The Annular Solar Eclipse on Sunday (May 20th, 2012) has been quite the hot topic in San Juan County for the past couple months. The reason for this was because the southern end of the county was right in the zone where the eclipse would be visible at 100%. Several National Parks & Monuments in the area had events planned- from teaching people how to make eclipse viewers to astronomy ranger-led programs during the actual eclipse.
I knew I wanted to do something during the eclipse, but I was really torn as to where to go. I guess there are worse positions to be in, I could have lived in an area where the full eclipse wasn’t visible, but I really did put a lot of thought into where I wanted to watch it from.
The obvious choice would have been to go to Natural Bridges National Monument- they have an astronomy ranger on staff who does Night Sky Astronomy Programs two nights/week (I’m planning to do a blog entry on this soon, so stay tuned!) and they had a big event planned for the eclipse complete with eclipse viewing glasses for everyone who attended. But if you’re a regular reader of my blog, you probably know that I really prefer to enjoy my time outdoors with as few people around as possible, so as tempting as the program at Natural Bridges was, I opted out.
This brought up one problem… what was I going to watch the eclipse with? I was almost to the point of making my own eclipse viewing box out of some FedEx tubes, but then I heard on KUER that you could also use shades for welding helmets. On the program they said that you would need #14 or higher to ensure that you won’t damage your eyes, so I set out on a hunt to find some!
I called around town and couldn’t even find a place that sells them, so since my husband and I were planning on heading to Durango, CO over the weekend anyway, I decided to try a few welding supply stores there as well. This was Friday afternoon and I was very surprised to hear that the first couple places I tried were completely sold out of any combinations of shades that would equal #14!
Finally I found a place in Cortez, CO that still had some in stock, so I asked them to hold a couple sets for me and went to pick them up the next day. It was kind of funny- by the time I arrived at about 9am, they were almost sold out and there was still a steady stream of people (who have probably never been in a welding supply store before!) coming in asking for #14 shades! I was really glad I’d called ahead. (For future reference, each shade runs about $2-$3, so the #9 & #5 I bought only ran me about $5.)
The place I finally decided to go watch the eclipse from was an overlook on Hart Point Road- one of my FAVORITE overlooks in the county! I’ve done a blog entry on this road before- if you’re looking for some AMAZING dispersed camping spots near the Needles District of Canyonlands & Monticello, this is THE place for you! It overlooks Indian Creek and the Needles and it’s only about a 45 minute drive from Monticello. There’s no reason for me to camp there so close to home, but at some point I may do it anyway- it’s absolutely beautiful out there!
We left our house at about 6:00pm and took the Hart’s Draw Road from the very street we live on, (200 South) straight up the mountain, and down to where it meets up with Hwy 211- the road leading to the Needles District of Canyonlands. (Directions will follow)
For this area, the eclipse was supposed to start at about 6:30pm and continue until about sunset or 8:30pm, (whichever came first) with the maximum eclipse visible at 7:32pm. So the whole time we were driving out there, I was holding up my welding shade to see if the eclipse had started or not.
We were using several different cameras, and I think the pictures I took with my 35mm will probably turn out much better, but the picture above is one I took by holding the welding shades in front of my digital camera. You can’t see the eclipse in the sun itself, but in the reflection to the right of the sun, you can see a little notch out of the bottom right-hand corner. I think the fact that the camera auto-focuses made it hard to take pictures because if you just held the welding shades up, you had a completely clear view- not like in the picture above.
When we arrived at one of our favorite viewpoints, we were very happy to see that we had the place to ourselves! I know we were there to watch the eclipse, but one of the first things we noticed was this beautiful blooming yucca right on the rim of the canyon. I LOVE spring in the desert!
Once we arrived, we set up our cameras and just sat on the rim and taking pictures and watching the moon slowly creep in front of the sun. It didn’t get quite as dark as I was expecting, but it definitely started to feel like sunset when the eclipse was at its fullest. We also noticed that our shadows started to look a little strange- kind of fuzzy around the edges rather than sharp.
The overlook on Hart Point Road was a great place to watch the eclipse from- I was definitely happy with my choice! But honestly, there are so many beautiful places around here, I think it’s hard to go wrong!
From Monticello: Head north on Hwy 191 approx. 14 miles to the turn for the Needles District of Canyonlands. Turn left onto Hwy 211 and drive approximately 10 miles until you have just passed the turn for the Hart’s Draw Road (Also called Co. Rd 101 and Forest Rd 105) leading to Monticello on your left. The Hart Point Rd is the next road coming in from the right- it’s an unpaved road, but does not require high clearance or 4-wheel drive.
*Alternate Route- Via Hart’s Draw Road from Monticello:
From Main St. (Hwy 191) in Monticello, turn west on 200 S right next to the Welcome Center. You will pass through about 4 blocks of houses, then this road becomes Co. Rd 101/Forest Rd 105. Continue on this road for about 18 miles until it ends where it meets Hwy 211. Turn left onto Hwy 211, and the Hart Point Road will be an immediate right.
From Moab: Head south on 191 approx. 40 miles to the turn for the Needles District of Canyonlands. Turn right onto Hwy 211 and drive approximately 10 miles until you have just passed the turn for the Hart’s Draw Road (Also called Co. Rd 101 and Forest Rd 105) leading to Monticello on your left. The Hart Point Rd is the next road coming in from the right- it’s an unpaved road, but does not require high clearance or 4-wheel drive.
Distance to lodging in San Juan County, Utah:
- Monticello: 23 miles/37 km
- La Sal: 35 miles/56 km
- Blanding: 45 miles/72 km
- Bluff: 71 miles/114 km
- Mexican Hat: 97 miles/156 km
- Monument Valley: 122 miles/196 km
For more information or to request travel brochures, please call Utah’s Canyon Country at: 800-574-4386
Or e-mail us at: firstname.lastname@example.org