Excitement Builds As Tennessee Valley Prepares For Monday's Eclipse

Saturday, August 19, 2017 - by Judy Frank
Edu-Care Daycare director Sandra Nicholson and her daughter, teacher Kari Nicholson, prepare for Monday’s eclipse by trying out their NASA-certified solar safety glasses
Edu-Care Daycare director Sandra Nicholson and her daughter, teacher Kari Nicholson, prepare for Monday’s eclipse by trying out their NASA-certified solar safety glasses
- photo by Judy Frank
Sandra Nicholson, director of the Edu-Care Daycare Center on Signal Mountain, is as ready for Monday’s historic solar eclipse as she’s ever going to be. It took some doing, she said, but she has finally enough pairs of NASA-certified solar safety glasses for everyone in her family. 
She’s just one of the tens of thousands of Tennessee Valley area residents taking advantage of the opportunity to get a good look at the first total solar eclipse to cross over the U.
S. from coast to coast in 99 years and – in many cases – make some money. 
One enterprising Kingston resident, for example, is looking for a visiting adult couple eager to see the eclipse willing to pay $100 for the chance to sleep on a mattress on his deck Sunday night. Another $10 will be charged for each additional guest (up to six), he warned, and guests “must provide own sleeping potty.” 
For more affluent visitors, a Chattanooga Craigslist user is offering to rent “One bedroom 1 bath, Living room” throughout the weekend. The price? “$600 per night.” 
On Signal – living just an hour or two away from several of the Tennessee towns that NASA has designated as prime areas to watch the astronomical phenomenon – Mrs. Nicholson doesn’t want to miss out on what may be her once-in-a-lifetime chance to see an eclipse. 
Still, she won’t be among the tens of thousands of enthusiasts expected to crowd East Tennessee roads on Monday trying to get to Niota or Spring City or another prime eclipse-viewing spot. Those towns are lucky enough to be located on the center line of the 70-mile-wide umbra – the moon’s shadow – where viewers will have a 100 percent view of the total solar eclipse. 
Come Monday at 5:30 a.m., Mrs. Nicholson will be where she always is on weekdays: at the daycare center, preparing for the students who begin arriving around 6 a.m. 
She’ll still be there between 1-3 p.m. – naptime for the center’s 40 students – when the eclipse will darken skies here. With any luck, she said, she’ll get a chance to don her eclipse glasses, step outside for a few minutes and get a good look as the moon crosses in front of the sun, blocking it from view. 
Hixson resident Susan Bohon won’t be caught in the expected traffic jams either. 
A native of tiny, remote Robbinsville (population: 620) in western North Carolina , Mrs. Bohon left Friday for her hometown. That puts her about a half hour away from Andrews, one of a handful of other towns in the Blue Ridge Mountains located in the direct path of the eclipse where viewers will see a 100 percent eclipse. 
“My cousin’s house (in Andrews) is right under (the eclipse center line),” she explained. 
She and her relatives will have plenty of company. Unlikely as it seems, Robbinsville and surrounding Graham County (population 8,000) – as well as neighboring towns and counties – are expecting a serious influx of visitors intent on finding ideal spots from which to watch the eclipse. 
On paper, Graham County looks like a tourism magnet. It abuts Great Smoky Mountains National Park, and about 60 percent of the county – including the magnificent 3,800-acre Joyce Kilmer Memorial Forest, with its stand of towering old-growth trees – is in the Nantahala National Forest .
On the ground, things look different. 
“In 1872 the state of North Carolina decided that 295 square miles of land adjacent to the Tennessee border, the most rugged, isolated, and inaccessible land in all of Eastern America, should be separated from the county then known as Cherokee, and a separate unit established,” the county’s centennial publication noted. “This new unit was given the name of Graham County.” 
Almost 150 years later, the area remains remote and difficult to reach. 
Nevertheless -- encouraged by enthusiasts such as blogger, eclipse enthusiast and self-described “Southeastern Traveler” Jason Barnett -- crowds of visitors are expected to brave western North Carolina’s mountainous terrain and narrow, steep, twisting roads to get a good look at the celestial phenomenon. 
The remote town of Robbinsville may be difficult to reach by car,” www.southeasterntraveler.com told its readers recently, “but that’s also exactly why you should. Nestled between the Cherohala Skyway and the Nantahala National Forest this town has lots of outdoor recreation opportunities . . . . With a couple of solar eclipse events in town and a few great locations in the area to view the total solar eclipse, this would make a great weekend destination in August.”

 

Downtown at Coolidge Park on Monday starting at noon, Comcast will be handing out eclipse viewing glasses and Moon Pies (while supplies last).

 

Comcast officials said, "Come enjoy a once in a lifetime event. Free to the public. Food trucks on site." Solar fans are advised to bring picnic blankets and plenty of sunscreen.



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