, we headed over to the Denver Museum of Nature and Science. It was a pretty neat museum. We spent a long time in the Dinosaur exhibit, however, we didn’t have a lot of time to tour the entire museum. I did get to look at the sun through a telescope with a special lens set up on the Museum’s sky terrace. We headed over to Motel 6, and checked in. It was a pretty seedy looking hotel, and we were pretty tired. We decided to stay put. We headed out to dinner at the Shish Kebab grill. The gf had a lamb shank, while I had a falafel platter. Food was ok. We went back to the hotel and were conked out!
Sunday, 8/20: We slept in as we were quite tired. We headed out for breakfast at the Delectable Egg. Food was decent and then we decided to head over to a different whole foods, near the Denver Botanical Garden. We bought some supplies (soups, veggies etc.) and then went to the gardens. This was a fairly neat experience. By this time, we both were quite uncomfortable in the dry climate, so when we saw an enclosed “tropical” exhibit, we actually sat for a while, to savor the humidity! Overall, it was an interesting visit. They had a small, but cool, display of carnivorous plants, and an extensive veggie garden. There was a strange mushroom festival, which we didn’t even understand. But overall, a fun visit to a weird place. After the gardens, we decided to head over to the Fort Collins area, where had booked an AirBnB for the night. The drive was slightly trafficy, but ok. We spent the night in this cute place, which had chickens. The hosts actually gave us a dozen eggs! We cooked half of them for the night, and had a nice relaxing meal. Kept on looking at the weather reports to check for sunny skies
Monday, 8/21: Eclipse day! We got up fairly early, 4 am. We started driving on I 25 by 5 am, and it was already quite congested! We drove for a bit and stopped at a McDonalds just before we reached Cheyenne. After suitably filled up with coffee, we resume our drive and kept looking at options. The gf decided that we should go to Guernsey State Park. We took the exit to US 26 and passed about 200 or so cars parked at the rest area just off I-25. Drove a few more miles, passing folks parked just off the side of the road, and then pulled into the state park. They already had a big line of cars, and the state park had made all the arrangements to deal with the crowds. We were directed by the national guard into one of the many viewing areas, well stocked with porta potties. We got there at around 8:30 am, so we had plenty of time. We took a leisurely walk around the viewing area, checked out all the people just having fun. We got back to our car, and had a quick meal with the remaining eggs and got ready for the eclipse. And finally, at around 10:45 am, it started! People started cheering, and we just kept on checking the progress. The light started to change when the eclipse was around 75%, it was quite exciting. Finally, we approached totality, and it was surreal. A few of the stars were visible, but the most incredible thing was the corona. The totality lasted for a couple of minutes and it was quite amazing. And then it started to become bright again. People started to leave, and I think it was smart on their part, to beat the traffic. We decided to stay until the very end, so we went for a hike and just took it easy. By the time the eclipse ended, and we got back to the car, most of the people had left. We hoped that we had escaped the traffic issues, but boy, were we wrong! It took us nearly 3 hrs to get to Laramie. The last stretch on US 30 (from Bosler to Laramie) took us an hour! But we were quite glad to reach Laramie, where we decided to spend the night in Motel 8. We walked over to Qdoba, and had a decent dinner. We went back to the motel and were conked out!
Tuesday, 8/22: We slept for over 12 hours, and we woke up with a headache! I suspect because the motel was right next to the highway and we kept on breathing in the exhaust. However, we went to the Prairie Rose for breakfast. The food was quite palatable, and the waitstaff was great. We still felt quite awful. But we decided to go over to the Univ of Wyoming, Museum of Geology. But first, we hit the coffee store right next to the Univ, Turtle Rock Coffee. The coffee was good, and we ambled to the univ museum. The breakfast and coffee really helped and we were feeling much better. The museum was quite interesting, however, not as many exhibits as we liked. Not many originals of the fossils, but still quite interesting. There were a few complete skeletons of dinosaurs, which was awesome. That’s what I had actually wanted to see. We spent a couple of hrs there. Headed over to the University to store to see if they have any magnets, but unfortunately, they had none. Also checked out the Conservation Discovery center. In the motel, we had seen a brochure with things to do in Laramie, and one of the things to do was the “Snowy Range Scenic drive”. We decided to do the drive, and then make our way back slowly to Denver. The drive was actually quite scenic, and we saw a few pronghorns. Unfortunately, the visitor center was closed, so we couldn’t check out any exhibits etc. But we just saw the maps, and then drove for a while, going up the mountains. It was a lot of fun, and quite scenic. We drove back the way we came, and headed down to Denver on US 287 S. No traffic now! The drive was pleasant. We decided to stop for dinner in Chipotle, in Colorado Springs. After dinner, we were back on the road, and decided to stop at Motel 6 in Golden. This one was a bit sketchy as well, but very clean. Went to bed early, but made sure to get up at 7 am.
Wednesday, 8/23: Got up, and got ready. We were all ready by around 8 am. So we decided to head over to Whole Foods, Golden for our breakfast. We had a nice breakfast and some coffee, and I also bought some supplies for the rest of my trip. I drove my gf to the airport. We reached comfortably by 9:45 am. She was heading back to DC, and I was planning to continue my trip for one more week. Once saying our goodbyes, I started driving towards Aspen. I took I 70W → CO91 → US24 → CO82. This was quite scenic, with many clouds, hugging the mountains, and pretty lakes. Drove through Aspen on the way to Maroon Bells area. Spent the next two nights there, taking pictures and hiking. The weather was a bit cloudy and overcast, but luckily, still managed to take some night shots.
Friday, 8/25: Got up at 3am to take night shots and sunrise shots. Once done with that, I thought of taking a nap in the car, in the overnight parking lot. However, when I stepped into use the restroom, I got locked in! I was trapped in that stinky pit toilet for over an hour, before the forest service people could come over and let me out! That killed the time I had decided to nap for, so started to head out of Maroon Bells to Crested Butte. Followed CO82 → CO133 → 12. Stopped in the Basalt Whole Foods to pick up more supplies. Had a nice cup off coffee and relaxed for a bit there. The final drive into Crested Butte on 12 was quite scenic. It was mostly dirt road, and quite fun, but very slow! The first night, I camped in the Lake Irwin campground, and slept in. I had got up at early for night shots and no naps, so was quite tired from that and the drive.
Saturday, 8/26: Decided to head over to CB to get more information. But first, I had to have some coffee. Camp 4 coffee was the most famous in CB, so went there. So even regular coffee is custom made. They would make an espresso shot, and then add water to it, strange, but the coffee was good. Had coffee there every day for the next 2 days. The entire day was spent scouting for photo op locations, couldn’t really find anything. I pulled into the slate river trail overlook, and decided the viewpoint had potential for night shots. I decided to just spend the night there, and I did. I had dinner there, and then slept in the car.
Sunday, 8/27: Got up at 3 am and started my shots. Took pictures until after sunrise. Took a small nap, had breakfast and then decided to drive back to CB for some showers. Turns out I had to go to a gym just outside the town, which was fine. I was really grimy in the constant dusty mountains. After a refreshing shower, I headed for some coffee from Camp 4 Coffee haha. Decided to drive up and down the Gothic Road. This was quite scenic, I drove all the way upto Schoefield pass, which was fun. There was one section that was a bit worrying. It was a narrow section wide enough for one car, and I had to back up to let the oncoming car pass. It was a bit scary. I decided to spend the night in one of the many dispersed campsites.
Monday, 8/28: Got up at 3 am, and started to take pictures until sunrise. Had breakfast, then headed back to CB for some coffee in, where else, camp 4 coffee. Decided to head out of the area and decided to go to the Great Sand Dunes National Park. The drive was around 3 hrs and quite pleasant. Wanted to make this trip very efficient, so hit the visitor center, and asked about the viewpoints etc. Napped for a bit in the car.
Tuesday, 8/29: Again got up at 2am. Went over to the sand dunes area and took some night shots. Once done with the night shots, I decided to do some sunrise shots from one of the overlooks. Once done with that, went back to visitor center, bought some stuff, did a small hike and then decided to head back towards the Denver area. Decided to take pictures from the Overlook mountain area, near Denver. Normally the visitor center closed at 4pm, but that day there were some events planned, so got to use the restroom and checkout the exhibits at the nature center. Turns out there was no place up in the mountains where one could park and take naps after dark, so I actually drove to the Walmart close by and slept in my car haha.
Wednesday, 8/30: Final Morning! Got up at 2am, and headed over to the Windy Saddle overlook. The night sky here wasn’t that dark, so getting up so early was sort of a waste. However, just read for a bit in the car, waiting for the run to come up. The run came up and boy was it hazy! Denver was covered in a big dust cloud, so the pictures weren’t that great. By that time, I was done with the photography aspect and was ready to go home. Headed over to the whole foods in Golden (the same one as before), and had breakfast and coffee. Finished up the packing and made sure that I emptied out the car into my luggage. Drove to the Airport, dropped off the rental, checked the baggage, and cleared the security with plenty of time to spare. I was waiting at the terminal about an hr before the flight. The flight was on time, and quite comfortable. My gf came and picked me up, and I was home by 6:45 pm.
Overall, this trip was successful, but not in terms of photography. I didn't get as many pictures as I had hoped for, but overall, it's a pretty scenic area.