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Wednesday, August 23, 2017

Great American Solar Eclipse


Well, it's Wednesday. We returned from our great Oregon trip for the Solar Eclipse early this morning. We are home with no major hickups other than some REALLY nasty traffic. After nearly 18 hours on the road yesterday, I was never so happy to take a hot shower and pass out in my bed. 

But what an amazing experience. I have never seen a total eclipse.. Back in 2nd grade we had an annular which the moon doesn't completely cover the sun, so you don't get the corona effect like you do in the total. I remember sitting in the hallway of Robert E Lee Elementary with a pinhole projector to watch it. A Total is a totally different experience, let me tell ya.. But I'll get to that in a minute.

We loaded up the car Saturday morning and headed out towards our first camp spot in Northern California. 



 After being in the desert for so many years, anytime we get to where there's trees and water, it take my breath away.  Once you get up past Redding, California the beauty of this state becomes apparent. 




Rather than drive the entire way to Oregon, we opted to spend the night at a campground in the Shasta-Trinity national forest. This particular camp site was about 2 hours off the I-5 and turned out to be perfect for us, as we arrived close to 10pm, in pitch dark and the campground was pretty empty. 


Driving to our campsite. 
We were in the upper loop and there were a few campers in the lower loop on the lake but nobody anywhere near us. Luckily, I have plenty of experience in setting up our tent so it only took about 10 minutes to set up camp by the light of our headlight. After a small snack, we set our alarm for 6am and headed to bed to the sound of the frogs and crickets. Man I love being out in the forest. lol 

Setting up Camp by the lights from my Subaru
We woke up at 6 am to have time to break camp and have time to have breakfast and coffee before hitting the road. 




 We had a bit of a drive through the forest before we met back up with the interstate.  We're the type of family who enjoys the journey as much as the adventure so we pulled over a few times to take photos of the amazing view before us.



That's my Subaru, fully packed with all our camping needs, five people and a dog. ;)


This took me aback at first when we found it. Yeah, at first glance, I thought it was human. After closer examination, we determined it was not human but probably from an animal like a dog.


Watch out for wild cows while driving though the forests in California


This is how Kenny likes to ride.. The entire trip he sat on my lap and would lay his head on the door to enjoy the breeze when the window was opened.

We expected heavy traffic but honestly, it wasn't bad at all. However, we were a bit dismayed when we entered into Oregon and the skies were super smokey from the fires. 



One thing that came as a shock to us was that all the gas stations in Oregon are full service.  We later found out that Oregon has a law that only a gas attendant is allowed to operate the gas pumps, as a way to help create jobs.  




Luckily, our next campground was a good 300 miles north of the border and as we drove on, the skies significantly cleared up. We made our way to our campground, which wasn't packed but was filling fast. We had reserved a nice spot on the Blue River reservoir and have such a beautiful view of the water from our tentsite. 










Now, our campsite bragged about having prime viewing of the eclipse the next day. However, we had done our research and knew that it wasn't in the 100% range, it was only 98.. There's a HUGE difference between 98 and 100 percent when you are talking about a total Eclipse, so we knew that we would be heading further north to Albany, which was about an hour drive from our campsite. Charles had talked to one of the other campers who thought we were crazy for leaving the campsite to go north - I honestly feel bad for those who thought 98 percent was good enough as a short drive would have changed things considerably for their experience, especially those who drove a good distance to see the eclipse. Once again, we went to bed early (9pm) and woke up at 5am to head north for Albany, Oregon.
A nice little souvenir from out trip. This was a marker for our campsite. 

Alyssa is NOT amused being woken up this early.

Very little traffic heading to Albany, which we were shocked.. We did notice that the rest areas were completely filled up with people who had pulled over in hopes of a good view. We got to Albany before 7am and headed to a Costco parking lot. It was our understanding that being a costco member, they wouldn't have a problem with members parking there but unfortunately, they had people coming up saying no parking would be allowed until 10 when the store opened..Oh well, so much for that idea.

We asked if they had any suggestions as to where we should go, they didn't. So we decided to check out some of the parks to see if there were any parking left.. It actually turned out better than we expected because we found a HUGE open parking lot at their fairgrounds where many people were setting up telescopes and chairs, so we pulled in and found a spot. Charles figured if anyone came to tell people to leave, there were enough of us to gang up on them.. haha.. As it worked out, nobody came and said anything and it turned out to be a great spot with a open view of the sun. 



Eclipse started at about 9am and totality wasn't til nearly 10:15, so Charles had plenty of time to set up the camera. 


We all had our eclipse glasses (that we had purchased nearly a year ago and were from Celestron) and sat watching the show.. 



The kids had fun making pinhole projectors with their hands and observing how our shadows went from being sharp to fuzzy and out of focus as the sun was covered.





 At about 80 percent totality, the temperature started dropping significantly and the light outside began taking a very eerie sepia tone. At 90 percent, it started getting very dark and the parking lot lights came on. 






While we did not have room to bring our telescope on this trip (2024 will be different), we did bring our DSLR with a solar filter attached.  Charles manned the camera and took some pretty awesome photographs as the eclipse progressed.
The very start of the Eclipse

Around 40 percent (give or take)


Moments before Totality

 It's hard to describe a 100% Total. At that point, you can safely pull off your glasses and it's dark outside. You can see the stars in the sky. The temps drop like they would at night and it gets very chilly.. But, more than that is the sun itself. It's like a portal punches into the sky. You have a dark night sky blue with this glowing circle with a pitch black hole in the center of it and you can see the solar provenances and flares all around it. You can see red where the sun peeks out from the craters on the moon surface with this white fire all around it. It looks so unreal.. And the group of people with us were so excited - there was cheering and music and someone was even setting off fireworks (although, personally, i wouldn't have taken the time to light firework with that visual in front of me!!).. Our totality lasted almost 2 minutes but it doesn't seem that long when your looking at it.. 








And then, just like that, the sun begins to peek out and you see a second diamond ring and then it's over.. And it's like BAM! The lights come back on.. It's not the same buildup like going into the totality, where it gets dark gradually.. It suddenly turns daylight once again and you can't tell anything just happened. One minute it's dark as night and then it's day. And immediately, you're wanting to see it again because it's the most spectacular thing you have ever seen in your life. 

And then it was time to leave.. and OMG, you realize exactly HOW many people were in the area just for the eclipse.. Our parking lot had about 200 people in it, far from fully. But there were thousands there in Albany, all trying to get back on the I-5. It took us over an hour just to go 8/10ths of a mile and we weren't even at the interstate yet.. I-5 was completely gridlocked.



Luckily, my GPS found us another route away from the 5 completely and we didn't get on it to go back to our campsite at all.. When we got back to our site, we asked the Camp Host how the show was from there and sure enough, he said they didn't have 100%.. So, making the drive was well worth it..  


 Not being stuck in the traffic meant that we got to enjoy more time relaxing at our campground. Everyone else had left, with only about three other families in the grounds with us so it was very quiet and relaxing. 



This not so little guy was trying to get into our tent.. After checking him out, we relocated him.


Charles trying his hand at "candle making" by dipping a piece of string into our citronella candle. Needless to say, it didn't work that well.  


 Ashleigh building a "house" for her stuffed animal.. 


Playing with glow sticks after the sun went down. 



Traffic wise, driving home was a different matter all together.. We got up early and hit the road about 8am.. Heading out of Oregon, the traffic was fine.. Moved well and we made great time.. Crossing into California, it's like everyone once again forgot how to drive.. What should have been a 13 hour drive home ended up taking 18 hours because we were in almost constantly stop and go traffic from the Oregon border to Fresno. Since our car accident in July, Garrett  does not like being stuck in traffic. He was afraid someone was going to hit us from behind again, so our drive home was a bit stressful for him. 




But, I will say, NorCal is beautiful.. We passed right by Mt Shasta which is breathtaking.. 





Right next to Mt Shasta is Black Butte.  Both are part of a volcanic chain located in the Cascades.  We did a quick google search as we were driving to learn a bit about both and found out that both are considered "potentially active".



 Luckily, outside of just taking forever to drive home, we had no hickups. We got home around 1am, left the car packed up and we all headed to bed. 

So that's our big trip. Was it worth all those hours in the car?? Without a doubt. You can bet wherever we are in 2024, that in April, we will be in Texas because we all want that experience again (and Texas will have a longer totality, over 4 minutes!!).. We're already making plans for it.. haha 

I tell you what I find funny though.. As said, there's a huge difference between 98 percent and 100 percent.. at 98 percent, the eclipse is no different than an Annular eclipse.. You have to have that 100% to experience what we saw..  But, it was funny seeing all these people on social media who were in the 60-80 percent range freaking out and talking about how amazing it was and I'm like well, why don't you watch the other ones?? Why didn't you care about the one two years ago?? Why is it, the media tells you this is going to be amazing, then you bother with it. The next major annular in the US will be 2023 (there's one before that but covers only a small portion of the US, it's mostly in Canada). I bet nobody will watch that one even though it will be 97-98 totality.. But I bet everyone will once again go crazy over the total in 2024, even if they aren't in the line of totality.  



Anyway, the next total is in April 2024.. We will indeed be in Texas for it. The best path of totality is going to be a bit west of San Antonio so we will be looking to reserve a campspot somewhere around Kerrville area for the day before and the day after, as well as a week in New Braunfels area. lol Next time, Charles will have a solar telescope, because while our camera did a great job, it just isn't made for doing thing like an eclipse.. lol 

Credit to NASA.gov for the photograph used in the banner and pinable image used in this post. 
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