Eclipse 2017

The Great American Solar Eclipse of 2017 passed right through the heart of Oregon. As an amateur astronomer, I really wanted to see it. I had seen partial eclipses through the telescope, and lunar eclipses, but total solar eclipses are very rare. I heard last year that the Oregon Airstream club was planning something in Eastern Oregon, but at the time there was no way I could afford to sign up for that party, as I was still unemployed and Dave and I was struggling to keep it all rolling – I was starting up my Real Estate Photography business, and he was doing baggage delivery for airlines all night long. There was not any extra money for the big rally, and I heard it had filled up.

Fast forward to this May: I was gainfully employed again, and Dave had taken over the photography biz, and we were doing ok again, everything was getting caught up. I had to skip Trout Lake because I had done a terrible job of winterizing the trailer and the main water pipe broke, and camping without water is no bueno. But we drove out to Trout Lake for an evening to have dinner with our friends and catch up with everyone. While talking about our plans for this year, Jim Jordan mentioned that there were openings at the Eclipse rally, and I should look into it. We went home and discussed it. Dave might have a play during that time, and it was an expensive rally, so I decided to go by myself. I have never taken the trailer anywhere by myself, but I’m pretty confident I can do it. I drive nearly every trip, so I’m not really worried about it, so I signed up and paid my dues. Now I’m going to see an eclipse!

As we got closer to the eclipse Dave did not get a part in the play he thought he might be in, and as we heard more and more warnings about how many people would be travelling to Oregon to see the eclipse, we started to get worried. Authorities were warning people that grocery stores could run out of food, gas stations might run out of gas, cellphones might not work, and they expected traffic back-ups that would last for hours in 100 degree heat. Dave decided he should come along too. So we asked Scott and Sherry to watch the pups, and prepared for a crazy eclipse weekend.

I took that Friday off from work, and we drove out at about 11pm Thursday to avoid the traffic. People were already talking about crazy traffic in Madras, and that’s where we were headed. Our campsite was in Pelton Park on Lake Simtustus, and we wouldn’t be able to check in until noon on Friday, so we rolled into the Warm Springs Casino at 1am and parked it for the night. Dave went to play the slots for a bit while I went to sleep. The next morning he went to play a bit more while I hung out in a chair in the shade of the trailer, reading Travels with Charlie while answering questions from curious travelers about our Airstream. It was hot and a little smoky from a nearby brushfire.

Since we were heading for a lake we packed the Yak for the first time on an Airstream trip. I think they fit together just fine.

I was a little worried about heading for Eastern Oregon in August, with no AC, and no electricity to plug into to run it anyway. Turns out Pelton Park is actually a really nice park with lots of trees and shade. I loved our spot with a view of the lake. I wish we’d had one of those front-bedroom Airstreams with the table in the back – the pretty view was out our bathroom window!

Just a small assortment of the Airstreamers filling the overflow lot. I heard there was something like 130 Airstreams, some of which were at the neighboring park where we had the big tent setup (coming up).

The park also had a marina with boats to rent, tackle, a little grocery, and a diner. Very nice! We will have to come to this park again!

At the big tent at the Suntustus campground down the street, we had a mandatory meeting to discuss all the goings-on that were planned for the weekend, and security (they were worried about party-crashers trying to sneak in). Meanwhile the sky tried to distract us with one of the most amazing sunsets I have ever witnessed.

When we got there we immediately found friends, and discovered the Trout Lake contingent were all parked together at the other end of the park. I brought my fiddle and got some tips from Jim on stuff to work on so I could play along with everyone next time, and enjoyed sitting in and listening as everyone played under the streetlight behind Janet and Gary’s trailer, since campfires were not allowed.

The next morning we took the kayak out fishing bright and early, and missed breakfast. It was totally worth it because..

I caught a fish!

I didn’t know what it was, so I released it. Turned out it was a Northern Pikeminnow and they are invasive, and you’re supposed to keep them if you catch them. Oh well. We also saw some deer up on the hills, and a black cow that was just hanging out by itself.

On the way back to the dock a sheriff’s boat stopped us and said he could see we had PFDs, but did we have a noisemaking device. I said yes, we had a whistle. He said ok and said, but do you have an Oregon Aquatic Invasive Species permit? Well, no. He told us we needed to get one before we go out again, somewhere up the road at a fly shop. We didn’t want to go out because of the warnings about traffic and craziness in town, so we packed up the kayak for the remainder of the trip.

That didn’t put an end to all the fishing fun though, because they had a Fishing Derby planned for the next day. So I signed up and went out with David and Laura, who were both very experienced fishermen and kayakers, and also have a small farm so we had plenty to talk about! They were super nice and helpful and we trolled up and down the lake all morning.

The landscape along the lake is amazing! Very cool rock formations.

I’ve never seen rock formations quite like this. When you have a question about rocks in the NW, the answer is almost always ‘Volcanoes’.

Got a picture with a little Pikeminnow I caught. I caught two of them, and one little Rainbow Trout, which I gave to David to cook up with the ones him and his wife caught.

That was a blast! Then there was a charity hotdog lunch to support local firefighters. While standing in line someone’s beagle got away from them and was running around refusing to get caught. After I got my hotdog the pooch made a pass and I offered her a piece, but she only sniffed and kept running, so I handed it to her dad (he had camped with us at Trout Lake last year). But then she made another pass and I offered her another piece and she stopped to sniff it, then have a nibble. So I got down on the grass with her and set the hotdog down in front of me and she slowly snuck up on it, and didn’t even notice when I gently took her collar. Her dad was grateful and the crowd clapped 🙂

While I was fishing Dave went to the Casino, then we both crashed the rest of the afternoon. What a great place to crash!

This might have been the night we had dinner and got a tour of the constellations from our friendly astronomer-in-residence Brian from Fresno. Or it might have been the night we got to see Antsy McClain do his stuff. He’s awesome, what a treat!

Monday morning came, and it was time for the big event. The eclipse was going to happen at 10:21am, so we all gathered at the big tent for viewing, and then afterwards we would have brunch and have an astronaut come talk. It was a little smoky from nearby brush fires, but it looked like it was still going to be ok.

We found our friends and pulled up chairs to sit with them.

We tried out a box with a pinhole projection going on to see the eclipse as it progressed towards full, and checked out the telescopes, including Brian’s fabulous funnel-projection setup on his 8″ dob.

Big crowd for the main event!

Dave and I lookin’ fab in our eclipse glasses!

And the big moment…


I didn’t take any pictures of the eclipse! This was actually on purpose. If I had tried, I would have been fiddling with my camera. There are lots of people who did, who enjoy that, who were happy to spend their time that way, but I just wanted to spend the whole two minutes watching the eclipse, and I did. I watched the last of the sun disappear behind the moon, whipped off the eclipse glasses to see an inky black hole in the deep blue sky with white rays stretching out from it. A parachute opened near the sun as some daredevil jumped and enjoyed his eclipse from the air. Venus was visible. It was kind of like twilight, but not quite, and it was sunset all around. It was amazing. Absolutely jaw-dropping amazing. And then, less than 2 minutes later, it was over. The instant it was over, and the sun came out form behind the moon, it was immediately too bright to look at with the naked eye. So the difference between a 99.9% eclipse, and 100% eclipse is everything! It is a completely different experience.

Afterwards we had lunch, and the astronaut talked to us and answered questions, and then we helped clean up, folding chairs and stacking tables. There was no cell service there, so to get reception you had to drive up to the top of the hill, and you could also see the highway from there. After brunch we had gone up there and saw the highway was crawling with people heading back to town, so we went back to camp to relax. Back at the campground we crashed for a bit, then while Dave was napping I went to see what Janet was up to. I didn’t find her, but I found Carolyn and Loren. I just started visiting with them, when Janet popped up and said Gail had rented a boat and there were two more spots! Carolyn didn’t want to go, so I went for it. We had a pontoon boat! Gail drove us down to the other campground and then down the lake a ways. Gary was stretched out on the front deck, Jim had his mandolin out plunking away, everyone was chatting and telling stories, it was fantastic!

We hooked up the trailer and had everything ready to roll before sunset, and then relaxed, planning to pull out in the middle of the night again. That night all our friends pulled together everything we had left for a potluck. After that Dave went for a nap, and I hung out listening to music. About 10pm one of our neighbors came back and said he’d been up to cellphone-point and the highway looked normal again. I went and told Dave it was time to go. We rolled home with no issues, and no traffic, and got in about 1am.

I’m so glad we took the time and spent the money to spend the weekend camping with our Airstream friends and making new friends and really enjoyed ourselves. It was the best rally we’ve ever been to, and then there was an eclipse too! Also, a big thumbs up for Pelton Park, and the awesome folks who run the marina there. We will definitely come back.


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