My sweetheart and I saw the total eclipse on August 21 with a small group of nice people in Brogan, Oregon. The sky was clear, the birds freaked out, everyone cheered when the sun disappeared, and the darkened sky was suitably disconcerting.
We managed to do this without getting stuck in traffic or sharing the experience with a huge crowd of people (I don’t like crowds). Which is to say, we didn’t cause any problem for the fine folks in Oregon who were — reasonably — more than a little worried about the influx of people.
We did this with a combination of good planning and serendipity. Our plan was to go to the eastern part of Oregon, based on the assumptions that (a) the sun was likely to be shining in that part of the country and (b) there might be fewer people out there. Originally, we thought we’d make for John Day, Oregon.
However, as we got up to the place where we had a campsite reserved near Crane, Oregon — outside of the zone of totality — we kept hearing about the crowds descending on John Day. We looked at various maps, agonized a lot, and decided to go even farther east. In fact, we drove all the way to Vale — on the Idaho border — and then back west to Brogan. (There were no good shortcuts.)
Don’t be surprised if you’ve never heard of Brogan, or even Vale. They aren’t big places and were unknown even to some native Oregonians.
The Brogan Community Center had put together a small gathering at the volunteer fire department, complete with a porta-potty and several serious amateur astronomers. The person who’d traveled the farthest to Brogan came there from Paris! It was a congenial crowd that included locals and students from nearby colleges.
The closest thing we saw to “traffic congestion” was a wait for two cars to pass on the highway before we left.
If you prefer more of a party atmosphere, I’m sure the gathering in Madras, Oregon, was fun. But as we drove through the day after the eclipse on our way to Portland, we saw the piles of trash left behind and the remains of tent cities and impromptu campgrounds.
Our small gathering included people who knew enough about eclipses to answer questions and a couple of people with guitars, along with some kids running around, a few dogs, and cows lowing in the field across the street.
We watched, were awed, and then drove back to our campsite to soak in the hot springs.
We were excited enough by the actual event — a total eclipse is a much bigger deal than a partial one, even when it only lasts a couple of minutes — to start making plans for the next U.S. eclipse in 2024.
I think we’ve become umbraphiles.