August 20th and 21st ~ Chasing the Zone of Totality!
Our original plans were that we would still be somewhere in British Columbia for the total eclipse of the sun. Thinking we would miss seeing it, we had made absolutely zero plans. My sister and her family however had planned ahead, well in advance, and had secured a hotel room right in Umatilla, Oregon (just across the Washington border) for the night before the big event.
After we dropped in on them much earlier than planned, we tried to see if it was possible to join them on the eclipse trail.
Well, of course every hotel room was already sold out along or near the path, but Tim was able to find us an Army Corps of Engineers campsite for Ellie Mae (our RV) just across the Columbia river from them near Kennewick, Washington.
After determining that there were enough seat belts, it made more sense for us to drive everyone in the RV instead of taking separate vehicles.
Once that all started coming together, the next phase was to ensure that we had the necessary eye protection. Well, Mark was way ahead of us. He had ordered some top quality film to make shields for them, and had enough for us as well.
Jan and I put together a few snacks and supplies to fix a couple of meals and we were off. The eclipse was to occur on Monday morning, August 21st. Departing Oak Harbor on Sunday morning, the 20th, we planned on driving 3/4th of the way the first day.
After a full day of driving, we arrived at our overnight stopover. A swing by their hotel to get them checked in, we returned to our campground for a picnic dinner. The COE campground was one of the nicest we have stayed in so far. Even the gravel had been raked.
The next morning required an even earlier start as we were still not in the Zone of Totality (where the total eclipse could be witnessed). Up at 4:45, Tim and I left the campground at 5:35, fueled up and picked up the rest of our group at 6:05.
We just kept heading south…
Finally, after several hours of morning driving, we pulled off of the highway along a somewhat deserted country road. Now, well inside the “Zone”, we found a wide pull-out that would accommodate Ellie Mae and all of us in our camp chairs.
Within minutes of a quick set up of chairs, eye protection in place, the eclipse began!
I knew that photography of the eclipse on my tiny Sony RX100 would be futile, so instead, I snapped a few shots of us, tried the pattern shots on a white piece of paper, watched a couple of flowers to see if they would react to the sun diminishing, and otherwise just tried to soak up the experience as it slowly got darker and noticeably cooler.
And then it happened – the sun disappeared! With only a very faint ring around the moon, it was otherwise dark. We were able to take our protective shields down and soak up the moment.
Having never witnessed a total eclipse of the sun before, I had no idea what to expect, but I was pleasantly surprised by just how amazing it was. Honestly, having the moon completely block out the sun was a bit spooky, but at the same time, I felt like we were experiencing something both surreal and exceptional.
And far too quickly it was over… The total eclipse had lasted roughly two minutes.
A reversal began with just an edge of the sun exposed, with eye guards back in place, we watched the day return, little by little.
Our parking spot had been shared with another explorer who had a fabulous camera set up on a tripod and before we departed he shared a few pictures he had captured. They were so good. But obviously by now, you have all seen extraordinary captures that have been posted.
My patterned shadow photos did not turn out very well, but here they are anyway for posterity. If you look at the small circles in order, you will be able to see the shapes change as the moon moves into position to block out the sun. First a small dark curve starts to bite into the circle, then the white circle becomes slimmer and slimmer as the sun gets further covered. Finally only a tiny sliver of white remains. The last three are as the sun is starting to return, showing the reverse formation. Whimsical at best.
Loading back on board, we started our return toward Whidbey Island. We knew that there was a good chance that traffic would be a factor, but even knowing it, we were surprised just how bad it was. The few highways funneled in cars, trucks, RV’s, and motorcycles from miles and miles and miles of back roads, streets, towns, and farmlands. Traffic inched along.
I snapped a couple shots of the passing landscape.
There was a placard along the road that I managed to capture as we passed by Twin Sisters, that told the “Two Sisters Legend”. According to a Native American legend:
- “Coyote, the mischievous spirit hero of many native stories, fell in love with three sisters who were building a salmon trap on the river near here. Each night Coyote would destroy their trap, and each day the girls would rebuild it. One morning coyote saw the girls crying and found out that they were starving because they had not been able to catch any fish in their trap. Coyote promised them a working fish trap if they would become his wives. They agreed, and coyote kept his promise; however, over the years he became jealous of them. He changed two of the wives into these basalt pillars and turned the third into a cave downstream. He then became a rock nearby so he could watch over them forever.” ~ Washington State Chapter, Lewis and Clark Trail Heritage Foundation, April 2000 Newsletter
And then at one point we came to a complete standstill. Police officers were not allowing any more cars to get onto the highway we planned on taking. We were redirected the LONG WAY back which added many miles onto our journey.
Finally, at almost 3:00 the next morning we limped into their driveway, fell into bed and dreamed about a very unique experience.
GRATITUDE MOMENT: It is difficult to put into words what seeing the total eclipse was like. I certainly don’t want to diminish the experience for those who got to see a partial eclipse, but please believe me that seeing the totality was beyond amazing. It is one of those things that you have to experience to understand.
I will long remember not only seeing the world go dark, but who I shared it with: my husband Tim, my sister Jan, my brother-in-law Mark, and his mother Ellen. A special thank you to Jan and Mark for making all of this possible, and for my hubby extraordinaire for his many, many hours of driving to get us safely there and back. Also to Mark for the quality eye protectors for all of us, including Gus!