Wednesday, August 30, 2017


Total Solar Eclipse (August 21, 2017)

I first learned of the total solar eclipse that would sweep across the United State on August 21, 2017 while visiting Colin and Trish Rodgers at their home in northern England during the spring of 2016.

“We are definitely going,” said Colin, who has friends in Billings, Montana.

We thought about meeting them in Wyoming.  After all if they were traveling all the way from England to see this sight, surely we could drive under 2000 miles round trip from Albuquerque.  It was Colin’s compelling description, however, that made up my mind, “The sky was so black that you could see the planets from Mercury to Jupiter in a line going through the sun.  And there was a 360 degree “sunrise” around the horizon.”  This was like no eclipse I’d previously seen.  It would also be an opportunity to visit Kent’s home town of Sheridan, Wyoming, and to connect with several friends and relatives along the way.

By this time, motel rooms, if available, were going for as much as $1,000 per night in small towns along the eclipse path, and impromptu campsites were advertised on the internet for a mere $75 per night for a few square feet of parking space without water or toilets.  However, musical entertainment and pit barbecue dinners were mentioned as possible perks.  No thanks!

Colin and Trish were planning to drive the 220 miles from Billings the morning of the eclipse, departing at “Albuquerque balloon fiesta hours,” and to make the return trip the same day.  Kent contacted his friend Dick in Sheridan, who had a cabin in the Bighorn Mountains.  Yes, despite ill health in the family, we could stay in the cabin for a few nights.

My idea of a mountain cabin was a shack furnished with cast-offs, perhaps with running water and electricity, perhaps not.  This was no such cabin, but a luxurious home at the end of a couple of steep, unpaved mountain roads, situated high among trees and with fabulous mountain views.  Kent and I spent 2 ½ days in luxury, exploring remote tracks on foot and via Dick’s little 4-wheel-drive Rhino. 

Rhino at Sunset in the Bighorns

On the drive to Sheridan, we had checked out possible eclipse-viewing sites near Shoshoni, population 641, with its one motel and one gas station.   This was the area Colin had chosen as most easily accessible from Billings, and suitably unpopulated. A lovely young woman in the Shoshoni Town Hall, who knew the back roads, confirmed that the unpaved Badwater Road just north of town would be a good place to find a viewing spot.  Not far beyond the end of the pavement, we found a dirt track heading up a rise to the north, and decided that would be our ideal “secret spot.”  I took photos from 4 directions.  No other roads and no buildings were visible.

Checking out the Viewing Spot near Shoshoni

I sent a report on our find and a proposed schedule to Colin and Trish:

Eclipse Day Plan Aug 21

(time/distances from Google Maps)
Billings to Shoshoni 3 hr 44 min 223 miles
Sheridan to Shoshoni 3 hr 29 min. 190 miles
(Thermopolis to Shoshoni 36 minutes, 32 miles)

arr. in Shoshoni by 8:30 or 9:00?

Leave Billings/Sheridan 4:30 (or 4?) am
Rendezvous Thermopolis 7:30 (or 7 ?) am
McDonalds on Shoshoni Ave, at curve toward south end of town not long after intersection of 120 (from Cody) and 789 (from Worland).
Travel in convoy to the “secret spot” off Badwater

Kent and I awoke in the mountain cabin at 3:45 a.m. on August 21.   We’d made a thermos of coffee, filled two coolers with food and drinks, and placed everything but our clothes in the car the night before.  It was totally dark with no moon or stars as we left the cabin just before 4 a.m. We drove down the small road to the gate, which I opened and closed.  Then we crept down the steep dark gravel road toward I-70.

Fortunately, the only sign of life was a raccoon trotting along the roadside, but we looked sharply for deer.  When we reached I-70, there was more traffic than usual for 4:40 a.m., but most of the traffic was headed toward Casper.  At Buffalo we took the Ten Sleep highway west across the southern end of the Bighorns.  At first we met a few vehicles heading northeast, then at the edge of town we were passed by one vehicle. We kept those lone headlights in view through most of the long drive along the twisting mountain road.  First light was long in coming, but by 6 a.m. we were beginning to see the outlines of hills and rocks.  We caught up with a line of cars, most of which thankfully pulled off at a cafĂ© in Ten Sleep.   Along the way we passed numerous crowded roadside campsites where people were just beginning to stir.  We were ahead of the crowd, and ahead of our schedule.  Traveling more freely without those cars, and now on a straighter road, we made good time, stopping briefly in Worland to top off the gas tank before continuing toward Thermopolis.

Just south of Worland we stopped to snap a picture of the red Eclipse Day sunrise.  At shortly after 7 we pulled into the already crowded Thermopolis McDonald’s.  Within 15 minutes Colin and Trish arrived!  By 7:30 we were on our way through the spectacular Wind River Canyon with its 3 tunnels.  Traffic was fairly heavy, but moving smoothly.  Upon exiting the canyon we saw roadside parking areas filling up, but we continued to our “secret spot,” Colin following behind in his rented SUV. As we pulled up the rise on the dirt track off Badwater Road, we discovered 2 vehicles there ahead of us.  We weren’t the only ones who knew about this place.  But it was O.K.  There was plenty of room for all.   There would be perhaps 6 vehicles along the track by the time the eclipse began.

We quickly set up chairs and our small table, got out the picnic basket, cooler, and sparkling wine, and settled down to wait, feeling quite pleased with ourselves.

We had made it!  There was a slight haze and a few light clouds, but the viewing promised to be excellent.   We could see other cars perhaps a quarter mile to the east.  There was a family group, perhaps friends.  A silhouetted couple walked beneath an umbrella, and a child moved in and out of a stroller.  We readied our viewing shields, glasses, Kent’s magnifying sextant and our binoculars, cameras and phones.

We toasted the sun as the moon took its first bite out of the upper right edge of the sun.  The process was beginning!  Trish and Colin’s daughter Nicky and her friend Rob roused themselves from napping in the SUV.  We snacked on potato chips, a pasta casserole, potato salad, and vegetable sticks.

The invisible moon progressed very slowly, revealing itself only by its silhouette across the sun. It was only as the sun was 75% or more covered that the sky began to turn gray and the temperature began to drop.  Even with just the slightest sliver showing, the sun warmed the earth.  What power!

At last, even that small sliver vanished and totality was upon us!
Oh wow!  Silence, awe.  Where to look?  There was the darkened sun with its brilliant corona shooting widely and irregularly, visible to the naked eye and with binoculars.  We no longer needed our dark glasses. The nearby vehicles and watchers faded to ghostly presences in the darkness.  Most amazing of all, the horizon was a deep pink beneath the blue-black sky for 360 degrees all around.  A lone planet hung slightly below and to the south of the black sun.

There was so much to see, experience and feel in such a short time.  Silence and oohs and ahhs.  Darkness at noon.   Chills.  Nothing I’d ever experienced before.   I’m not sure what I felt.  Perhaps awe.

Then all too soon, light shot out from behind the circle of the moon.  Instantaneously color began to come back to the landscape and the sky.  We could breathe again.  It was over.  We’d accomplished what we’d set out to do – experience the total eclipse of the sun.  Now our sun was coming back, brightly shining as though the eclipse had never happened, although it wouldn’t be fully free of the moon for another 60 minutes. But for us, it was over.  We repacked the van, posed for farewell pictures, said good-bye, and went our separate ways.

 For some reason, as the eclipse ended, I was reminded of May 25, 1986, when millions of us participated in “Hands Across America” holding hands in an unbroken chain from California to New York for 15 minutes with a goal of ending world hunger and poverty. Across_America   On August 21, 2017, in our fractured, contentious world, millions of people gathered across the United States to view and celebrate a rare and wondrous event of the mysterious universe we share and upon which our lives depend.  I was reminded also, of my parents, who held onto childhood memories of Halley’s Comet throughout their lives, and who lived to see it once more before they died.  The universe is immense, and we are but fleeting specks of life on one small planet with a single moon, revolving around one shining, life-giving dying star – a star that was temporarily totally eclipsed by our moon as millions stopped and gathered to watch.

I was also reminded of the joke we told in high school, during the early days of space exploration.  An astronaut was launched into space, and as the first rocket fired and then fell off, he exclaimed, “Oh my God!”  He soared faster and faster and higher and higher into space, as the second and third rockets fired.  With each new thrust he exclaimed, “Oh my God!”  Then, when the last rocket had fired and he had finally reached outer space, he again exclaimed, “Oh my God!”  This time a voice answered, “Yes?”

Traffic jam at Muddy Gap on the way home

Linnea Hendrickson, August 30, 2017

Saturday, December 31, 2016

Holiday Greetings 2016

Holiday Greetings 2016

Cathedral de Santiago de Compostela

I’m sitting in a little patch of light and warmth, brilliant New Mexico winter sun outside the window, yet I’m haunted by darkness in the world and in my soul.  The future looks uncertain.  My life is good, and that is part of what is troubling when there is so much suffering in our world.   Advent offers hope, but I’m not sure I’m ready to grasp that golden ring without some time for mourning and reassessment.

         We have had an amazing and tumultuous year.  I have been on four continents since January, and Kent on three.   Antarctica was a land of dreams, incredibly beautiful, wild, and remote.  I feel so blessed to have been there on a small ship.  On Valentine’s Day Kent met me in Ushuaia, Argentina, the town at the tip of South American that bills itself as “The end of the world and the beginning of everything.”  From there we took the Australis to Cape Horn and on to Punta Arenas, Chile.  We hiked in Los Glaciars National Park in Argentina and did the “W” Trek in Torres del Paine, Chile, where I think we were the oldest people on the trail.  We had to cancel a much-anticipated 4-day ferry trip when storms disrupted the schedule, and instead flew to vibrant Santiago, Chile.  Crumbling Valparaiso charmed us, and we had a spectacular bus ride over the Andes to the wine country of Mendoza, Argentina, before finishing up in Buenos Aires on the day the Obamas were visiting.  Traffic was restricted in the center of the city, which made for great walking.  We caught sight of Air Force One at the airport when we departed.



Shetland Puffin
    We spent the last of May and first week of June in Scotland and the Shetland Islands.  We explored places where Kent’s ancestors had lived, and made some fascinating finds in the genealogy libraries, and by following in the footsteps of a third great-uncle David Taylor who wrote a verse account of his Visit to Scotland in 1839.  The Shetland Islands were wild, remote, and lovely, and we had an excellent guide in our friend Elwyn SouttWender and great company all around.  Before heading home we enjoyed a stay with Trish and Colin Rodgers in the Carlisle area, including a whirlwind tour of Hadrian’s Wall, Beatrix Potter’s house (a longtime dream of mine), and some spectacular back roads in the Lake District.

         It was a hot summer at home in Albuquerque, but I enjoyed early morning ditchwalks with Jennifer Wieczorak, who was in town for a couple of months.  Her mother and I had been new young mothers together some 30 years ago, and it was fun to reconnect.  We also fit in one overnight backpacking trip, which wore us out, in the Pecos Wilderness in the Sangre de Cristo mountains.

Linnea and Kent as hospitaleros, with Albuquerque pilgrim friend Martin Haagmans

In October Kent and I had the great adventure of serving as hospitaleros for 17 days in the little village of El Burgo Ranero along the Camino Frances in the region of Castilla y Leon in Spain.  It was rewarding work, but with very long days and very little free time as we had 25-30 pilgrims with us most nights.  We walked from just outside of Leon, going backwards on the Camino to our post, and we left, also traveling against the flow, walking the 20 kilometers to Sahagun, where we gratefully collapsed at the first hostal we came to, slept for over 12 hours, and stayed two nights to recuperate.  We took the train to fabulous Burgos, and after a couple of days of sightseeing enjoyed a long day’s train ride through beautiful, golden autumn countryside, the rolling meseta gradually giving way to mountains, to Ourense in Galicia, from where we walked with our packs for seven days along the remote and lovely Camino Sanabres, something over 100 kilometers to Santiago de Compostela, which we reached in time for the celebration of the end of Pope Francis’s “Year of Mercy,” and the closing of the cathedral’s Door of Forgiveness until 2021.  At the end of our time in Spain, we made a quick trip to Rome where we rendezvoused with Saad, Psyche, and Saad’s sisters Aliya and Humera.

Linnea and Kent at the Vatican in November
         When we weren’t traveling, Kent worked on the kitchen, which is finally pretty much finished.  We are enjoying it very much.  He’s now re-making the built-in china cabinet in the dining room, which we hope to have back in use this week, in time to reclaim our dining room, move the stored things out of the living room and Kent’s study, and have room for holiday guests.

         Coyotes have taken over our neighborhood, so we can no longer let our chickens roam freely, despite new and improved fencing.  We had a bumper crop of apples that we hurried to harvest before we left; however, I see the trees still have many dried and frozen apples on their branches.

         We look forward to having Jesse, Psyche, and Saad here for Christmas, and our dear friends the Nystroms, with whom we shared most holidays when our children were growing up, visiting from Colorado.

         Kent and I are grateful for each other, for our friends and families and for our health and our life together.  We have lost some good friends this year, an occurrence that will become more and more frequent as we move through our seventies. 

         We are living in unsettled times, and I’m not sure what to do.  Here is my wish list for our new president who has promised to “Make America great again.”  1.  Keep our Medicare (and add coverage for hearing aids!), but get rid of the endless paperwork, 2. Ban junk phone calls, 3. Raise the price of fossil fuels and promote alternative energy, 4. Create jobs that people can live on, 5. Create great schools (preschool through college) that families can afford, and promote libraries and other ways of learning, 6. Protect our oceans, air, rivers, lakes and wild spaces, 7. Work to reverse global warming which threatens to annihilate life on earth 8. Eliminate prejudice, racism, and sexism, inequality and xenophobia 9. Stop war, 10. Encourage love and respect among all people – follow the Golden Rule.

Love to all this holy season.  Happy New Year!

Linnea and Kent

Home sweet home -- new/old kitchen


Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Dunblane to Aberdeen

The best intentions...

Here it is, over a week since I promised to do better with my blog on this trip, and I've written nothing.  We are now at the end of our third day in Shetland, which should have been our 4th day, but more about that later.

We thoroughly enjoyed our week at Windyhill Cottage in Dunblane, and We were sorry to leave that lovely spot and charming cottage.  On the Saturday after our arrival, we left the car parked at the cottage, and walked along the River Allan from Dunblane to the town Bridge of Allan.  It was a warm,sunny day, with many families out walking.  The most amazing sights were the carpets of bluebells that spread beneath the trees, the rushing river itself, and the cave believed to have inspired R.L. Stevenson's Ben Gunn's cave in Treasure Island. I seem to always be following in the steps of Stevenson in journeys ranging from Edinburgh to the South of France to Tahiti and California.

On Sunday morning I attended Pentecost service at the lovely and ancient Dunblane Cathedral, and that afternoon we explored Doune Castle, where Monty Python and Outlander scenes were filmed, then returned home by way of Callander and Loch Earn,   through some rugged Highland scenery.  On Monday we visited Stirling Castle, then drove to Kinross where we took a boat across Loch Leven to the ruined castle from which Mary Queen of Scots had once escaped.  We also returned to the area where some of Kent's ancestors had lived, and explored the Fossoway church and graveyard, finding one relevant tombstone.

Dunblane Cathedral

On Tuesday we took the train to Edinburgh where we met Colin Rodgers, who helped us with research at Scotland's People in the National Archives.  We did make a few discoveries with Colin's help, tracing some of Kent's family back another two generations and finally finding a record for his second great grandfather in Scotland -- although we couldn't get beyond that one record.  We really needed another day to work, as the first one was partly spent learning how best to use the system.  We had a lovely pub lunch with Colin, and then when we were kicked out of the archives at 4 p.m., we bid Colin goodbye and raced up the Royal Mile to Edinburgh Castle, where we quickly visited the major sights in the hour and a half before closing. We followed a Lonely Planet suggested walking tour down into Grassmarket before returning home to Dunblane where we were greeted by a downpour that would continue all the next day, which we spent mostly at the cottage, preparing for our departure on Thursday.

With Colin at the National Archives


On Thursday morning we made our circuitous way along many small roads to the historic library of Innerpeffray, where we were the only visitors, greeted by an enthusiastic staff and shown treasures of the collection that not only contained many old books, and historic Scottish books, but the complete handwritten borrowers' records dating from the early 1700s to 1968, enabling one to study the reading habits of individuals and the community over many years.  We searched the database for Kent's Taylor family, and found a Lilias Taylor who had borrowed books in the 1880s, a time long after Kent's ancestor had left for New York, but it is possible that this Lilias Taylor was .connected with Kent's family.  We walked in a light drizzle to view the church, the Roman road, an overlook of the ruined Drummond castle along the River Earn, and sheep with lambs in an adjacent pasture.

Our next stop (aside from eating sandwiches at a roadside pullover) was at the Edradour Distillery near Pitlochry, Scotland's smallest whisky distillery, where we had an excellent tour with a kilted guide.  Then it was up over a fog-shrouded pass at Glenshee and down through Braemar to Tomidhu Steading, a comfortable lodging where we were warmly greeted by our host, Alistair Skakles who had pictures of himself guiding Prince Charles through the local distillery.  

On Friday morning we walked from the Steading on a track to the Crathie church, where the royal family worships while at Balmoral, then crossed the bridge over the sparking River Dee to Balmoral Castle, where we spent an enjoyable two hours wandering the grounds and gardens and looking at exhibits about the history of the estate from the time that Queen Victoria and Prince Albert had purchased it in 1848 up to the present.

Having had our fill of an occupied castle, we headed to the spectacular ruin of Dunnottar on the coast south of Aberdeen, and then to Aberdeen, where despite my inept handling, the gps took us practically to the door of our B and B, where we eventually connected with Dwight and Carol Eggers, with whom we were to share the next segment of our Scottish adventures -- a week on the Shetland Islands.

Friday, May 13, 2016

A Good Night's Sleep Does Wonders

Friday, May 13, 2016
A good night's sleep does wonders

I was still sleeping soundly this morning when Kent returned from the local grocery store with a turnover he heated in the oven.  A good cup of coffee, a little map study, and off we went.  Yesterday's balmy sunshine had turned to chill and gloom, but I enjoyed the green hills dotted with new lambs, yellow broom, and occasional bluebells when I wasn't "helping" Kent drive and figuring out how to use the GPS.

Had we remembered this morning that the date was Friday the thirteenth, we might have been even more jittery when we set off in our fancy rental car, up our narrow twisting street, past parked cars jutting out at odd angles, easing onto the motorway through confusing roundabouts, remembering always to keep to the left and searching for the right slot in the six-speed shift.  Kent did a good job, with a little help from the driver seated to his left, and we managed to get to Perth and back again with only a few wrong turns and scary moments.

We spent 3 hours in the genealogy and historical Iibrary in Perth, but even with the help of a very kind librarian, found no new information about Kent's ancestors, and only a little about the area from which they came.  About 4:30 we headed out, punching "Fossoway," the birthplace of Kent's 3rd great-grandmother, Lilias Taylor, into the GPS.  "You have arrived" the voice announced on a country road without a house in sight.  So, we continued on.  We never did find Fossoway, although I'm sure it is there somewhere, but we did arrive at Rumbling Bridge, where we went for a walk.  Lilias's brother David Taylor had traveled from Andes, New York to visit his birthplace in the 1830s, and in a poem about his journey mentioned Rumbling Bridge -- a scenic spot the librarian had told us -- where the River Devon rushing through the rocks below makes the bridge rumble.

Rumbling BridgeWikipedia 

We also stopped in the town of Dollar, a pretty place with a castle on a hill behind the town.  While trying to get a better view of the castle, we encountered the Dollar Academy, founded in 1818, a time when Kent's Burns and Taylor ancestors would have been living in the area.  When we got home we discovered that Craiglaw Farm, where Lilias was born in 1797 is still in existence and very near the end of our walk along the Devon.

A Marks & Spencer Food Hall near the entrance to Dunblane provided easy makings for dinner, and we enjoyed a peaceful evening in our little cottage after the challenges of the day.