Watching the Solar Eclipse 10:17am-August 21st-2017
An email in my in box on February 23rd, 2017 is entitled “The Path of Totality”. It’s a very cosmic 70’s type invitation to camp in Oregon and witness something I knew nothing about with my brother and his friends. If nothing else, the invitation was unique. What the heck, car camping with fun people in scenic Oregon in August. We reply, yes!
As the months move by, we hear more and more about the event, the first in the US since 1979. More emails keep coming talking about the event, a pig roast, viewing options and more. Then all the media hype begins, including the importance of wearing eclipse glasses to view the sun while the moon comes between it and the earth. We start to realize how lucky we are to have prime time reservations in the Path of Totality, the area where the sun is totally eclipsed!
The REI sale comes so we get new car camping gear. Then, our summer birthdays roll around and we receive eclipse glasses and t-shirts. We are ready!
Horrendous traffic predictions (I-5) and gas and water shortage fears come daily in the news. We depart Saturday morning figuring it's a good time to avoid the mess. The colorful Swan Island Dahlia Farm and a fresh lunch at Bentley’s Bar and Grill in Salem, entertain us. So, after an enjoyable five plus hours, we arrive at Fisherman’s Bend Campground on the North Santiam River. After driving around the forested, large and well-equipped campground, we finally find our assigned campsite and friends.
Good food and drink, a pig roast, walks along the river and nice conversation with big laughs in the campground fill up the 36 hours of anticipation before the eclipse. Viewing options become a more intense topic on Sunday. So, we decide to go see for ourselves. Four of us drive to Mill City, turn left on 4th Ave (not hard to find) and ascend a well-maintained logging road. At the very top we walk up a short steep gravel road to a quarry and realize that our planner, Ray, suggested this knoll with good reason! I have never been happy to see a clear cut but tomorrow will be different. Back at camp I share my enthusiasm with the group and we settle on a 7ish departure for the 10:17 am eclipse.
Tom delivers coffee to me in our tent prior to my alarm going off – what a guy! We all pile into three cars with our breakfast, coffee, chairs, requisite glasses and head up to the knoll. I even play Age of Aquarius on the Bose to add to the mood which doesn't need much help. Our excited gang settles in with a some other folks on the knoll.
At 9ish, it begins. We all put our glasses on and see the first glimpse of the moon passing in front of the sun from the upper right. The coverage continues to grow for nearly an hour. It looks like a crescent moon. As the sun continues to be consumed by the moon, the eerie light is something different than we’d ever seen – not exactly like dusk nor sunset. It gets darker and darker and colder and colder. We layer up.
As the moon passes directly in front of the sun the near darkness blankets us. Immediately the corona, or ring of light behind the moon, pops out in all its unexpected glory! Everything gets quiet (humans, birds and everything). Venus and some random stars are visible in the darkened sky overhead. People are in awe and overwhelmed!
We marvel at the corona, without our glasses, for over two minutes but it feels like it's only a few seconds. Then the sun appears out from behind the moon again and a partial eclipse (what others see outside the Path of Totality) is visible as sunshine returns to the earth, just as predicted. Wow, wow and wow!
This unique physical and visual experience is difficult to portray in words or even pictures. However, I know all of us will have it in our minds eye for the rest of our lives and are grateful that we got to enjoy such an amazing sight together!
Yes, the traffic home, later that day, lives up to the media hype!