The Solar Eclipse and Great Smoky Mountains Hot Air Balloon Festival!
by Rachelle Siegrist
It was quite hot and toasty as we excitedly started walking down the hill to meet up with friend Kit, and his visiting family, at our chosen viewing area for the solar eclipse. Minutes after arriving we could already see the moon inching its way in front of the sun, causing atmospheric and lighting conditions to take on a strange appearance, and the temperature to begin slowly dropping. We then noticed the shadows from trees were crescent shaped, and that our own shadows too became short and very crisp. At that point, two kids walked up and were selling the appropriate eclipse glasses for $1 each! Wes and I couldn’t believe it, after the fiasco we had gone through with our friend Fred last week trying to find our own eclipse glasses!
Kit’s family took advantage of the cheap glasses being offered to watch with us, as the moon covered more of the sun making it darker and causing the street lights on sensors to come on. At that point the sun looked like a big sparkling diamond ring!
Seconds later just before totality, a weird wavy pattern shimmered on the ground all around us, and as darkness descended, the temperature fell about 20 degrees as well, until it was quite cool and comfortable! Thinking night had fallen, the crickets started singing loudly, and a beautiful sunset appeared over the mountains, surrounding us 360 degrees!
I was covered in chill bumps from sheer delight at being able to witness such an incredible celestial phenomenon! Cheers and applause could be heard all over the hills as we watched in darkness, and I’m quite sure I heard the theme from 2001 A Space Odyssey playing on someone’s phone or radio nearby!
It all happened so fast, and before long it was all over, with shimmering waves appearing on the ground below once again and the diamond ring effect coming back on the opposite side! Our shadows remained crisp as a paper cutout for quite sometime, and the patterns for the trees stayed crescent-shaped. As the moon slowly passed, the light came back and the temperature started rising. We had witnessed a great event, which we’ll remember forever!
Another fun event this past week took place in the sky as well! The Great Smoky Mountains Hot Air Ballon Festival and Solar Eclipse event took place last Saturday here in Townsend. Massive amounts of people poured into our tiny little town, most driving in traffic that took two hours to drive roughly two miles!!! Cars were parking everywhere as our quiet town swelled past capacity!
We had never seen so many people here, but I decided to brave the swollen crowds to go watch the lighting of the balloons that evening. I walked down with friends and convinced them to push our way through the crowd to be able to get up close to the massive balloons. Close enough in fact, to talk to one of the pilots about how they operate them and even getting to peer into the big basket containing two massive gas tanks.
Having seen a ballon lighting once before in Florida many years ago, I knew we were in for a real treat once the sun began setting and the huge balloons lit up against the dark sky. Of course the beauty of the mountains and fields behind them made for a stunning scene, as each pilot filled them with hot air, causing the flames to shoot up illuminating the large floating balloons!
I must say that although we greatly enjoyed watching it, we were even more delighted when it ended and Townsend returned to a quiet, sleepy little town!
~ Our Model Railroad update ~
We’re continuing to make more progress on the model train set. In this next step you can see we finished painting the dirt and stone work with different values of tans and darker browns to give it dimension. Then we painted dark blue where the water is going to be. Once dry, various lighter shades of blue were painted to create depth differences in the cascading stream and waterfall, as well as the more shallow areas of the deep water below.
A piece of plexiglas cut to the desired shape was put into place atop the deep water. Next while Wes painted glue water on what was to be lawn and fields, I sprinkled on the grass mixture, made from tinted sawdust. By this point it was really starting to look real!
Next, buildings were glued into place and it was time to start adding the trees and shrubs, sticks and more rocks.
~ Fresh off the Easels ~
While I’m continuing to paint on surprise commissions, Wes finished a couple of landscape paintings this past week, that feature our beautiful Great Smoky Mountains National Park. The first painting is of what’s been called both the Avent and Artist’s Cabin, located inside the historic Elkmont area. We’ve enjoyed hiking to this lovely little cabin several times and look forward to going there again sometime!
The other landscape miniature painting is of beautiful Abrams Falls, a waterfall which is reached via a 2 1/2 mile hike form inside Cades Cove. Another favorite of ours, we’ve hiked to this falls many times, and I personally look forward to hiking there again many times!
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Until next time . . .