Exposure

Watching the Solar Eclipse from the Appalachian Trail

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Photo: Spike Johnson

This Monday's full solar eclipse was the first visible from the U.S. since 1979. Traveling over 14 states on its way east, from Oregon to South Carolina, the eclipse passed over the southern end of the 2,200-mile Appalachian Trail. Photographer Spike Johnson traveled to North Carolina to check out the thru-hiking scene. 

Photo: Bjorn Parramoure, 31, from Gainesville, Florida, waits for the solar eclipse beneath Albert Mountain Fire Tower along the Appalachian Trail in North Carolina. He camped at Albert Fire Mountain, on the centerline of eclipse totality, to wait for the event. With a homemade recorder, he welcomed the astrological event. 

Photo: Spike Johnson

At camp, hikers discussed potential eclipse viewing points along the AT. Simon Farr (middle), from Asheville, North Carolina, showed old maps of the area to section hikers at Carter Gap, five miles south of the line of totality. As local families and tourists poured into the area, die-hard hikers planned to go to quieter, more remote areas to witness the eclipse. “I’ve got a good place planned,” Farr said "It’s nice and peaceful and tucked away under a small cliff edge. No one’ll find it.”

Photo: Spike Johnson

Farr pondered maps of the area with a section hiker at Carter Gap. “I have these old ordinance maps,” he said “There’s places on these that don’t show up on other maps.”

Photo: Spike Johnson

A sign marked the exact spot where the line of totality would intersect the Appalachian Trail, just below Albert Mountain in North Carolina.

Photo: Spike Johnson

Yalda Jam, 32, at Carter Gap. Jam, who traveled from Houston, hiked towards Albert Mountain to watch the solar eclipse pass over the AT. She arranged her three-day section hike around the eclipse. “I’ve always wanted to see an eclipse,” she said, “To watch one while hiking part of the AT is awesome.” 

Photo: Spike Johnson

Hikers and tourists congregated at Albert Mountain Fire Tower. Hundreds of walkers and day-trippers walked into the woods at Albert Mountain to witness the eclipse. Forest Rangers closed entrance roads and monitored visitor numbers to keep the crowds manageable. 

Photo: Spike Johnson

Green forest rolls away from Albert Mountain Fire Tower. 

Photo: Spike Johnson

Joseph Ellzey, 24, from Mississippi, watched the eclipse from the top of Albert Mountain Fire Tower. He traveled to Albert Mountain early in the morning to secure a spot at the top of the crowded tower, and sat wrapped in a foil blanket ready to witness the eclipse from the highest point in the area. 

Photo: Spike Johnson

For just under three minutes, a faint halo could be seen pushing through thin clouds. 

Photo: Spike Johnson

Jam watched the solar eclipse pass over the Appalachian Trail. Albert Mountain marked the turnaround point on Jam’s three-day out-and-back hike. “It’s been a special experience” she said. 

Photo: Spike Johnson

Tim Olsen (far right) from Asheville, North Carolina, watched the eclipse at Albert Mountain. He'd moved to the area from Philadelphia to work as a river guide, then made friends with other strangers passing through. 

Photo: Spike Johnson

Chris Northrop, 24, from Atlanta, Georgia, and Rachel Lewis, 23, from Gainesville, Florida, waited for the solar eclipse on a small rock ledge overhanging North Carolina forest. They bought face paint and home-made instruments to celebrate the rare event. 

Photo: Spike Johnson

Tim Olsen used a welding mask to protect his eyes while watching the eclipse at Albert Mountain Fire Tower. “I identify as a Viking,” said Olsen," so I was thinking of making a blood sacrifice under the eclipse, I just have to figure out what to sacrifice.”

Photo: Spike Johnson

Lana Kelley, Yalda Jam, and Luisa Guerra (left to right) in a quiet field beneath Albert Mountain. It was the trio’s first time on the AT. “Hiking the AT was way harder than I imagined,” says Guerra “I loved it though. I’ll be planning a longer hike soon.”

Photo: Spike Johnson

Lana Kelley from Houston, Texas, joined hundreds of other hikers making a pilgrimage into the wilderness to witness the solar eclipse passing over the AT. 

Photo: Spike Johnson

Heading north on the Appalachian Trail from Carter Gap, dense forest gives way to dramatic, open views of North Carolina. 

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