Now I understand that many of you have seen enough about the solar eclipse that just graced the USA.
Or you feel it isn’t that interesting and/or you have seen way better images than I can possibly have taken.
Of you I ask to give me a chance to not only show you some amazing images but more so tell you about the amazing feelings that come with it while experiencing it at the place Tamara and I did.
Ok, you decided to keep reading and listen to this amazing experience.
For most people that are really interested in astronomy and want to experience a full solar eclipse it takes a long time planning to travel to the right spot at the right time and be with thousands of fellow star gazers to witness the event and even Tamara and I both have separately from each other debated going to the 2001 eclipse that graced the tip of Africa.
This year with our busy schedule of trying to get Reverie Retreat off the ground we were completely not thinking about the eclipse or even taking any time to do anything, and that is beside the fact that Otto, our schnauzer, is now so old that the idea of even driving him to the vet is such a hassle that anything more seemed impossible.
But here we were with a once in a lifetime opportunity to see an event that barely 1/1000 people ever witness during their lifetime and so we decided to start planning a trip to the totality zone a mere 3 weeks ago.
We knew that both dogs needed to come along because Otto can’t be staying with someone else and Copper is still pretty new and thus a hotel or vacation rental was pretty much off the table, beside the simple fact that every available sleeping spot within the totality zone has been taken for a long time.
So that pretty much left us with camping. First thing I did was get a camper-shell for the truck and build a platform in the truck for a regular mattress — we were of course going to sleep comfortably.
And while I was dealing with our driving and sleeping comfort (including a back section for the dogs) Tamara was planning the trip. Now this seems easy but it became quickly very clear that trying to go to many places was going to be extremely hard due to the expected amount of people planning to go.
Although we have family there, Salem seemed very unlikely since there were festivals planned around the eclipse event and its location off of I-5 meant that there would be too many people going, and even a town like Madras was expecting thousands to drive in so we would most likely be in traffic jams and might not be able to find a place to park/camp.
So Tamara decided on Malheur National Forest in far eastern Oregon, and she contacted the national forest service to try to get a map. Well as you can imagine there were no maps available because they were already sold out (somehow I doubt they had many extra printed). Tamara was not going to give up so she got a high resolution pdf and had a large map printed at the local print shop.
Saturday morning all our preparations had come together: a good bed, a great spot for the dogs in the back of the truck cab, 15 gallons of water, 2 fuel cans, food, comfy chairs and of course our eclipse glasses and some great wine.
We didn’t leave until mid-day and so we couldn’t make it all the way to the total eclipse zone before dark. As we were driving through the lower part of the national forest (not yet in the totality zone) in the dark we quickly found that as expected every campground was full, so we just drove down a dirt road and found a remote spot in the forest where only 4 wheel drivers would be able to go, and no we were still not the only people on that very off-the-beaten path dirt road.
When we drove out the next day we found that 4 more groups of people had ventured out on this path and like us had woken up to a beautiful quiet forest.
But on we went to claim our spot in the center of the totality zone.
We drove up to John Day where they also seemed to be having an eclipse party with fields of cramped RV’s and tents. Then through Mount Vernon, and on to route 395 to find our spot as close to the center as possible, on a preferably hard to drive road into the forest.
Tamara’s planning panned out magnificently because we found this stunning area mainly accessible for 4×4 vehicles and I was able to get our truck in a secluded area under the shade of large trees, with an open meadow right next to us for perfect viewing of the eclipse.
We enjoyed the rest of our Sunday with a good nap and some reading and a nice bottle of wine.
The next morning we got up early, set up our chairs and the camera and with our solar eclipse glasses enjoyed watching the moon slowly move in front of the sun. To celebrate the rarity of this occasion we opened a bottle of Gwinllan Estates Blanc de Blanc California Champagne, Méthode Champenoise.
And as with Burningman we decided to wear some appropriate attire, as did Copper. We decided that Otto received a pass on an outfit because let’s be honest, you do not put a funny hat on your 106 year old grandpa.
The anticipation of the eclipse is really fun. It is dramatic how rapid the temperature drops and how the world around you feels as if it comes to a halt. One can only imagine what people thousands of years ago must have felt not understanding the composition of the planets and stars.
Then right before the last sliver of sun hides behind the mood these stunning colors show while you can already see the corona of the sun, and then totality hits and it truly felt like it hit us.
Even though there were hundreds if not thousands of people nearby it was completely quiet and Tamara and I were simply in awe and its beauty brought tears to my eyes.
It took me a few seconds to get my wits together and grab the binoculars to view the corona even better… I then gave it to Tamara and told her to look through it until the end as I made sure that I would give her the signal to look away as the first rays of sunlight would come back.
Tamara was the lucky one to see the beautiful pink glow right before the first sun light comes back and again all we could do was just be in awe of what we were just lucky enough to see and mainly feel in such a beautiful place.
I now understand that people will travel all over the world to see a total eclipse again and again, because we have already decided to see it again as well.
We did not, unlike so many others, drive back home that day, but simply stayed in our spot and enjoyed the forest and the peace and quiet and read more books. That night with a new moon the stars above were even more magnificent than we at Reverie Retreat already have.
The next morning we took our time to get up and leisurely got ready to drive home with the assumption that we would stay somewhere along the way at a nice spot Tamara had picked out with hot springs…
We packed up and drove out with no traffic to mention and when we got to the border between Oregon and California we drive into a huge storm, no REALLY a HUGE storm.
I was remarking to Tamara that during last year’s Perseids meteor showers we saw one shooting star every minute and that this thunderstorm felt a little like that since we were having one lightning bolt every minute. Some were just amazingly big ones across the sky, and many were extremely close to where we were driving. As we drove over a hill where a few minutes before we thought lightning had struck multiple times we noticed a fire engine on the side of the road and a brush fire in progress with many more fire trucks on their way.
We really felt the sheer force of nature all around.
Yet we were on a mission since the place we wanted to camp had only one restaurant open until 9pm and we were not really in the mood to try and cook. In the dark I tried to make the best time possible in the safest way and so we made it to the restaurant (thankfully it was Mexican) with 15 minutes to spare.
While enjoying our comfort food we found out that the campground we wanted to go to did not allow dogs and with the option of once again trying to find a camping spot somewhere in the forest we decided to just drive home all the way.
We arrived home late and instead of trying to get settled in and cool down the house we took showers and slept yet one more night in the comfort of our truck.
This was truly one of the most amazing short vacations I’ve ever had and I feel so lucky that everything came together for us to be able to make this amazing trip.