I have never experienced a total eclipse of the sun, only partial (in 1979). So we were looking forward excitedly to the Aug. 21 eclipse here in Oregon. Since our home would only be 99% eclipsed we looked into travel possibilities. To minimize the risk of cloud cover we decided to go to Madras, Oregon, on the east side of the Cascade Mountain range. And to avoid traffic risk we booked a campsite just north of Madras, right on the center line of the eclipse. The city of Madras organized about 5000 campsites on a farmer’s field, and called it Solartown. We reserved it back in March (it sold out eventually) and for $150 got a 20′ by 20′ square of grass to park our car, tents, and any gear.
Some reports picked Madras (and central Oregon high desert in general) as the best viewing spot in the country, due to lowest risk of clouds. The town of population 6000 expected to be overwhelmed by as many as 100,000 visitors.
We got on the road by 5:30AM Saturday for the 2.5 hour drive to Madras, fearful of traffic. But it was no problem, though a bit busy for that time of morning. My son Blair booked a site as well, and we were side by side, with 11 of us total in three tents.
We were very satisfied with the campground and facilities. And very comfortable with all the fellow campers. The atmosphere was electric with the anticipation.
On Monday morning, eclipse day, we were awakened early (5:30AM) by the car alarm next door. They set it off mistakenly while packing the car. No matter, excitement was running high. We ate breakfast, braved the long porta-potty lines, and set up the chairs facing east. Everybody was outfitted with eclipse glasses, including my 3 year-old granddaughter. At 9:06 the eclipse got underway as the moon took an increasingly larger bite out of the sun until 10:19 totality. It just got gradually darker and just seemed a bit eery.
I had read that those experiencing a total eclipse have a strong emotional reaction. And I have to say when the sun disappeared and the corona emerged dramatically around the black shape of the moon, it took my breath away. It was wondrous and indescribable. For two minutes and 6 seconds there were gasps and exclamations all around us. It got dark, though not pitch dark. Don’t know if that is due to the corona giving light, or the horizon w/o total eclipse. Then the sun gradually emerged again over the next hour and some.
It has been said that the experience of a total eclipse compared with 99.9% eclipse is infinitely more powerful. And I definitely agree with that. It has also been reported that a common reaction of those experiencing one for the first time will immediately ask when and where the next one will be, because they want to view it. And that is exactly what I thought. So April 2024, Texas here I come!
Traffic was near standstill after the eclipse, so we just chilled for 6 hours before packing up and leaving. We still encountered some very slow going, and got home around 10PM after a 4.5 hour drive.
So, was it all worth it? Totally! Just an amazing, memorable experience, a highlight of my life.
Here is a video/slide show about our adventure I uploaded to youtube:
The video from 9:00 to 10:00 is from my camera on tripod facing west to catch the eclipse shadow coming at a half mile per second. So you see the outline of Mt. Jefferson 30 miles away start to emerge a minute before our totality (as the sun no long illuminates the smoke and haze obscuring it). I still feel the excitement and emotion each time I watch this.