11 August 1999
We arose at 6:00, and had breakfast at 8, with
Muesli, bread, meats and jams. So by 8:30 we were on the trails.
We started for the Alberfeldkogel but changed our
minds to go to the highest peak instead - the Groß Höllekogel. It took us a couple of
hours of walking and climbing, with beautiful views all around.
But the closer we got
to the peak, the more evident it was that the peak was collecting clouds and would
therefore be the absolute worst place for viewing. With only about 1% sunshine where we were,
it was frustrating to look north into the mostly-sunny valleys, knowing that there was
no way we could make it down there in time to see the eclipse!
But, looking across to the Alberfeldkogel, we saw that it was consistently in about 25% sun.
So we went for it, Laura's sore feet and all. Because it was downhill for much of the way,
the hike seemed to go quicker.
And every now and then when it seemed to get brighter, we'd
break out the eclipse glasses and take another look at the rapidly-waning crescent of the sun.
The scenery was beautiful, especially when a view of the valleys would break out.
My watch alarm went off, to signal the approach of totality. We settled right in on the path,
and readied the glasses, cameras, and videocamera. Somewhat unprepared, we had to exchange
the videocamera batter and load fresh film into both cameras.
Over the past hour, the gradual darkening was barely noticeable, but as totality approached,
the darkness came faster. Looking down at the valley we saw no distinct line of darkness,
but yes - a sudden darkness coming upon us.
Immediately above our heads was the sun,
mostly freed from clouds,
in a fantastic diamond ring! And darkness!
the sun's corona,
in the middle of the sky.
Some fumbling with the camera. Some more with the videocamera.
But mostly, we sat back, awestruck by the spectacle.
This is how it looked to the naked eye.
Suddenly, another diamond ring phase, and it was over.
As quickly as the darkness had come,
the sunlight returned.
It was already noticeably cooler, and the flowers stayed closed for
a few more minutes after the light came back. Even though we were unfamiliar with the native
wildlife, it seemed that we were hearing morning sounds.
In five more minutes, we were back on our way on the path. There was only a little sun,
as it ducked behind the thick clouds that puffed in from the west. We had only a few short
peeks of the moon gradually uncovering the sun.
Finally back to the Edelweiß, about 2 hours after the eclipse, we walked back in.
Finally back to our room after our 6½ hour hike, we quickly dropped into a nap.
A deep sleep after all that exercise.
While Laura sought the shower, Dad got pulled aside by the locals at the bar,
who kept offering schnapps to their new friend from Texas. Hans from the Naturfreundehaus
was there. So was Hans from Ebensee, whom we had met on the trail. And Günther Neubacher,
Alex' father, was behind the bar, just handing out drink after drink.
A good supper and a shower preceded our short hike around the vicinity of the Berggasthof Edelweiß.
The sky had almost cleared, producing a beautiful sunset.
So ended our wonderful but long day atop the Feuerkogel plateau.
It was as a gleaming jewel laid into the setting of this treasured trip.