Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Solar Eclipse 2017

 August 2017

I've wanted to see a total eclipse of the sun after first learning about them in 3rd grade. When an announcement popped up on my computer a year before the 2017 eclipse, I immediately pinpointed Cold Springs Resort in Oregon's eastern Cascades as a good place to see it. When calling in for reservations, they told me they only had a few openings left even through the eclipse was over a year away. So we quickly passed the word to friends and family. 
Finally we're on the road for the eclipse

Passing a very cool Indian motorcycle

Large cinder cone by Shasta

Castle Crags

Being late summer, the temps in the upper Central Valley are soaring into triple digits. About mid afternoon, we stop in Redding for an ice cream. The temperature gauge is reading 104 F and by the time we get the cones back to the truck, they are already melting away. Without air conditioning in the camper we need altitude for a decent night's sleep.  Mount Shasta's camping at the summit is just the ticket. As usual when on Mount Shasta, we meet some unusual people.  An aging hippy named Steve is immediately drawn to us when David starts to play his wooden flute.  Steve is a blond haired blue eyed and claims to be a full blooded Lakota Sioux native American. I decide it's time to read my Kindle, while both David and Peter stay to listen to Steve's tall tales.
Driving up Mount Shasta

Steve and David

Camped at the top of Mount Shasta

The last rays of sun on Mount Shasta summit

The next morning dawns clear and beautiful. In walking the dogs we meet a tall and very handsome mulatto guy dressed as a Star Trek Bridge officer speaking English with a German accent. Turns out his dad was an American black soldier and his mom was a white German woman.  This Trekkie now lives in Sedona AZ (of course). He loves Mount Shasta and firmly believes in the fabled Lemurians who supposed live in Mount Shasta.  Several years ago he had hired a guide to hike the back country around Shasta. The guide became lost and they wandered for hours as their water supplies ran out.  All of a sudden they came across a lost city of Lemuria complete with large towering buildings.  Eventually they found their way back to camp. He has been searching for this lost city ever since.  We wish him the best of luck as we bid him good-bye.

Later that afternoon while driving by a cliff of basaltic columns, I wonder out loud if our Trekkie friend might have mistaken such a cliff for the lost city of Lemuria as it's possible they were dehydrated and maybe seeing things the afternoon they were lost. Who knows?

That afternoon, we take a detour onto Cascade Lake National Scenic Byway and end up camping at North Davis Creek
Bright and beautiful day on top of Mount Shasta

Driving through Weed CA

David loves North Davis Creek Campground

Smoke from nearby forest fires blot out the Milky Way that night and still hangs around in the morning.  We begin to wonder if the smoke will hinder our view of the eclipse.  Dire predictions of Oregon towns running out of gas and food supplies are rampant in the days just before the eclipse. We leave camp early to make a last shopping run at the Trader Joe's in Bend OR. Surprisingly there are very few people shopping in TJ's.  We ask the clerks where all the people are.  They just shake their heads and say they are wondering too.  Apparently, they had a run on supplies a few days earlier from the locals, but the hoards of eclipse viewers had yet to materialize. Oh well, it's still a few days off - time will tell.

We stop for gas in Sisters OR which is close to our destination.  There's a nasty forest fire burning in the hills just west of town, but the winds are carrying the smoke away.  We ask the gas station attendant what's happening with the fires.  He looks nervously over his shoulder at the flames and says the fire crews are working to save the town, but the fire is only 2 miles away and some areas are already under mandatory evacuations. Again, I wonder about how we will fare with the surrounding fires.  Still Camp Sherman is over 20 miles north of Sisters and the fires are burning westward.
Smoke in the mountains

Clear in Sisters, but the fires are close

Whew we made it!

Most of our group have already arrived and we all join up greeting each other.  Since it's a nice afternoon, we decide to walk over to the Camp Sherman store to see what all they have.  The store is packed with both merchandise and people. The whole back end of the store is devoted to fly fishing.  John asks about getting a fishing license, but is disappointed to learn the Metolius River is catch and release ONLY.   Grumble, no fresh trout for breakfast.
Bridge over the Metolius River

Camp Sherman Store

Amazing hand carved totem

The next day, several of us go visit the Wizard Falls Hatchery. It's just a few miles upstream from our campground.
Welcome sign

Grove of Incense Cedars

Fish are big here at the hatchery

Look at the size of these guys

There's one I would love to have for breakfast

After wandering the grounds we take a short hike downstream to explore the Metolius River.
Metolius River

Jack, Cindy, Paul, Linda, and me

Gorgeous clear water

Fortunately despite our concerns, we are greeted by a clear day on the morning of the big event. Besides both Oregonians and Californians, we meet several international travelers who have also come to see the show. Camped across the meadow from us, is a couple from the Netherlands. Derrick from Dublin, Ireland has brought his whole family including two bored teenage sons. Cork and Cathy find a camping space nearby sharing a site with Eduardo who works at SLAC, but originally hails from South America.
Early on people start setting up for the show

John and Kendall put out snacks and Fireball Whisky

Peter plays Pink Floyd's Dark Side of the Moon

The atmosphere is festive and friendly around the campground and cabins as the anticipation grows. The Oregonians camped next to us have been busy decorating their solar glasses with pipe cleaners and glitter.  Several people in the cabins have brought pricey telescopes. Ted wins the prize for his powerful telescope with a tracking device to keep the sun centered. He is very generous letting us all take peeks at a dinner plate sized sun complete with spots and a growing moon shadow.
Oregonians show off their fancy solar glasses

Ted's terrific telescope

Looks like the gang's all here

As the sun starts to disappear behind the moon, David plays with crescent shaped shadows formed by objects with holes.
Eclipse David

Cork's having fun

I kick back and watch the show

As I'm watching the shadow of the moon slowly eat away at the sun, all of a sudden I hear a communal gasp and cheer. I tear away my solar glasses and instantly the sight before me takes my breath away.  The sun is hanging in a dark sapphire colored sky with a large black dot in the middle. The temperature is cooler and we can see a few stars, but it's not fully as dark as night.  For several minutes the sun and moon just hang in the sky and then slowly the sun starts to emerge showing off the amazing "Diamond Ring Effect."
Cork's catches the total eclipse in a sapphire sky

Eduardo gets the money shot of the Diamond Ring

Everyone agrees the total eclipse is way too short, but we are grateful to have experienced it. After the light turns more from dusk to daylight, the celebration moves over to Kendall and John's camp. John starts frying fish he caught in Morro Bay and Kendall sets up for fish tacos, while I supply a salad.  Jack and Cindy bring out fresh strawberry shortcake for dessert. Peter brings over the tequila and Maragrita mix and it's time to party.
Kendall & John at cook station

Fish fryer extraordinaire

Wow - what a feast!

Peter and David compare photos

Jack and Cindy having fun

Jack, Eduardo, Peter, and Cathy all enjoying the party

This is a party we will all remember

As the party wears down, we drift away and relax after all the morning's excitement.
John loves his beer

and his music

and I kick back.

Before the eclipse people often told us, there are no words, photos, or movies that can properly describe the experience.  They were all right.  However, Wayne, the manager of Cold Springs Resort, comes the closest to expressing the eclipse in words:

 "It was totally awesome... and that's an understatement!"

It's an experience you'll have to do yourself:
A big THANK YOU to Cork McGowan and Eduardo Gaticape for contributing their photos of the eclipse and the party to this blog page.

Thursday, November 9, 2017

John Day Fossil Beds OR

 June 2017

As  we drive west through towns within the path of totality for the 2017 Solar Eclipse, such as Baker and John Day are decked out with banners and signs announcing the upcoming eclipse. Looks like the locals are gearing up for an expected onslaught of visitors.  As we get closer  to John Day Fossil Beds National Monument, signs marking "Journey thru Time Oregon Scenic Byway" start appearing by the side of the road. You have to love how the state of Oregon makes visitors feel welcomed... or as the Oregonians joke to spend their cash and then go back home.
Ranch in John Day country

Journey Thu Time sign

Entrance to John Day Fossil Beds National Monument

Basaltic columns speak to a volcanic past

Our first stop is the Thomas Condon Paleontology Center, which also doubles as the Visitors' Center located in the Sheep Rock UnitThomas Condon was a missionary pastor and amateur geologist. While he was living in The Dalles OR, he became increasingly interested in fossils he was finding along the John Day River. Convinced of the importance of these fossils, he corresponded with other notable scientists of the time and provided specimens to major museums.  In 1872 he became the first State Geologist for Oregon and shortly after became the first professor of Geology at the University of Oregon.
Sure glad this animal is extinct - nasty teeth

Wikipedia - timeline of fossil strata

Paleontology Lab within center - staff must be on a break

Several exhibits show how much the ecosystems have changed throughout the millenniums in the John Day area - from verdant jungles and swamps, to savannas supporting herds of wild horses and camels, and finally to the the current high desert of today.
Rhinos once roamed here

Early horses and camels

Petrified wood from a warm jungle time period

Sheep Rock

This national monument is a patchwork of government lands interspersed with private ranches.
Cathedral Rock

Curious horses

Classic Eastern Oregon ranch

Ok where do we go next

Lunch stop in campground by waterfall across the John Day River

Yes - this is getting more interesting

We must be getting close to the Painted Hills Unit

Entrance to Painted Hills Unit

Uh - apparently people are not taking this sign seriously

The Painted Hills Unit is a photographers playground. I take some short hikes madly snapping shots. Along the trail, I meet a German woman about my age with a man who first appears to be her son.  Later she introduces him as her boyfriend - way to go girl!  She had intended to take her boyfriend to see the Big Sur Coast, but with the roads still closed they ended up in Eastern Oregon. I console her by saying Hwy 1 through Big Sur won't be open again for at least another year, frustrating locals and visitors alike.

I also meet a young couple from just outside of Portland and we start discussing our favorite hot springs in Oregon.  They like one at Summer Lake almost directly south of here in an area dubbed the "Oregon Outback".  It's out in the middle of no where and doesn't draw many people, other than lost Burners.  Sounds like our kind of place.
Wildflowers are blooming profusely next to the barren hills

Sensuous hills

with great colors

A burst of sun illuminates these painted hills

Magical place

One last look as we leave Painted Hills

It's time for us to make a beeline to Corralitos, so we hop on Hwy 97 and go south. We've had so much rain and snow last winter that this spring is lush in Northern California, especially compared to the John Day country. It's been a fun trip, but by this stage, we are looking forward to being home.
Grass Lake Rest Area north of Mount Shasta

Mount Shasta covered in clouds

A lingering rain shower

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Retired and enjoying life.