October 14, 2023.
One of the natural events we hoped to experience on our long roadtrip was the annular eclipse. This type of eclipse climaxes when the moon obscures the sun in such a way that it forms a ring of light. The eclipse path encompassed large parts of Oregon and Nevada before continuing further south and east. Since we’d be in Bend just before the eclipse, I focused on getting us down to Northern Nevada to catch the event. Most Oregonians planted themselves at the Coast, Crater Lake or other notable parks and public lands. But I wasn’t too excited about betting on clear skies in October on the west side.
That took us on a long drive across Oregon’s dry side, past Crane Hot Springs and the Alvord desert, down into Northern Nevada. I’ve spent a good amount of time in the area and had some ideas for places to go. But anything even remotely close to amenities (and I use this word loosely) was overflowing with visitors a couple days ahead of the eclipse.
I pulled up the maps on my phone and went through all my backup plan ideas, then drafted a new plan. We drove an hour east from our intended stop to a random pullout on a side road I noticed on Google satellite. Someone was even parked there! We committed to driving down that road, wherever it took us. A few miles down, we found a good enough place to pull off that was flat and open. Good enough, and good grief!
After being van-bound for the whole day, I quickly stuffed a pack with the basics and charged up the hill behind the van. Sunset was coming fast. I scrambled up to the top of an unnamed ridge, then over to another little lump on the horizon. That lump seemed to be a great place to see the eclipse the next day.
Viewing the eclipse
In the morning, I boiled some water and made breakfast burritos, then packed it all up to go. We hiked 15 minutes or so to the top of the lump. Aaron laid out our picnic blanket and I made instant coffee with our hot water. We put on our eclipse glasses and looked up; it had just started!
For about an hour, the moon gradually took larger and larger bites out of the sun. Aaron busied himself setting up a shadow-viewing setup and I took out my painting kit. We watched as large swaths of clouds threatened to cancel the whole event. But instead, they added a curious mystique and changed the mood of the sky. We laughed as several cars blasted down the gravel road below us, as if they were trying to get a better view at the last minute. Our perch was perfect.
At 9:15 am, we watched the sun turn into a ring of fire. It was just as cool as it sounds! The entire thing lasted about 4 minutes, then the sun began to retain its circular shape. Soon after totality, the clouds rolled in and the weather cooled down. We packed up our things and went back to the van. We relaxed in our rolling home for the rest of the day.
Inspired by our time on the hill, I completed a painting to commemorate the eclipse based on the sketches and notes I had from the morning. It’s so nice to sit at a table to create art in a controlled environment. The feeling is completely different than sitting outdoors on an uneven surface, wind blowing, shadows changing and bugs landing in your paint! It almost feels like cheating. In short time, I put together something I really liked that captured our experience.
Satisfied, I cleaned out my Art Toolkit Palette and refilled my most-used colors with fresh paint. That evening, we made burgers for dinner and played an Unlock! escape room game. These games are fun to have in the van because we can play them anywhere and it’s good entertainment for an hour or two.