Powderhunds -> Eclipsehunds?

Well, after seeing a total eclipse we might have just turned into eclipse chasers (a/k/a umbraphiles). Yes, spending 2’4″ in totality was THAT amazing. Our location was a remote mountain in Oregon south of Baker City. Though remote, we were not nearly alone as it is pretty easy to access the ridge we were on and the mountain top itself has an old naval installation. A steady progression of vehicles rolled past our camp all morning so we were up early to hit our chosen viewing spot. At nearly 6000′ in the dry mountains of eastern Oregon we had a cloudless, 360º view of the horizon.

The ridge was quite windy, though the wind really died down as totality approached, so I set up my tripod very low to the ground. I was using a Canon 100-400mm 4.5/5.6L lens on a Canon 70D body with an 18-stop solar filter. We also set up Sara’s iPhone to record the whole scene with a time lapse app. Finally, both my brother and Dad were taking pictures, too. We figured we had it pretty well covered. Little did we appreciate how fast the actual 2 minutes of totality would fly by.

When the sun was about 90% covered it was noticeably darker and cooler. Despite the warm morning I put on a sweatshirt. As I feared, I was actually more focused on my pictures than the approaching shadow. As the sliver of sun gets smaller and smaller, the final shadow rushed over us at +/- 2700 mph. The effect is very startling. We could hear oohing and ahhing all along the ridge (and from our own group). For a few seconds I was so focused on my camera that I initially forgot to take off the solar filter and just look up! Fortunately I realized, I needed to spend a little time looking around instead of just at the camera LCD screen.

The effect is amazing. The entire horizon glows almost like sunset as the light from the horizon, which is not in complete shadow, filters back to you. The sun itself glows out from behind the moon. We were only able to see a few bright planets, but the sky was remarkably dark – far more twilight than dusk. While nothing silly happened on our ridge, it is understandable why people want to get naked and worship the universe! I suspect we will be pointing the van toward Mexico or Texas on April 8, 2024.

Sara: With no camera responsibilities, I was able to sit back and just enjoy the scene unfold. It was fun to don solar glasses and check on the progress, while hanging out on a warm ridge. As the sky grew darker, the air cooler, and the grasshoppers went still, I lay back to watch the final minutes to totality. There are no words to express the wonderment I saw as I lowered my glasses to reveal the majestic beauty of the eclipse. It was hard to know where to look: the highlighted moon, the 360º sunset, the dark blue sky, or the unique light on the surrounding mountains. As totality passed, I first put the glasses back on, but then realized I should  watch the lightening sky around me instead. The first rays of sun made a spotlight on us that grew outward as the shadow raced off to the east. The air warmed and the grasshoppers welcomed back the sun. I continued to watch the progress of the receding eclipse while Michael took pictures. In hindsight, I wish we had brought a colander or other creative pinhole things to play with the eclipse light during this time. It has been fun to see all the pictures of folks experiencing this amazing phenomenon. The beauty of the natural world is unbelievable and until you see a total solar eclipse, it is too!

Viewing spot panorama looking south and west. Photo by Matthew Valentine.

Eclipse Time Lapse (click for video)

Looking west during totality at the glow on the horizon.
Total eclipse.
Total eclipse showing solar flares.
Progression of the eclipse.
Fun lens flare during eclipse.


Headed West (practice trip)!

Our westward adventure began last week driving to Oregon in a large U-Haul. We consider it practice for driving a large van. Not only did we still get along spending 12 hours/day driving, we actually had some nice conversations! Our cargo was a half-built airplane. As many friends know, I started building a Zenith 601XL in 2005 before running out of steam about halfway through. For the last decade or so the half-built airplane has been sitting in my basement. Through a chance meeting on the gondola at Kicking Horse Resort in British Columbia last February with a guy from Joseph, OR, I had decided to donate the plane to the aviation/STEM program at Joseph High School. 

The approximately 2800 mile, 44-hour drive (NH-VT-NY-PA-OH-IN-IL-IA-NE-WY-ID-OR – interestingly our route included every state starting with an I) was largely uneventful. In case you were not aware, we grow an awful lot of corn here in America. Nearly every day started and ended with a view of a cornfield! The one bit of excitement in the otherwise routine journey was the back-to-back blown trailer tires in Wyoming about 9:00 p.m. on day 3. I knew heading out that my trailer spare was junk, but I thought that by taking the spare I would be warding off bad luck. Nope! Tire number one was only good for the first 2000 miles of this adventure. Fortunately a helpful passing motorist and a tire shop open until 11:00 p.m. saved us. 
The good samaritan alerted us immediately when the first tire started to go flat and disintegrate, then even stopped to help us change the tire. Unfortunately, the rotten spare only lasted about 1/2 a mile and then blew out even worse, destroying my trailer light with whipping tire shrapnel. We grabbed the original tire and abandoned the trailer on the side of I-80 just outside Sinclair, WY. We found the one tire shop open late in Rawlins, WY about 10 miles down the road and coincidentally they had three tires the size we needed. After replacing the one tire we drove back out to change out the blown spare with the new tire (after stopping at Walmart for the tools we should have already had with us). We managed to retrieve the trailer and get back to the tire shop at 10:30 p.m. They replaced the blown spare, and as the shop just happened to have three tires in our size we decided to be smart and get the last tire replaced as well. In the end we only lost two hours of our day and put an unexpected dent in the credit card, but we ended up with three new tires. Considering all that could have gone wrong and the places it could have gone wrong, this was a small price to pay.

On Tuesday we were able to meet up with the teacher at Joseph (OR) High School and get the plane unloaded into his shop. I can only hope the kids enjoy finishing what I have started. Someday I’m expecting to go for a ride in a plane I half-built!

Welcome to Vermont!

Welcome to New York!

Welcome to Pennsylvania!

Welcome to Ohio!

Welcome to Indiana!

Welcome to Illinois!

Welcome to Iowa!

Welcome to Nebraska!

Welcome to Wyoming!

Welcome to Idaho!

Welcome to Oregon!

For every beginning, there is an ending.

From: Michael
Sent: Monday, July 10, 2017 3:53 PM
To: Michael
Subject: Leaving HCAO

Dear friends and colleagues, today I submitted my notice at the Hillsborough County Attorney’s Office – my last day will be August 2. I did so with mixed emotions. I have been honored to serve the State of New Hampshire as a prosecutor for the last eleven years and First Assistant for the past two. The work done by the attorneys, advocates, and staff in the office is amazing. It is done with passion and professionalism to serve victims and represent ordinary citizens in society. I support and applaud all of you who have chosen to make this your career, including law enforcement and advocacy groups who all work together with similar challenges and goals. As you all know, it is intellectually challenging and emotionally draining to deal with only the darker side of society in a criminal justice system that is neither designed to support the rights of victims, nor the true desire to rehabilitate those who should be rehabilitated. The challenges of our work are often overlooked and the resources to properly carry out our mission are often withheld, even by the very people who pass the laws we are asked to enforce. Nonetheless, we carry on and do the best we can.

As I sit reflecting on my time as a prosecutor there is so much I think about that I cannot put into words. I think about the girl who could not describe her abuse without putting her hands over her face and whispering words she could not say out loud. I think of the picture of a young man with his neck sliced open from a machete. I think of a bright, smiling young girl who was bright and smiling and looking forward to a new family despite having endured unspeakable horror at the hands of her parents. I think of the secret emails typed out by a pedophile who fondly reminisced on his dozens of victims with his like-minded digital friends, to which he attached pictures of countless other abused and exploited children. This darkness has taken its toll on me emotionally and lately it feels as if it is all I think of. Hopefully I’ve helped some victims. Hopefully I’ve helped some defendants. I believe I have made a difference and so the fight has been worth it, but for me, for now, that fight is at an end.

As many of you know, Sara and I plan to move out West and take some time to reset. Having taught 5th and 6th graders with enthusiasm and devotion, and dealt with administrators and parents, for the past thirteen years, Sara needs a break too. Our goal is to spend next winter living in ski area parking lots and snowboarding every day. To accomplish this goal we intend to buy a large van and convert it into a camper. If you just read that sentence and think you have been pranked, I’m sorry to say you have not. Either you know us well enough to know we are crazy enough to do it (the van was actually Sara’s idea), or you can just mark it down as evidence of how badly I need a break. Instead of a mental breakdown, a messy divorce, or a convertible we will just play out our mid-life crises in ski area and Walmart parking lots throughout the West. We have property in Idaho where we expect to land sooner or later, but beyond #vanlife and a full season of snowboarding, we have no specific plans. I haven’t entirely decided if I will seek digital exile or will (over)share our adventures, but you can keep an eye on to see if we decide to blog.

Thank you for all your support personally and professionally in New Hampshire. I will miss working with all of you.