We have been getting a lot of emails and questions about the 2017 Total Solar Eclipse and with it being featured almost daily on the local news in Atlanta and on sites like the Washington Post and The New York Times, interest is at an all time high. We thought we would share some things we have learned about the event and how you can best enjoy the experience in North Georgia.
The North Georgia mountains are a small place and we don’t typically see huge traffic spikes like this in our neck of the woods. Without sounding alarmist, we want to help get the word out about some of the real challenges and some helpful suggestions for those of you who are planning on coming up to experience this amazing event with us!
NASA has a great website up full of details detailing the science, history, safety and kid-friendly activities to name a few. But in a nutshell, this is the first time there has been a total eclipse in our country in 26 years and the first time in 38 years that it has gone coast to coast. For this eclipse, North Georgia is right in the middle of the path of totality, meaning in many places we will get maximum eclipse coverage and darkness.
This is going to be a an awesome event and we want as many people as possible to come up and enjoy the festivities happening all across the state with us but we want to make sure you have a plan that fully considers some of the unique aspects of the day.
Have a plan. This sounds so simple but you have no idea the impact it will have on your experience and the experience of others if you plan a little. Know where you are going to view the event and double check and make sure you have as many details about that location and any requirements before getting there. You don’t have to be at the highest spot or elevation for the best view. Parking lots and parks will be just as good but again, check and make sure you are able to park where you want to park by calling ahead and asking questions. Consider arriving early so you’re not rushed or stuck in traffic. Bring a small ice chest with you for drinks or snacks, especially if you have kids. Bring a chair and blanket. Be sure you have Eclipse glasses. Make a list and check it twice.
Please be considerate of the locals who live here 365 days of the year. Our whole mission is to connect visitors with our beautiful mountains but we’d be lying if we didn’t tell you some of them didn’t have anxiety about this many people coming to play in their backyard. They are worried about litter, the trails getting overused, the grocery stores being out of everything, people parking and pulling over in their yard and all sorts of other genuine concerns. Please come on up and let us share our North Georgia hospitality with you but please be considerate and respectful to those of us who will be left with the aftermath in our home after you go back to yours. So pick up trash, follow the signage, and do what you can to make this a great experience for everyone.
Traffic is going to be rough. Conservative estimates call for 25,000 people in our county alone while the top end is well over 100,000. To put that in perspective, our home county of Rabun is 377 square miles and has only 20,000 full time residents. That’s about a fifth of the attendance at a UGA game. Eclipse chasers, scientists, and photographers from all over the world are traveling to North Georgia for that weekend. Then on top of that, add everyone who is going to be driving up from Atlanta and the surrounding region and we are going to have some challenging traffic. This isn’t Atlanta with 12 lanes of interstate. We have 4 lanes on the main drag, 2 lanes everywhere else, and lots of twists and turns in our roads. So bring your patience and a generous spirit.
Listen to law enforcement. They’re going to be out in full force helping with traffic and keeping things moving. So if they are directing traffic or pointing you in a particular direction or asking something of you, please listen to them as they will be dealing with all kinds of crazy for the event and need as much help as they can get.
Don’t pull over on the side of the road. Speaking of traffic and law enforcement, don’t pull over on the side of the road or into anyone’s driveway. This goes back to the first point, have a plan. We want y’all up here to enjoy this amazing event with us, just don’t hop in your car and head in this direction without knowing where you’re going to go. You will end up having to improvise which will create a snowball effect and exacerbate an already strained situation.
Make sure you have glasses. This is a serious one. If you’re in the path of totality, the total eclipse will last a full 2 minutes and 35 seconds but the need to wear eclipse glasses will last for almost 3 hours throughout the partial phases of the eclipse as seen below. Sunglasses won’t work nor will a half dozen other DIY hacks. So make sure you grab a pair of glasses for a couple of dollars before you get up here so your eyes are safe and sound. If push comes to shove, you can try the pinhole method.
There is no more lodging. All the hotels, campgrounds, and private cabins were at 90% occupancy over a year ago if that gives you an idea of how much people have been planning for this once in a lifetime event. Places to lay your head are at such a premium that even local farms have taken reservations for thousands of spaces on their land for people to sleep. Unfortunately at this point, there are simply no more spots for lodging so if you’re coming, plan on coming on Monday or to one of the parties over the weekend.
Stay home that weekend/day if you’re not coming for the Eclipse. The trails, restaurants and shops are going to be flooded with everyone who is staying here from around the country for the event. It’s not that we don’t want you. In fact we’d love it if you came on up and got involved with the big old party that we’re going to be having. Just don’t make the mistake of planning on going for a hike that weekend as it will be the most crowded weekend we have had up here in a long, long time.
What else did we miss? Leave any other recommendations or suggestions you have in the comments below!
Here is a list of some of the North Georgia cities and communities who are planning events with Rabun Gap and Blairsville having the biggest events in North Georgia.
Rabun Gap/Rabun County – Website
Blairsville – Website
Blue Ridge – Website
Habersham Winery & Nacoochee Village Party – Tickets
Most of the State Parks are having events that have already sold out along with places like Brasstown Bald. However, many of the cities like Hiawassee, Helen, Dillard, Tallulah Falls, Toccoa, Young Harris, Dahlonega and more are having various groups hosting events and viewing parties within their city.