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Total Solar Eclipse 2017 Edition (Oregon)

As (almost) always, it started with a picture in a book. Actually two pictures: one of the Painted Hills and the other of a river canyon around Imnaha. Both astonishing. The book – “Lonely Planet’s Best West Coast Roadtrips”, Oregon part. It was also about the Total Solar Eclipse. It turned out that the eclipse wouldn’t be a total one on Vancouver Island – the path of totality was located more south and it went through the middle of the Oregon state. So we decided to go south! My partner in crime and roadmate on this trip – Alex.

Getting out of the island

The first ferry that day, insane time for most of the people (6am!), and it was already 80% full! But we managed to get on board, and it was the prettiest ferry ride I’ve ever taken to Vancouver – beautiful sunrise over the ocean. So, instead of getting some more sleep on the ferry (I slept around 3,5h the previous night), I spent the whole time staring at the Sun. The Sun, that in over 48h, would go all black.

6am ferry to Vancouver

Crossing the US border went surprisingly smooth, no traffic jams, no apocalyptic pictures that were all over the US media 🙂 The scenery changed dramatically. And that got pretty common in the next couple of days.

Heading South
Sunset over a desert
One of the most amazing sunset I’ve ever seen

Finally arrived to the Solarfest in Madras (OR). Most of the towns on the path of totality came up with some kind of festivals, events, etc. to attract tourists.

Pretty cool idea!
Madras, OR

We stayed in Madras, but for the eclipse itself, we wanted to go somewhere more scenic. Early Monday morning we took the highway north, getting closer to the center of the path of totality and into the farmlands. We found a pretty spot quickly. Not only us, as you can see 🙂 Still, majority of the people watched the eclipse from towns, event fields and the sides of the bigger highways. We parked by the field full of cows. A perfect opportunity to see how (and if) the eclipse would affect their behavior 😉

People parked on the side of the road, waiting for the eclipse

Eclipse lemonade anyone? Didn’t except that in the middle of, well.., nowhere. But boys from the car parked beside approched us with a big sign and delicious lemonade (50cents per cup!). We chatted with their parents, sipped cold lemonade and missed the very first phase of the eclipse 🙂

Eclipse lemonade anyone?
Alex enjoying the eclipse
Me enjoying the eclipse

The total solar eclipse.. A final phase was only 2 minutes long. And it’s waaaay too short.. When it happens, you don’t know where to look – sky, surroundings? And in a bit it’s over, just like that. And your only thought is: “Wow, I want to see it again!”. Following thought: “The next eclipse is probably in a few years (!)”. The magic moment is gone. I heard someone compared this moment to all of those tiny exciting moments you may experience with someone you start to like a bit more – catching they eyes, brief accidental touches, a kiss. You don’t know what happened, if it happened for real, desperately trying to rememebr every single detail, want more, and can’t stop thinking about it for the next few days. As cheesy as it sounds, it’s a pretty acurate description 🙂

The eclipse!

The eclipse part was over. But being already in Oregon was a great opportunity to see more! To avoid the traffic we took a small road, but we didn’t expect that it would be that small (and gravely). Amazing views though!

Late afternoon we finally got to the Painted Hills – the best time to see them, as the sunlight before sunset makes them more epic and colorful.

Painted Hills #1
Painted Hills #2

Another morning – taking down tents, packing the car, heading to the closest town for coffee. Sometimes “closest” means a 50 miles drive 🙂

Packing the stuff
A road through a canyon

That day we found a place to sleep pretty early, so we decided to explore the nearby (30miles) town of Joseph. We drove all the way down from the mountain top to the river level, enjoyed amazing views of the flat farmlands on both sides of the river and huge mountains in the background. Joseph – took us by surprise. Small town, but with some kind of artistic touch and the best pizza and beer in the whole Oregon!

Joseph, OR – best place for beer and food 🙂

Imnaha – according to the travel book, the most isolated town in US. For sure a pretty quiet place at 8am 🙂 Surronded by beautiful hills carved over time by the rivers nearby. August is a wildfire season and also very dusty time here. A mix of smoke and dust in the air efficiently and drasticly limited the views (and made them less spectacular unfortunatelly). But it also created this eerie-ish atmosphere.

Back country around Imnaha

Gravel roads again. Narrow, steep, and sooo awesome to drive on!

All the way back is downhill, so at some point it’s neccessary to stop and give a break for.. the brakes 🙂

Turned out that Joseph area had even more to offer. Pass the town is a pretty lake and pass the lake – mountains (called here “Oregon Alps”). And they really look Alps-alike – streams and creeks, alpine meadows, tall, sharp peaks. Definitely worth to come back and explore more!

Mountains
Alpine meadow

On the way back: right by the side of the highway 84, in the middle of nowhere, one can find a full-scale replica of the Stonehenge! Built by a local eccentric fellow as a monument, it’s a pretty hidden but whileworthy tourist attraction. And, with a bit of imagination, you can bring to life the ancient secret, long forgotten rituals.

Stonehenge replica

Leaving the East and heading West, heading back. Leaving pretty country. Scenic hills turned into flat desert, “40 miles of dust” as the road sign stated. Then a river. Then more towns, more building, more people. A long drive ended (for the day) right before Portland, by the feet of Mt Hood.

Mt Hood from the distance

Despite Mt Hood being a very touristy and built up place – an oportunity to hike on the tallest mountain in Oregon was too tempting to be discarded.

Mt Hood – close(r) up 🙂
A view from Mt Hood #1
A view from Mt Hood #2

Next day – the last part of the drive to Port Angeles. The original plan was to stop for a day in Portland, but we decided that the city deserves more than that – a separate trip. So we didn’t go there. We also didn’t go to the nearby Boring City 🙂

Just Boring

We also didn’t make it to the 5pm ferry, so decided to wait for a 9pm one in a local pub 🙂 Small and uninteresting town at first glance, Port Angeles was revealing its cool and weird (in a good meaning of that word) places with every minute spent on wandering around.

A mural in Port Angeles. This futuristic-looking ferry is not an artist imagination – it actually existed!

A perfect end of the roadtrip. A night ferry ride from Port Angeles to Victoria. New moon, stars, night ocean breeze.. Going home..

On the ferry home, looking back at Port Angeles
The route

Almost a week of moving through 2 states and one province, 2844km in total, 2 ferry rides, lots of coffee, interesting people and amazing sceneries. Totally worth it! All of that to see a 2-minute-long astronomical wonder 🙂

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