Solar Eclipse Totality

Note: I didn't publish this before going on the trip because I wasn't sure if it would work out. There were a lot of variables and there's a part of me that really hates showing the planning for something if it doesn't end up happening. That may be a bit backwards in thinking but I didn't want it to look like I was trying to get some sort of "social credit" for simply talking about doing a thing instead of actually doing it. Hope that makes sense. I plan to get better at this, much like Sean McCabe and his "Lambo Goal" idea.

About a month before the solar eclipse, I decided it was something I really should probably make a point to see. Even though I had the vacation time, I planned to make it a whirlwind of a trip. Drive down south, spend the night in a tent or the car, see the eclipse the next day, and drive home. Simple.

Luckily I somehow convinced my kid brother to tag along for the 1,400 mile drive which is good because he's a solid road trip partner and I knew he'd be up for driving and/or navigating. So I packed everything I could picture needing while my brother packed just an extra pair of socks and finalized our plan.


We left town Sunday after church and long drive short, showed up on some private land in North Carolina around 2 AM the next morning. We set up our tent and racked out. Didn't even set up the fly on account of it being so warm.

Waking up shortly after 8, we had some camp coffee and a Mountain House breakfast before buying time until the start of the eclipse. Of course it felt like any other day but at the same time a bit like Christmas Eve.


Before long, we were on top of a hill, staring through our special glasses and binoculars, watching the moon start its transit of the sun. It was exciting, even if the process was taking its sweet time. It was hot. And to stare at the sun, you have to be out in the sun.

I made a spot on the ground so I could lay on my back when totality was nearing. Just a camping ground pad with a backpack to prop up my head but it was super comfortable and I recommend you try it at the next solar eclipse.


Even though I spent a few minutes on and off staring at the sun for the better part of an hour, totality seemed to happen out of nowhere. Look, I could describe what I saw and felt during totality but it won't make any sense if you haven't experienced it yourself. I shot the video below on my iPhone and it's horrible. But I'm glad I hardly gave it any attention at all because I truly just enjoyed the moment. 

2 minutes and 12 seconds later, it was over. Well the fun part at least. We had to start the drive back home.


The eclipse was mindbendingly amazing.

Now for the nitty gritty...


Our initial plan was to rent a mini-van and drive down to South Carolina. We decided on the mini-van in case we needed to stealth camp in town somewhere. Our main focus was simply finding the closest point of totality to our homes with some back up locations further west. Right before the start of the trip, we adjusted our plans (due to weather) and settled on a spot in North Carolina. Turns out, a friend of ours had a place where we could crash for the night. And if necessary, we were still close to Tennessee so we could head west had the weather turned.

I have an old iPad 2 with a Verizon sim card and while I don't have service for it, the GPS still works perfectly. I downloaded a ton of offline Google Maps in case we didn't get cell reception and I'm glad I did because it ended up coming in very handy. The amount of people headed home after totality was bonkers. Gridlock everywhere. But my brother was able to find us some random side roads that connected and we were able to keep jumping ahead with relative ease. Some gravel roads here and there, a small North Carolina mountain pass, and a couple quiet neighborhoods led us to freedom. 

General Specifics



In the end, we settled on Murphy, NC but here were our other possible locations before we were able to lock down Murphy.

Primary Location

Duration of Totality: 2m38.4s

  • Start of partial eclipse (C1): 13:05:44.1
  • Start of total eclipse (C2): 14:34:26.7
  • Maximum eclipse: 14:35:46.0
  • End of total eclipse (C3): 14:37:05.1
  • End of partial eclipse (C4): 15:00:14.9
Screen Shot 2017-08-17 at 10.37.29 AM.png

Alternate Location 01

Screen Shot 2017-08-17 at 10.36.14 AM.png

Alternate Location 02

Screen Shot 2017-08-17 at 10.36.49 AM.png

Alternate Location 03

  • Tellico Plains, TN
  • 1 hour 6 minute drive from Murphy, NC

Packing List

I totally overpacked but we were car camping and I had no idea what to expect. Would we have to sit on the highway for 3 days? Maybe. Leave the car and hike into totality? Possibly. I don't regret overpacking for this trip and I knew my brother didn't have any camping stuff so I made sure to bring extra.

[x] Trunk
[x] GR2

[x] Windshield phone mount
[x] Power inverter
[x] Miir water bottle
[x] Stanley thermos
[x] Snacks

[x] Lowa boots
[x] (3) Hiking socks
[x] Running shoes
[x] REI pants
[x] Kuhl pants
[x] Blue REI shirt
[x] Grey 32 deg shirt
[x] Heather grey ITS shirt
[x] OR hard shell
[x] (2) Exoficio underwear
[x] Filson hat

[x] Camp food
[x] Starbucks Via
[x] (2) Camp mugs

[x] MacBook Pro and charger
[x] USB Battery pack
[x] Apple Watch charger
[x] iPad and charger
[x] Jenni’s Headlamp (and spare batteries)
[x] External hard drive
[x] Olympus camera, lenses, charger
[x] AirPods

[x] REI Half Dome 2
[x] Tent footprint - Gossamer Gear Polycryo
[x] Sea to Summit inflatable ground pad
[x] Thermarest ground pad (2)
[x] NEMO Fillo
[x] Sleeping bag liner
[x] Camp stove and fuel
[x] Sporks (2)
[x] Aluminum plate
[x] Water container (5 gallon)
[x] Insect repellant
[x] Baby wipes
[x] Trowel
[x] Survival kit
[x] Small axe
[x] Sleeping bag
[x] Camp towel
[x] Inflatable lantern

[x] Deodorant
[x] Body glide
[x] Q-Tips
[x] Toothbrush
[x] Toothpaste
[x] Shower wipes
[x] Breathe Right strips
[x] Doc Bronners soap

[x] ENO Hammock
[x] evrgrn rocking chair
[x] REI camp seat
[x] Bear spray
[x] First Aid Kit
[x] Trauma Kit
[x] REI binoculars
[x] Eclipse - Binocular attachments
[x] Eclipse - (1) 2x binocular glasses
[x] Eclipse - (2) standard glasses
[x] (3) Trash bags
[x] (2) Baseballs and gloves

Things to do before leaving town:
[x] Download Google Maps areas offline (iPad)
[x] Download Google Maps areas offline (iPhone)
[x] Fill 5 gallon water jug


Shared Expenses

  • Rental Car: $170.61
  • Fuel: $137.33
  • Tolls: $13.91
  • Total Split: $160.91 each