This trip can’t be eclipsed |

This trip can’t be eclipsed

Marie Johnson took this photo of the eclipse from Alsea, Ore.
Marie Johnson |

Burning Man attendees get called burners. I call myself and anyone else who traveled to see the total solar eclipse in August clippers. And from the constant train of traffic on Hwy 5 and 101 on Monday afternoon after the eclipse in Oregon there were thousands of us.

My husband and I had researched the eclipse trail. Looked up durations at different locations to determine where we would see it. I wanted to watch it at the ocean. Wanted to combine two powerful natural events, watch blocking of the sun while standing in never ceasing ocean waves.

In preparation we made sure the cows had plenty of grass, water was holding out, bought an auto feeder for the cat and checked the weather. Oregon is beautiful but the ocean can be tricky with fog. Wanting to be sure we could see the sky we checked all long-term forecasts. Sunny and bright all predicted.

Ten days before we left we checked the national weather models again. Sunny skies all day Monday.

The day before we left with our bikes on the back of the car incase we had to leave the car along side the road if traffic stopped we checked the weather again. Friday, partly cloudy Saturday, Sunday, Monday clear and sunny.

The day we leave our two coolers are packed with food and supplies in case resources on the road are scarce. And with a promise from my husband to always keep the car gas tank half full we set out.

We arrive at the lodging available to us 24 miles from our choice beach spot Sunday. We spend the day driving those 24 miles seeking wide spots in the road in case we need to ditch the car and bike to the beach. In Newport, the public south beach is prepared for an influx of clippers. We talk to the park ranger who tells us key spots to watch the eclipse from.

He says there are not nearly as many people as expected but they have brought in extra sanitation facilities, allowed camping in non-designated camping areas. Tents and travel trailers line the Rogue River jetty. The ocean air rusts our bike chains in half a day as we scout viewing spots. We determine how much water and food to carry if we need to do a fifty-mile round trip bike ride. WE ARE READY. Excited as all the clippers on the beach.

Sunday night before we go to bed we check the weather report one more time. Dense fog and high clouds. What! We have prepared, we have planned, we have been vigilant. But as the phrase goes, God laughs while men make plans.

Dark o’clock Monday morning we pack up the car walking through dense fog. I hear the ocean on the other side of the parking lot. My supportive half asks me what I want. I wanted to stand in a powerful place and watch the eclipse.

I agree to go inland. We drive 40 miles through tall trees to an open field next to a small public library. The Librarian came and opened the doors early to allow use of the facilities for the crowd gathering with their glasses and lawn chairs. Arriving Clippers confessed to changing their plans when the ocean fog rolled in. We sat at the library’s outside picnic table waiting to watch the moon cover the sun with a young couple armature astronomers with their filtered telescope.

When the moon blocked the sun the air cooled, a breeze came up. The crowd quieted, stars popped out of the sky. I felt the dark. But in the distant horizon there was a visible blue line of light like a circular dawn all around us. And then it was over. The moon slid a fraction and the Sun’s diamond ring showed. Light came back. Everybody hugged.

Best laid plans sometimes just become funny stories to tell friends. But it is not lost on me I saw the eclipse standing next to a small public library in the hamlet of Alsea. Powerful.

Marie Johnson is a Carson Valley rancher