Have this morning divided the world into two categories of people; those who saw the 2017 solar eclipse and those who didn’t. Am delighted to count myself one of the former! Arrived home at midnight last night; dirty, smelly, hungry and exhausted having just driven twelve hours in mind numbing bumper to bumper traffic after three days camping on the Warm Springs Indian Reservation in the desert plateau that covers much of central Oregon . Yet, oh so satisfied. We literally stumbled in the back door, lumbered straight to bed and fell asleep within seconds, but not before acknowledging to each other that we wouldn’t have missed this experience for the world…
Coming home, the line-up at the Peace Arch border crossing was amongst the longest I’ve ever experienced. At midnight, no less. When we finally made our way to the booth, the border guard asked where we’d been and when we said “camping in Oregon to see the eclipse” his face brightened and all he wanted to know was how it was…all the details. In hindsight, we could have filled the car with contraband and he wouldn’t have cared.
Herewith, a wee personal journal of the trip. And a ‘heads up’ for those who missed this celestial spectacle this time around, that another opportunity awaits in 2024 when a total solar eclipse will be visible in southern Ontario and Quebec, central New Brunswick, western PEI and parts of Newfoundland. God willing and I’m still around, I’ll look forward to my second experience making me then a bona fide ‘eclipse chaser’!
From the very beginning, this trip was always Rick’s ‘thing’. A passionate amateur astronomer, he and his buddies in RASC (the Royal Astronomical Society of Canada) have been talking about this event for ages. I, however, was not nearly so enthused, but basically went along for the ride, knowing from 40+ years of experience that if Rick’s involved, it would likely be colourful, unique and more often than not “a little rough around the edges”. Delightfully so.
Plus, I knew that if I tagged along, I’d stand a good chance of finding some tidbit, or corner of the world, that spoke to my own heart…
Perhaps even overhear a piece of advice that, if I was willing to receive it, I could carry forward in life… (Part of a mural in Olympia, WA)
And, as always, expose myself to people who may introduce me to alternative ways of thinking!
People whose unique stories invariably remind me of the colour in even the most tragic of circumstances… (Homeless men gathered in an outdoor park in Olympia, WA.)
And get me away from my computer and into the outdoors where the redemptive power of Nature is there for all to see. (Photo of Mt. St. Helen’s taken from highway in Toutle, WA.)
However, notwithstanding the many diversions en-route, there was plenty of evidence, that a REALLY big show was waiting in the proverbial ‘wings’!
Rick had picked our destination by poring over Google Maps for hours and printing out detailed aerial photos. We took 2 lazy days to make it to Troutdale (outside Portland) but left there early on Saturday morning, hoping that traffic would be lighter than it would likely become 24 hrs later. In hindsight, a very clever plan. (Driving by the base of Mt. Hood, through Mt. Hood National Forest.)
This gave us time to stop and smell the flowers…
Once we passed through the hamlet of Warm Springs, Rick deviously diverted my attention from a ‘No Trespassing’ sign, after we’d already driven around a ‘Road Closed’ barrier and I’d questioned his sanity. (Or, at the very least, his lax concern for rules). He then made a sharp turn onto an almost invisible dirt track, proceeds to drive over 2’ high sagebrush until he has to open barbed wire livestock fencing for our car and we eventually come to stop at the edge of a large reservoir. There are few forces more powerful than an obsessive Rick, bound and determined to park himself smack dab in the middle of the ‘Zone of Totality’!
Rick’s Eclipse Watching Rule No.!: Find a campsite away from city lights or noise!
Did not see another human for 45 hours. Instead, our ‘companions’ were a few camouflaged lizards,
…a curious cow who scared the bejeezus out of me when it walked around our tent in the early morning, emptying its bowels, mere inches from my nose…(If you’re ever asked to give an example of ‘onomatopoeia’, try ‘PLOP”!)
…five gorgeous horses who were obviously curious about these strange looking interlopers,
…a wily coyote…
…and hundreds of ‘honking’ geese (or ‘hinking if you’re speaking about female geese…seriously, males honk and females hink. Who knew…)
We’d spend our time pretending to be amateur paleontologists un-earthing ancient fossils …
Reading in the precious shade, napping and then reading some more…
Figuring out ways to get some exercise in the 90 degree heat…
Or, in Rick’s case, attempt to tinker with Nature’s delicate balance by plugging a red ant nest with rocks. FYI, the ants, unperturbed, just dug around it. Note to self: When big problems ‘fall from the sky’, do like the ants and call in reinforcements. Problem solved…
And all the while, we both quenched an emotional thirst by gorging ourselves on the beauty of this harsh but sublime landscape.
When ‘Eclipse Day’ dawned we were READY!!!!
And when the moon took its first nibble on the top of the sun, it was not long before a perceptible calmness blanketed everything. The skies darkened, the temperature dropped, the geese silenced…
And we were enthusiastic, sun-burnt, un-shaven witness to it all.
Quite unexpectedly, I, who had just been “along for the ride”, as I liked to say, was spontaneously overcome with emotion and when totality arrived, Venus too, clearly visible in the newly night sky, I burst out crying.
Unbeknownst to us, other people were actually scattered along the nearby cliffs and roads and, at the moment that the moon reached maximum coverage and the corona flared, a huge cheer rose and echoed off the nearby canyons. It was intense.
No words needed, really.
And all too soon, (2 minutes and 20 seconds), it was day again. The columnar basalts standing guard on the hill top appeared un-changed. Human observers no longer able to say the same.
And everywhere you looked, people were eager to extend the eclipse’s power by sharing their own ‘Totality Tales’. And maybe the fact that on this one day, in one part of the world, millions of people shared a joyful spirited conversation with a stranger, is the MOST amazing part of it all.
And all eventually wandered home, finding their own unique ways to tell the world “I was there…LUCKY ME!!!!”