Little Falls natives find solar eclipse experience more amazing than they ever anticipated

The experience of seeing the solar eclipse, Aug. 21, was more powerful than Cheryl Waltman of Little Falls and her daughter, Rachel of Eden Prairie, had initially anticipated.
The mother-daughter team traveled to Scotts Bluff, Neb. to see the eclipse, Aug. 21. Even though they had scheduled to visit other cities, Rachel said their vacation was planned around the eclipse.

Rachel Waltman, left, and her mom, Cheryl, observed the solar eclipse at Scotts Bluff, Neb. It was an adventure neither will forget.

“I’ve always been into earth science since I was little, so I thought that this would be something cool to see,” Rachel said.
In the past, both mother and daughter have taken vacations together. They enjoy each other’s company, Rachel said.
“At first when Rachel asked me if I wanted to go see the eclipse, I wasn’t so excited about it. But when she mentioned a road trip, I was in. I love road trips,” Cheryl said.
“It’s nice to be able to spend time with your mom. We’re lucky we get along as well as we do, so we can spend time together while we can,” Rachel said.
Rachel booked their hotel in January. She figured it would be well in time for the eclipse. It didn’t take long for her to discover that the closest available hotel was in Loveland, Colo. — nearly three hours away.
“Everything else was booked up already,” Rachel said.
The morning of the eclipse, they left Loveland, Colo. and figured they had plenty of time to make it to Scotts Bluff, Neb.
But once they hit the Interstate, the Waltmans discovered that most of the other vehicles were going in the same direction as they were.
“There was so much traffic. It was just stop and go. It took us over two hours to travel a distance of 50 miles. But eventually it thinned out when many started going toward Casper, Wyoming,” Cheryl said.
Rachel, who works as a freelance photographer, hoped to get some really nice shots of the eclipse.
Since she wanted a part of the landscape to show up with her eclipse photos, she used a widening lens, she said.
Wherever they went, Cheryl and Rachel ran into people who were all heading to watch the eclipse from various spots. Many wore shirts that read “Eclipse 2017.”
“It was unbelievable. People came from all over. Many spoke in languages I had never heard and I think we saw license tabs from about every state in the country,” Cheryl said.
Both women said the eclipse was nothing they had anticipated. When they were waiting for the moon to pass over the sun, they were waiting for it to get dark somewhat slowly.

When the eclipse passed by in Scotts Bluff, Neb. day turned to night, the crickets started chirping and the birds began flying.

“When nothing really happened, we both thought it was kind of lame. We had heard it would be this spectacular thing,” Rachel said.
But then, all of a sudden, everything around them instantly became dark and the temperature dropped about 10 degrees.
“The crickets started chirping and all the birds started flying around. It was exciting to see how nature reacted to it. The animals behaved like they would during nighttime,” Rachel said.
One thing was for certain, Rachel said. Photos and videos of the eclipses don’t do it justice. It’s a whole different experience to witness it firsthand, she said.
Even though the eclipse lasted less than two minutes, the trip was worth it, both said.
In the end, Rachel didn’t get the photos she had hoped for, but she is not one to give up. She is already planning for the next eclipse in 2024.
By then she hopes to have a better lens, such as a telephoto lens. She also plans to book their hotel way earlier.
Next time, Rachel plans to bring her dad, Ben.
“He’s into earth science even more than I am,” Rachel said.