The notorious coastal fog could not dampen spirits Monday as dozens flocked to Fremont Peak to watch the solar eclipse.
“I sat at home and thought about where I could find the sun so I Googled Fremont’s Peak,” said Salinas resident, Michael Arias, as he stared up into the clear morning sky through a welding helmet, one of a variety of unique head gear that could be seen as people tried to get a good view of the solar eclipse while protecting their eyes from the glowing sun.
While Californians never experienced complete darkness and only got to see a partial solar eclipse—the path of totality ran along a 70-mile wide path just north of the state from Oregon to South Carolina, enthusiasm for the celestial event remained high.
“This is a once in a lifetime thing—one of those bucket list things,” said Arias, tears forming in his eyes. “I just wish my grandkids were here. They are down south.”
Taking sneak peaks at the sun while trying to take pictures on his cell phone, John Lara, who drove to Fremont’s Peak from Salinas with his girlfriend, Victoria Andrade, made an admission.
“We didn’t really come prepared,” he said, smiling. “But you only get to see this once in a lifetime. It’s one of those things.”
Andrade said they initially went to San Juan Bautista to try and catch a glimpse of the shifting sky.
“The fog was still in San Juan Bautista so we came up here.”
Prunedale resident, Olin Jordan, meandered among the oak trees looking for shadow crescents on the ground.
“I saw some, but they were very faint,” said Jordan. “It was about 10-plus years ago when I saw crescents the last time.”
In the early morning when he saw the fog settle on his little rural town in North Monterey County, Jordan rushed to the state park, the summit of which tops at 3,173 feet.
“The action started just a few minutes past 9 a.m. and we were here about an hour earlier,” he said. “It is just one of those amazing phenomenons. My wife has never seen it and I wanted to share it with her.”
While a number of kids were on the peak fiddling with homemade viewing gadgets made of cardboard, down below under a blanket of fog, students sported NASA-approved solar sunglasses to watch what they could of the eclipse at San Juan Elementary School in San Juan Bautista.
“The kids are very excited,” said Dr. Elizabeth Cord, the school principal. “It’s going to be at least 10 more years before we get a really good eclipse here. They’re excited. They’ve been learning about it since last week.”
About 150 students took part in special solar eclipse viewing events at the school, said Cord.
Teachers Teri Marshall and Jayne Ferreira led their fourth grade students out into the school quadrangle to try and get a good view of the solar eclipse. Several kids watched the skies through pinholes punched through cereal boxes.
“We decided it would be a great event to get kids excited about science and STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math),” Marshall said.
Despite the students’ eager anticipation, cloudy skies obstructed their view of the eclipse. After a few minutes, the kids were ushered back inside to watch the solar eclipse on a NASA livestream.
While the astronomical event unfolded before their eyes on the projector screen, the students were awestruck.
“They are super excited,” Ferreira said. “On Friday we front loaded some information and talked about what was going to happen. Then they got to experience that.”
Ferreira said the students viewed photos from her friends in Tennessee and Oregon to see what the eclipse looked like in the path of totality.
“Overall, they were excited, despite not experiencing the eclipse,” Ferreira said.
The next total solar eclipse to pass over the continental United States, according to Astronomy.com, will occur on April 8, 2024.