Totally Awesome!

Okay… I know it’s been a week now, and so much has happened since, but I have to write about the eclipse. I’ve been up in the mountains without any network access so I couldn’t post until now.

I got pulled into the eclipse hype relatively late, about a month prior, and by that time all the hotels in the path of totality were fully booked. But I found Brandis Farm in Corvallis, Oregon was taking reservations for camping in their fields. Were we nuts? Did it really make sense to pull out the camping gear and travel 1100 miles round trip for 100 seconds of totality? I have to admit to some doubts as we drive the miles and miles of freeway, and that 100 seconds sure did fly by quickly….  But, yes! I’m glad I got to witness it.

We left the San Francisco Bay Area on Saturday and stayed the first night in a hotel in southern Oregon, arriving in Corvallis at noon on Sunday. This gave us time to explore the town a bit. It was bustling but friendly, with none of the massive traffic jams, long lines for gas or shortage of supplies that the naysayers had predicted.  And we found the folks at Brandis Farm to be super organized. By late Sunday night, there were hundreds of tents dotted around their property, in clearly numbered plots, with water stations and clean, fully-stocked porta-potties.

We found a spot with a bit of shade under ancient oak trees and soon got to know our neighbors: a guy with two adult sons from Vancouver, a family from Redding CA who had never camped before, and a young couple all the way from L.A. The whole of the West Coast was represented, and everyone there for the same reason. We could see bikes and walkers on a path at the far end of the field, and went to check it out, discovering a whole network of trails bordered by blackberry bushes ripe for picking. After a long hike, and an early dinner, we were ready to crawl into the tent and be lulled to sleep by the sound of loudly-chirping crickets.

I was glad we weren’t staying in a hotel; it felt so much more appropriate to be camped out in nature as we waited for the celestial spectacle to unfold. We arose to a perfect blue sky, with none of the forest fire smoke we’d driven through in northern California and southern Oregon, and none of the fog that typically clings to the coast. We packed up our campsite, and carried our chairs over to the far side of the field, eclipse glasses in hand—and waited.

Just after 9am, a tiny blip appeared at the sun’s edge: the moon had shown up right on schedule. Amazing that the scientists were able to predict that so accurately. (Ahem…perhaps they’re right about climate change too?) Slowly, slowly, over the next hour, the moon’s shadow enlarged, with a gradually increasing crescent covering the sun. The light didn’t change much until right before totality. How powerful our sun is; even with only a small sliver still uncovered, it provided pretty strong daylight, although the temperature had dropped dramatically.

And then suddenly there it was: totality! The sun completely covered with just a tiny rim of light around the moon’s shadow. A planet appeared in the temporary night sky. Cheers arose from across the field. I howled like a wolf. The ravens that had been circling the trees fell silent. It really was awe-inspiring.

The most dramatic moment for me was when a tiny flare of sunlight flashed for a second as the moon’s shadow moved on, signaling the end of totality. And then the whole process reversed itself, the sun regaining its full strength. We picked up our chairs and started the long drive home.

Was it worth it? Yes, it was totally awesome. But now, I have to get to work. My book launch is just one month away…