Craig Hensel: The story of a micro-Adventurist chasing totality: #TheEclipseIsCalling

My name is Craig Hensel, I reside in Chicago, IL with my wife Jenah, and kids, Malin, Aiden and Vienne. I first heard about Treeline a few years back when I came on a trip to Alberta, Canada with company co-Founders Chad and Erin Kendrick, and fellow photographer Andy Best.


At a crossroads in my life with a major career adjustment, that trip, quite literally changed my life. I can sum it two ways. It was the warm hospitality of new friends and the contagious leadership of Chad that played a major role in who I am today. Blown away by the experience, I quickly ordered a Gen 1 Roof-Top Tent and started taking my family on trips. With three years under our belts, she has been a constant companion on our adventures.

Now for the story of our journey to capture the 2017 Solar Eclipse:

On Monday, August 21, 2017, all of North America was treated to an eclipse of the sun. Anyone within the path of totality could see one of nature’s most awe-inspiring sights - a total solar eclipse. This path, where the moon completely covered the sun and the sun's tenuous atmosphere - the corona - could be seen in specific locations across North America.

I'd know about the eclipse for two years and had this dream of taking our kids to see it. As a complete solar eclipse is a rare occurrence in the US, and rarer still during our lifetime, I wanted our kids to experience it first hand. For 6 months leading up to the trip, I started to get serious about planning. Originally, I’d considered the Sawtooths in Idaho, and Carbondale, Illinois. Both would have been great in their own way, but I eventually settled on Nebraska near Agate National Monument. I've always appreciated the landscape out there and figured there would be less people, than say a 5 hour drive from Chicago hords would likely congregate to view this notable totality event.

My friend @itsreuben, my two kids and a one of their friends got one the road on Friday, August 18th headed for Badlands, South Dakota for our first night camping. Day two we headed to Toadstool Geological Park. The next morning, we picked up @garethpon at the airport and met with friends coming in from all over the country. While the northeast part of the state was our goal, threats of the threat of inclement weather steered us to Wyoming.

Upon arriving, we scouted a location 40 miles west of Douglas. If it weren’t for a friendly local rancher, we would have been looking for a place to stay for several more hours. He pointed us in the direction of a nearby ranch that offered campsites. By this point our crew had grown to twelve, including an RV, ground tents and our Treeline Roof-Top Tent.

Rocked by a thunderstorm that night, we were all a little nervous as to what the morning would hold. Upon waking up, it was amazingly clear, blue skies in every direction. We sent out a car to claim the location we’d chosen to capture the eclipse on camera, that we’d scouted the day prior. We were nervous that our spot would be filled with traffic and crowds of people, so our car left at 530am to claim our spot.

At this point, right before totality, we were enjoying breakfast, each other's company, unsure of what was to come. At the beginning stages of the eclipse, the surrounding area looked normal. As time wore on, the temperature dropped to the point where flannels were needed and the ambient light took on an eerie dimness.

One of the guys in our crew had a countdown clock. Starting at 10, we started counting down. When it struck one, our whole world turned dark. It was a 360-degree sunset. The joy on my kids' faces was unexplainable. This once in a lifetime moment was fleeting and yet time stood still.

Rumbling across the plains on our journey to capture totality, it was encouraging to know we had a warm bed in our Roof-Top Tent to sleep in. A good nights sleep was doubly important as we travelled through the night on the 20hr trip back to Chicago.

When I set out on this journey, I honestly wanted our kids to experience what I did on that trip to Alberta those years ago. This has been that trip.

Craig Hensel is a micro-Adventurist and storyteller based in Chicago, IL. Follow along on his adventures @thecraighensel