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Picking a Spot

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#1 md11spotter98


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Posted 06 April 2024 - 10:47 PM

This will be my first total solar eclipse. Broadly speaking, what types of spots do you all plan on setting up at? I'm trying to decide if I should find a public park, a shopping plaza, a nature area, or just a random rural field to set up at. Should I avoid places with streetlights that might turn on when it gets dark(ish)? Am I crazy for hoping to find a good spot that also has restrooms?


I'm currently staying in Nashville, TN, driving to a cheap motel tomorrow in Staunton, IL. I'm planning to drive to the Carbondale area super early on Monday (maybe leaving around 06:00 if I can conquer my natural night owl rhythm). Hopefully driving in from the north will help with traffic. I can't imagine it'll be that bad, most of the US population has no idea this is even happening.


I'd like to be set up and comfortable before the eclipse begins, without the risk of getting kicked out halfway through. I'll be shooting with 3 cameras (plus my phone) during totality.


It was easier to find a spot in New Mexico for the annular eclipse back in October. I found a spot directly on the centerline near Roswell, and there were only 3 other cars within a mile of me. It was amazing!

#2 TrailExplorer


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Posted 07 April 2024 - 01:20 AM

This is also my first TSE, I've been scoping out a list of rural public parks to go to. But I am terrified that I am going to show up at these places and they're going to be slammed with other eclipse chasers. I guess if the spots I've picked are packed I'll just go find a country road to pull over at.

#3 Katharine


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Posted 07 April 2024 - 02:16 AM

I have a preferred spot, and it's a local public park, but as the town's eclipse website doesn't mention this as a "parking" place, I'm not sure if it'll be open to the public on eclipse day-- I should have called Parks & Rec and asked.  I'd rather do that than my hotel's parking lot (though sitting by the hotel pool has its attraction, lol), as I'd rather hear nature sounds (to the extent I can beyond all people talking and kids whining and oohing and aahing).  But, I'll take wherever I can get.

#4 bunyon


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Posted 07 April 2024 - 05:26 AM

If you don't have a guaranteed, reserved spot (a friend/family property, a ticket to an official event, etc), get there very early so you have time to move if necessary. If it's public and not closed, you won't be chased off - though you might be in a crowd. If you're alone, it's not a bad idea to make a friend so you can leave your gear to get something to eat or drink. We ended up watching a guy's stuff in 2017. But the key is early movement in case it takes some time to find something.


Check the latest forecast before you go.

#5 winstar


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Posted 07 April 2024 - 07:28 AM

I would choose a nature area. I’m at Tall Tree Lake not far from Vienna, IL. That said, if Carbondale looks better I’ll head that way early and try to get to a park. If I do that, then I’ll bring less gear, a couple of binos and an action camera and cell phone camera.

Hope we get lucky with the weather.

#6 md11spotter98


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Posted 07 April 2024 - 09:28 AM

Thanks all for your replies! The forecasts are looking decent for southern Illinois, I'll make a decision early on Monday. I'll make a list of public parks and nature areas so I have multiple options. I'd like to avoid the crowds if possible. I don't have the patience for reckless kids getting a little too close to my telescope rig and messing up my time-lapse bangbang.gif


I convinced my mom to drive with me from SC, it will be her first and probably last time seeing a total solar eclipse frown.gif

#7 joofcorn



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Posted 07 April 2024 - 09:35 AM

For those in southern Illinois, I know in 2017 Giant City State Park had a few large open fields that they set aside just for people to park and watch the eclipse. How busy it got in 2017 I'm not sure as we last minute drive into Tennessee instead for clear weather. Don't know about this year since I'm in Indianapolis and everywhere in the Midwest had tons of rain so those fields may be too wet for them to open, but might be worth a peak.

Edited by joofcorn, 07 April 2024 - 10:01 AM.

#8 avarakin



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Posted 07 April 2024 - 09:37 AM

I think most parks and nature areas will be packed. I wonder if I can park on a shoulder of some rural road next to a field.

#9 afd33


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Posted 07 April 2024 - 06:30 PM

This is my first that I'm traveling to as well. I figure for a 13ish hour round trip drive it's worth it. I'm coming from the north too, so I'm hoping traffic won't be too horrible. My plan as of right now, is a rest area between two small/medium cities on the Illinois/Indiana border not particularly towards the center of the path of totality.My first alternate is another weigh station. My two other alternates are hopefully Walmart parking lots in either of the two cities. Then my last resort is park on a country road.


I'm not bringing my telescope and solar filter. I'm thinking my DSLR or phone camera near totality. The big question is what time I want to leave at. I'm going alone, and I'm thinking 6ish to get in the area around 12:30 central times. That should be about an hour before the partial eclipse begins. I'm just kind of hoping that's early enough to find a decent spot. Totality says it should be 2min 40ish seconds, and I'm kinda hoping more people try to get towards the center. All weekend I've been debating if I actually want to drive or not, but I figure what else am I going to do on a Monday.

#10 md11spotter98


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Posted 07 April 2024 - 07:50 PM

Leaning towards Shawnee National Forest at the moment. Sounds like crowds will be everywhere, but at least I'll get some nice trees in my wide angle shots. And their flyer says they'll have porta-potties set up in some spots. https://www.fs.usda....d=FSEPRD1122842


I'm a little worried about making it to the Nashville area in time for my hotel check-in. Would be a 2.5 hour drive with no traffic, no idea how much longer with traffic. As long as I get in by midnight ish I'll be fine. We'll see.


Good luck and clear skies everyone!!!

#11 RichNH


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Posted 07 April 2024 - 07:55 PM

We're heading to the Burlington, VT area tomorrow.  Hoping I can find something, we're winging it.

#12 stomias


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Posted 07 April 2024 - 08:20 PM

In 2017 I was in Carbondale. Right now in Cape Girardeau. Weather looks real promising! Grammar school football field's 1/2 a block away. Traffic in Carbondale was abysmal in 2017. Was going to leave right after...hahaha forget it. I wasn't going to make a 4 hour trip 14. Had to get a motel....Also it was almost 100 degrees that day.  :)

#13 md11spotter98


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Posted 08 April 2024 - 09:14 AM

Left my hotel in Staunton around 05:30 and got to Shawnee National Forest at 08:30 or so. I found a giant field with a nearly 360° view all around, just north of the McCann Springs picnic area. So far there's only one other car here but we'll see what happens. The sky is almost completely clear right now!!
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#14 Cajundaddy



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Posted 08 April 2024 - 09:22 AM

We chose a public park in a small town.  Grass, trees for shade,  restrooms, public parking. Arrived 8am and there was no one here but us.

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