Eclipse 2017 - The Story

The 2017 Solar Eclipse has come and gone. Our adventure to catch the totality led us to a remote backroad site on a mountainside just west of Prairie City, Oregon.

Eclipse Totality Beginning. The first image in the early stage of totality. Eclipse Totality Beginning The first image in the early stage of totality.

This is my first image of the totality. The moon appears a bit distorted. Perhaps due to the slower shutter speed (1/10 of a second) and movement on my part.

Making plans to score the perfect eclipse viewing spot

Planning and getting there was half the fun. I first heard about the "event" two years ago, as many of the Central Oregon rentals were beginning to fill. I started my search in the usual way, by searching maps, road maps, forest service maps, and of course Google maps, and... more maps! I was looking for a remote location with a small clearing.

Finally, I selected a random side road just west of Prairie City, Oregon that seemed to have several options. But it can be hard to tell by just looking at maps - even lots of maps. So I, of course, had plans B, C, and D, just in case. 

We, my wife Julie and I, started by road tripping to a family reunion in Lake Tahoe, Nevada the week before. So my route planning was all about driving north to the eclipse totality path from the Nevada and California areas on a Saturday morning, along with thousands of other people. As you can imagine, I was cautious of getting caught in the crowds, and wanted to avoid them.

We planned on two options - Highway 395 that runs through the middle of Oregon, or the more remote eastern Highway 95. I choose the more remote option. And it just happened to have a speed limit 80 MPH - cool! 

The long, remote road to Prairie City, Oregon from Lake Tahoe.The journey to the eclipseThe long, remote road to Prairie City, Oregon from Lake Tahoe.

Getting there

We began our drive to the totality on the Saturday before the eclipse. Even though I had chosen a remote route, there were still a considerable number of eclipse seekers. During a quick grocery stop in Winnemucca, Nevada, we found a noticeable increase in travelers. Fortunately, it wasn't enough to cause a delay. 

At Burns Junction, we had a big decision. The fork in the road, literally. Right was towards Boise, Idaho, or left was through Burns, Oregon. Both had possible traffic issues. We chose Burns, thinking we might get caught in some traffic, but would be able to get to our chosen location easier, hopefully. Getting into the path was much smoother than I thought. Even in John Day, Oregon (directly in the path of totality) we were able to get gas, and get through town easily.

We finally made it to that side road just west of Prairie City that I selected months ago. And so began the hunt for the campsite. Of course, looking at maps and being there are very different. I found what I thought was my mapped out spot, and it was full with a big group, so onward we drove.

The next dirt road looked promising, and as we drove it we came to a gate. Bummer... well, maybe not. I notice it was an older gate made out of fencing, and remembered we were near the forest service boundary. I decided to check out the other side and it was a perfect location -  a large clearing, and plenty of level ground with gravel and dried grass. It seemed to be an long abandon gravel pit. I was sure the gate was just a cattle guard, and there were no "no trespassing" signs, so we entered, and closed the gate it behind us. We had found our site!

The gateThe gate

We are scoping out our potential campsite - looking pretty good!We are scoping out our potential campsite - it's looking pretty good!

Eclipse camp

That gate to our camp site turned out to be a huge bonus. Many other people - I'd say at least 20 cars - drove up, saw the gate, and turned around.

Then I heard a motorcycle pull up. I couldn't stand it - having such a large area and not sharing it. Plus, he was a guy on a motorcycle - so that makes him automatically cool, right? I ran down to the gate to catch him, waived him down, and invited him in. He said, "What are you charging?" I pondered for a moment, thought of the possibilities, and said "Nothing!" We had our first camp neighbor.

He located on an upper level, out of sight - a nice comfortable distance from our camp. That evening we had some drinks, told some stories, and shared memories.

We had all day Sunday to kill hanging around the site. We took turns exploring around a bit, and I decided to take a short mountain bike ride. There was a dirt road across the way I wanted to check out, and it seemed perfect for a short workout.

I was astonished at the amount of people camping literally everywhere! They were in the ditch, on side slopes, and parked on the road side - any and every turn out was full. One guy even put up his tent in the small area immediately next to the metal cattle guard! I hope he was a sound sleeper.

The road is littered with campers.The road is littered with campers. I don't know about you, but sleeping next to a cattle guard doesn't "sound" like much fun! :-)I don't know about you, but sleeping next to a cattle guard doesn't "sound" like much fun! ;-)

Just as I returned to our site, there was a camper opening the gate. They knew, as I did, that it was not private. I could only hope they were going to be respectful campers, and indeed they were. They turned out to be great, in fact! We all had a lot in common, and they were very interesting to talk with and get to know.

So now our eclipse camp was three groups. That was it. No one else dared to enter the gate and stay. Again, we gathered after diner and had cocktail hour, telling stories and learning about everyone's different adventures. It was a great experience, and it was about to get even better.

This was our crew! My wife, Julie, is sitting in the chair, our new motorcycle friend is on the left, and the camper gang are the three on the right.Our eclipse campmatesThis was our crew! My wife, Julie, is sitting in the chair, our new motorcycle friend is on the left, and the camper gang are the three on the right.

The day of... Eclipse 2017!

We all milled around the camp, waiting, talking about the details, and occasionally looking through our eclipse glasses to see if it had begun. Bets were made, and calculation were attempted.

Our eclipse glasses are ready. Waiting for the show to begin!Our eclipse glasses are ready. Waiting for the show to begin! At 9:08am PST, the first nick, notch, or clip (whatever you like to call it) began to show. We ohh'ed and ahh'ed as it grew, noticing the light change and the temperature drop.

Cell phone pic through eclipse glasses of the beginning of the eclipse. You can barely see the notch beginning in the top right corner.Cell phone pic through eclipse glasses of the beginning of the eclipse. You can barely see the notch beginning in the top right corner.

The light started changing, and everything took on an eerie, silver cast.The light started changing, and everything took on an eerie, silver cast. As the sky darkened and the sun became a sliver, it happened. 10:22am PST. Totality! And it was unlike anything I have ever experienced. Surreal and dream-like, a twilight of sorts - not darkness. The lighting had an odd dullness to it, casting soft, off-colored shadows.

The moment was gone in an instant, even thought it lasted for 2 minutes and 5 seconds. We tried to share the binoculars with everyone, but ran out of time. I quickly took a few images, but spent most of the time in awe the of entire experience. 

Eclipse near middle of totalityEclipse near middle of totalityTotally totality. This is half way through totality.

This image is about half way through the 2 minutes and 5 seconds of totality. Shutter speed 1/40th of a second.

I choose to brighten up this image a bit just to see how the camera would adjust. If you look close you can see some detail in the moon!Eclipse near end of totalityI choose to brighten up this image a bit just to see how the camera would adjust. If you look close you can see some detail in the moon!

I choose to brighten up this image a bit just to see how the camera would adjust. If you look close you can see some detail in the moon!

Eclipse Totality Oregon 2017. Just past totality. Out of focus because it was shot from the hip, not wanting to look through the lens at this point.Eclipse Totality 2017Just past totality. Out of focus because it was shot from the hip, not wanting to look through the lens at this point.

Just after totality. The diamond ring shot. I chose not to look through the lens for this shot, hence the blurriness.

It was a great adventure, topped off with a once in a lifetime, epic moment.


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Charles CockburnCharles Cockburn

Hi! I'm Charles! Thanks for stopping by my site.

This is where I share my scenic landscape images, along with a few behind the scenes adventure stories. Have a look around - you will find lots of photos from the Pacific Northwest, as well as from my travels around the world.

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