What does viewing the eclipse and having sex while camping have in common? They’re both fucking in tents. Four nights in the desert was simultaneously both enough and not enough time to spend out there. You become dried out, dusty, and dirty and just wanting to take a shower in something that doesn’t come out of a plastic bag sitting in the sun to warm up and coming straight from the river full of people covered in sun screen and bug repellent on top of their own body funk. Four days was enough, but I want to go back so bad. One day I will return, twice in 4 months is enough for now, though.
We originally set to leave at 8 a.m. on the Friday before the eclipse, but with increasing reports of traffic and tourists we bumped our time to 1 a.m. in order to make it by sunrise and have a better opportunity to get our preferred camping spot. We (my girlfriend Jenny, our 2 dogs, and our friends Keiran & Emmy and their son Allen in their own car) took I-84 East toward The Dalles and then south along HWY 206 toward Mitchell, Oregon. The long drive resulted in zero traffic until a mile from the campground where we began to pass a car or 2 and then arriving at the campground showed us that a few hundred people had the same idea but I find out later that many of them had been there days or even weeks prior to us arriving!
Four days in the desert. A lot happens in 4 days but most of them involved sitting in the river, and walking along the trails and watching the sunsets while avoiding the direct sun in the middle of the day above our heads. My buddy Keiran is an eagle scout, I’ve written about him before on a trip at this same place, and we nicknamed him Troop Leader. I advocate everyone call him Troop Leader!
During our stay Troop Leader makes us several things including dinner, breakfast, a wooden spoon, a poop chair AND our own private bathroom in the woods to avoid the consistent 15 person line at the single bathroom that this beautiful campground hosts. In the desert you mostly have to worry about the bugs and the sun, but the things many people forget at rattle snakes and while none of us specifically saw one on this trip we did hear noises on the ground and hear rumors of other people seeing them, but no actual contact from my party. The alert was always on our mind, well, not Troop Leader’s, as he was actively hoping to find one for whatever reason, but it was most prevalent when walking to our private bathroom. Some times the girls even skipped the privacy for their peace of mind, though they traded it also for inconvenience as the line was rarely quick and I’m sure those bathrooms didn’t smell like potpourri.
We spoke to as many people as we could and found some fascinating people, and seen some license plates from as far away as West Virginia and Massachusetts. Many people even stopped in our camp as we had a pretty good size compound going on as we spread out as much as we could in order to have privacy and not be cramped by last minute explorers and sight seekers. Each of us collected numbers and Facebook names from various people along the way, Jenny & I even met someone from our neighborhood just a few streets over in a different campground in the Painted Hills, but the chances of us going to see him again are little to none. It was mostly just interesting.
There was about a 40% increase of visitors the night before and morning of that showed up last minute to experience this and I have admit I have a bit of contempt for them as I feel this is an experience you have to fully embrace and not just show up the day before and impose on all the others that put in time. Someone even showed up in a Tesla and got stuck in a dry river bed. I was coming back from the river so unfortunately I didn’t have my camera but I would definitely have recorded that and laughed audibly and submitted it to World Star.
The day of the eclipse we were up by 6 and out of camp by 8 to cross the waist deep river in order to get across and get shots of the eclipse with the beautiful mountains as a backdrop for this once-in-a-lifetime (for most people) event. Shortly into our excursion across the river someone started blaring ’70s music including Pink Floyd and Led Zepplin and it was probably the best mood setting music I could think of. There were plenty of people who had brought home made giant telescopes for viewing, and many people in the river on kayaks going back and forth to different campgrounds and enjoying the view as the totality neared.
I set up my Go Pro to do video of it leading up to and during the eclipse but apparently it died shortly before totality and that was a very annoying thing to have happen, but it does happen and I can’t let it beat me up. I was the only one standing in the river for pictures and I honestly didn’t see that many photographers out where I was so I felt very fortunate to be getting pictures that nobody else could match. There are hundreds of thousands of photographs of the eclipse, but none of them look like mine. They easily could be better, that’s fine, but the best thing is that none of them will look like mine and for that I am grateful.
After the eclipse we spent another full day and night in the campground to let the weekend warriors leave and deal with the traffic, as we planned on leaving shortly after sunrise the next day. We ended up not leaving until around 10am but it was very pleasant and not rushed. The trip was incredible, the experiences were something I will always appreciate, and the time I got to spend with my friends is priceless.
If you’re reading this I absolutely advocate you go explore the Painted Hills of Oregon, even if there’s no eclipse going on. Thank you for reading and please let me know what you think! If you’ve been here, if you got to experience the eclipse, please share your thoughts!