A Family Adventure


in the mountains, ocean, and air

Eclipse 2024

April 8, 2024
Emilie Phillips

We saw the total solar eclipse. We figured we would wait until the week of to see where the weather was good. Anywhere from the Adirondacks to the Maine woods is within a two hour flight. In some ways that was good. New York ended up cloudy. However, we got surprised that many airports within the path of totality required reservations to land. They had booked up months in advance. Ok, we figured, we can go land on a remote strip in the Maine backcountry. Except then it snowed two feet. Sunday morning we hastily put the skis back on the Bearhawk.

Diane joined us, which made the trip even more fun. We left Brookline at 8AM Monday. Better to be early and have to wait, than late and find there is no room left at an airport. Our destination was Ragmuff, a gravel strip in the Maine Woods where neither Tyson nor I have ever landed.

About an hour into the flight, I started thinking about a toilet. I debated stopping at Fryeburg Maine, but given concerns about crowds at the destination, I decided to keep going. Around Sugarloaf, I was pretty sure I needed a bathroom before landing at an unknown backcountry strip. Sugarloaf was one of the airports whose reservations booked up months ago. There aren’t many airports (or towns) in that part of Maine. The next possibility was Greenville. We had already seen a steady stream of airplanes headed into Greenville. They were first come first serve until they filled up. I called ahead on my cell phone before diverting. They still had space. Phew.

We didn’t know how muddy or snowy Ragmuff would be, or if it would be crowded. Sure fewer pilots would try landing there, but it was a small runway with a small parking area. Greenville had closed their entire crosswind runway and turned it into parking. We decided to stay at Greenville rather than continuing to Ragmuff.

This was an interesting non-aviation aviation event. It had a totally different vibe than fly ins. People weren’t here to talk about their engines, or the short strips they had flown into. People were here for the eclipse. People came in all sorts of planes: the low rent Cessna 150 trainer all the way up to the sparkling black Cirrus Jet. The runway was a quarter full when we arrived. We had a little cookout and played frisbee. After noon, people set up their chairs on the downwind and sunward side of their planes. It almost looked like a drive in movie theater. Tyson called his Dad telling him there was still room. The Greenville manager said they would make room for people anywhere they could. Harvey and Mike headed up in the Aztec.

Then, while we were playing frisbee, a young kid called out “It’s starting!” We all dutifully pulled out our eclipse glasses to see the bite out of the cookie. Diane was amazed how bright the light stayed until the sun was a hair line sliver. My favorite effect was the flickering waves of light right as totality started. As the sun went dark, there was a moment of silence up and down the airport. Then oohs and aahs as everyone took in the black circle with a white crown. Tyson was thrilled to see planets. I don’t think we saw any true stars. The whole horizon stayed yellowish-sunset colors. The camera doesn’t do the corona justice. The white streaks coming out looked much longer and distinctive in person. I saw two bright red spots along the edge. My photo reveals those as solar flares.

We took our time packing up afterwards. Some people took off less than a minute after totality. Once we did take off, the flow of aircraft headed southwest was impressive. We tried detouring by the major highway in New Hampshire to see traffic, but according to google maps, everyone was still stuck up north. The roads were empty.

All told, very much a fun experience and worth taking the day off.

P.S. Tyson found a photo online from that day at Ragmuff. The only plane was on bush wheels. All the snow had melted.

All Photos

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