This eclipse did not “belong” to anyone in my opinion. Everyone had their own experience whether it was viewed partial, total, in a backyard, from an organized festival or even in flight. Each human being who witnessed it, has a unique response. These are some of my thoughts and reactions.
We knew we wanted to experience the Totality. How often does this happen in your own state? Dave had been thinking about this for quite a while and had requested time off from work way back when. But from where to watch it, was the missing element.
Of course, the media hype was hard to ignore –We had heard the zombie apocalypse invasion from around the world was inevitable. If you thought you were going to just get in your car and drive to see it well, the media advised, think again.
And then there was and is the very real and dangerous fire potential. A Face Book post that I saw a while back stayed with me the whole time – “Don’t even fart out in the woods”.
So, we loaded up on Thursday armed with the ability to camp, backpack or just drive. We carried tons of food, water, shovel, fire extinguisher, extra gas, multiple maps, digital and old school, the dog and most important, those funny glasses.
We decided to go early to avoid traffic and hit the back roads as much as possible to find that special spot.
We drove east towards Grant County meandering and map obsessing along the way and ended up camping our first night at Penland Lake Campground – just outside of the totality limit. Quite pretty and maybe, just maybe the quietest night I have ever spent in our tent.
It was interesting to see how each small town like Granite and Long Creek plus the counties had prepared for this event. I was super impressed and even though we just live a couple of hours away – I felt I was very welcomed by everyone.
The funny little side story here was we did something not great. Most of the campgrounds now have a pack it in – pack it out policy for garbage and I completely respect and applaud it. BUT – we drove off and left our trash bag outside of the truck. This did not dawn on us until we were about an hour and a half away heading toward Anthony Lakes our next nights’ destination.
Do you ever feel so bad about something you just must see if you can fix it? Dave did. We drove back and sure enough our garbage was still there. We picked it up and headed back to Anthony Lakes. An extra 3 hours – damn it – racked up mileage.
Because of the Bear Butte Fire on the main road to Anthony Lakes from I-84 and the road had been closed for a while. We came in on a dirt road from the backside. The result was there was almost no one there. We camped at Grande Ronde Lake CG completely by ourselves except for the eagle swooping over the lake fishing.
In the morning, I went wondering off to take pictures. On the backside of the lake I was treated to something I have longed for, for quite a while now – the song of Oregon’s wild wolfs howling. I froze and so wished Dave had been with me but infinitely grateful to be there in that moment, listening.
We packed up and headed deeper towards totality. Driving south Dave looked over his right shoulder and said “There. That’s where I want to watch the eclipse from. Let’s check it out”.
‘There’ turned out to be Dixie Butte, a mountain butte with a fire lookout at the top sitting at 7592 feet. We finally started to see a little traffic and more cars, campers and trucks mostly from California. There were signs warning of needing 4-wheel drive and a narrow road and that was no hype. The road sucked, was narrow and was extremely dusty. Perfect!
We arrived where they had closed the road about a mile from the top and found a spot to tuck in and set up camp with maybe about 25 other cars in the vicinity. Knowing more would be showing up. And they did for the next 24 hours.
We hiked up the road to see the view and scope out a place to watch from. We settled on a rock out cropping with a huge 360 degree view of the Elkhorn, Strawberry, Aldrich and Greenhorn Mountains, with the Monument Rock Wilderness and Castle Rock visible to the southeast. A couple of official spots were taken by people participating in capturing the event for an organized study and we choose to hang out just below one. A cool side note was there was a memorial plaque for a woman there: Margery Annetta Pfaff Magill (1909-2011). We were honored to share that spot with her for the eclipse.
Next, we went back to the truck, and prepared our stuff to spend the night up next to the fire watch tower with maybe about 12 other backpackers and tents.
The sunset the night before was so spectacular – everyone was talking and speculating about the weather but all looked positive.
In the morning, we headed to our spot about 6:30 am and Dave made coffee, then fiddled with cameras and plans, Carmen slept and I made a conscious decision to not take photos and to just be and take it all in.
We were joined by a super cool, couple from BC Canada and the wait began.
When it started it seemed to just sneak up on us – we watched with our glasses and the magic began.
First the subtle changes of lighting, then the slow cool down of the air temperature and the energy buzz from the people started to build.
Having such a grand view all around it was incredible to observe the shadow growing and the fun stuff of reflections and slightly bizarre effects happening around us. I put my puffy down coat back on not sure if I was shaking because of temperature or anticipation.
I can honestly say I have never said OMG over and over and over again so much in my life. My jaw was dropped open and I experienced something I am still not sure what it was. Maybe a feeling of deep and incredulous joy, a feeling of being part of something so much bigger, a feeling of cosmic synergy? I really don’t know because I still cannot describe it adequately.
Afterwards I just wanted to hang on to that feeling. I am hoping by writing this it will help me to do that. The dates and places of the next one was immediately explored and we are seriously considering.
The word Dave and I kept coming back to for us that seemed to fit the best was Magical. I know it had the same effect on so many. Afterwards you could see it in their eyes or hear it in their voice when talking about it. No political party lines or agendas, no personal beliefs, no opinions one way or the other – it was magical for us and it was real.
We took our time getting back down the mountain and camped one more night to once again avoid the traffic we never saw. We swam in Magone Lake and the John Day River and visited Arch Rock, all along the way we saw campers everywhere. And I know each and every one who witnessed this event had their own personal experience.
Thanks for reading and I want to pass on a Ted Talk that really captures the experiance it a bit more and if possible, see one before you leave this earth.