The Great American Eclipse of last August is probably fading in your memories, but I wanted to document our trip to Central Oregon to see it. A lot of planning, ruminating, advice-getting, worrying, gear purchasing, and refining packing lists over and over went into this trip. Aaron elected to stay home to save his vacation days, so it would be me alone with the kids. I was worried about many things, most of which turned out to be non-issues once the week arrived. I was concerned about getting a place to camp, dealing with crowds (who, in my overactive imagination, would be drunk and/or high), running out of gas/water/ice/food/sanity, finding an open spot to see the moments of totality, forest fires, yellow jackets, and keeping the kids happy while waiting out the long, hot week for the few moments of glory. It turned out to be an almost perfect trip for this once-in-a-lifetime event.
We left our home on the Wednesday before the Eclipse, with our Pilot packed to the brim with supplies.
I had an extra cooler, extra water containers, enough food and stove fuel to be self-sufficient for at least a week, and stuff to do to keep ourselves busy. We made fairly good time driving down, making one stop at my parents’ for lunch, and one stop in Salem for a few last supplies (this took much longer than expected, because everyone else was apparently preparing for the Eclipse as well, and the poor overworked gas station attendants were having trouble keeping up with the lines.) We made it to the Camp Sherman area along the Metolius around dinner time, and were shocked to find the campgrounds not even half full. We were amazed that we were able to get a spot to camp right on the river in our favorite campground, and set up camp and had a quick dinner before nightfall. My PLB had dead batteries, and I couldn’t find any spares (the one thing I had overlooked!) and so we had to drive back in to town to get a cell signal to call home and let everyone know we were OK.
We spent several days camped at the Gorge campground. We filled our time with resting and relaxing, exploring Sisters and visiting with some of my family in the area, and swimming at nearby Scout Lake.
Smoke drifted in and out of the area from the nearby forest fires in Sisters and Detroit and other Cascades hot spots.
The campground was quiet, and didn’t totally fill up until Saturday morning. It was the kind of camping trip that I really enjoy, lots of down time with enough exploring to keep everyone happy.
On Sunday morning we packed up, drove into Redmond for a lunch with family and friends, and then headed out to Terrebonne to find the home where we’d stay for the eclipse on Monday. What a spectacular setting! We couldn’t believe our good fortune (and the connections my parents have nurtured through the years).
The home was situated literally on the lip of the Crooked River Canyon, with an unobstructed view to the east of Smith Rock State Park and the mountain range to the north. We had access to indoor plumbing and the warm hospitality of our hosts. We wouldn’t have to worry about interacting with rowdy crowds. We cleaned up and enjoyed a restful afternoon and evening as we made sure all of our gear was in order for the big event.
Monday morning dawned smoky and hot. We were concerned about the smoke, but it did lift quite a bit when it was time for us to set up our chairs and cameras.
We had our camping and deck chairs, our solar glasses, water, and special snacks that Mom and Annika had made in the morning. We had even made special solar filters for our cameras.
We enjoyed the changing light as the sun began to hide behind the moon.
We marveled at the interesting crescent shadows that were formed by tree leaves and our pinhole viewers. We experimented with colanders, too, which turned out to be delightful.
Eagerly we took in all the sensations – waiting for the moment of totality. Right before and after the eclipse, we even witnessed the elusive and mysterious Shadow Bands. Finally, it was time. And wow, words fail me even now at the sensations we experienced during that short minute-and-a-half. We gasped at the sight of the sun’s corona streaming out beyond the moon’s shape. We could see red flares in spots along the edge of the moon. The light in the sky was like twilight, the most gorgeous blue color, with other sunset hues all around. It got cold enough I wanted a sweater. We focused, trying to really cement the moment in our brains. I didn’t try to take any photos of the totality (but Gabe got an amazing shot, which he posted on Instagram.) We could hear whooping and celebrating in the countryside around us. Alas, it was over all too soon, and we were back to the strange half-light of the partial eclipse for the next hour or so while the moon moved back out of the face of the sun.
We all felt like we wanted more, like we wished it would have been longer. We understood why some folks get the bug and chase eclipses around the world. Annika said immediately we need to make sure we go to the next one, and that she wants to live somewhere with the highest probability of eclipses.
We spent the rest of the day lounging around, eating, reading, and chatting with our hosts. We watched as the traffic on the highway crawled along, miles and miles of people from Madras and the surrounding areas trying to make it home. The predicted epic traffic happened on that day, so we decided to stay put and get an early start the next morning.
We had no troubles getting out of Oregon on Tuesday, but after stopping at my MIL’s for lunch, we ran into the worst traffic ever, complicated by brush fires along the side of the freeway. It took us 11 hours to get home from Oregon, but we made it! This trip will be one of my top lifetime experiences, and I’m so glad I fought through the anxiety and made it happen. I’m also super grateful to my parents for arranging a place to watch it, and the hospitality of our hosts.
It was indeed a memorable event. I am so glad we were able to experience it with you and the kids.