Prepare for a Solar Eclipse, Pacific Palisades!

By Laurel Busby
Staff Writer

Latecomers to the total solar eclipse party may have to pay through the nose for a space in the approximately 65-mile-wide path of totality, which will slide from Oregon to South Carolina this month.

Hotels and campsites began filling a year ago, but as of last week, some spaces were still available in certain areas. For example, during the weekend of Aug. 18 through Aug. 21, prime locations like the Oregon Solarfest in Madras still had 5-day packages for campsites, RV spaces, and glamping, ranging from $150 in your own tent to $1,449 glamping set-ups.

Only a few hotel rooms in or near Bend, Oregon, which is just south of the path of totality, were also available last week, although prices had ballooned to $429-$975 per night instead of the normal $55-259 per night, while Madras offered Airbnb options ranging from $150-177 per night for tent camping to homes renting for $1,100-$4,000 per night.

The eclipse will begin August 21 at 10:15 a.m. on the coast of Oregon and move across the state within 12 minutes, eventually crossing the country and ending near Charleston, South Carolina, at 2:48 p.m. Eastern time. The next total eclipse, which occurs when the moon moves fully between the Earth and sun, will not happen in the western United States until 2045. The last total solar eclipse in the U.S. occurred in 1979. Unfortunately, Oregon and some of the other states in the path of totality have substantial rural areas that were not designed to be inundated by masses of people. In Oregon specifically, the best viewing is likely to be far from the cloudy coast in the sunnier and more rural eastern side of the state, which has country roads unequipped to handle a heavy influx of traffic.

An 1870 Government publication showed the method used to photograph a successful solar eclipse in August 1869.

An 1870 Government publication showed the method used to photograph a successful solar eclipse in August 1869.

The state’s Department of Transportation expects hours of gridlock around the event and perhaps in the days before and after it. Some remote towns only have one road going in and out, and so travel in large numbers is particularly problematic. Experts from the state recommend that eclipse viewers arrive at minimum a day early, but ideally several days before the event.

Salem is the largest Oregon city in the path of totality, and the Oregon Museum of Science and Industry will be hosting a viewing party at the state fairgrounds. Other events will be at Salem area vineyards and the state capitol, while smaller cities, including Madras, Mitchell, John Day and Baker City, will also be having special events.

Other states, including Idaho and Wyoming, also are expected to have prime sunny viewing and varied viewing events, but they also have mostly rural environments in the eclipse path, so these states also are likely to present similar challenges for travelers.

This 1869 photograph shows the beginning of the totality of the eclipse.

This 1869 photograph shows the beginning of the totality of the eclipse.

Below are recommendations from the Oregon Tourism Commission for visitors driving or flying in for the events: 

Tips to Remember

  1.  Bring a map. GPS and cell-phone reception is not good normally in many rural areas, and the extra use by visitors is likely to make it even worse. A map will be an important asset in trying to find small-town destinations.
  2. Gas up. Gas stations also can be far apart, so planning fuel consumption will be essential. In Oregon specifically, state law will not allow drivers to pump their own gas, so please allow attendants to do it for you.
  3. Pack ample food and supplies. Smalltown stores and restaurants will likely be unable to accommodate so many visitors, so bring your own food, water, plates, utensils and other items, so you don’t have to rely on the few eateries.
  4. Bring eclipse glasses. It’s not safe to view the eclipse without glasses to protect your eyes. Many welcome centers may have them available, but the glasses also may be gone by the pre-eclipse weekend, so it’s best to pack your own. Glasses are easily available now from places like Amazon.com.
  5. Bring cash. Just as food may be a challenge, ATM machines in rural areas are likely not to have an adequate supply of cash. Many places accept credit cards, but some places only accept cash, so be prepared.
  6. 6.) Beat the Heat. Temperatures in many path of totality areas, such as inland Oregon, may top 100 degrees. Sun hats, sun- screen and ice water are recommended.
  7. 7.) Fire prevention. If a fire erupts in this hot, dry season, smoke could potentially blot out the eclipse. In order to reduce that likelihood, visitors are asked to safely extinguish cigarettes, respect fire restrictions, and avoid parking or driving on dry grass since cars can spark a wildfire. In addition, some areas require that drivers carry both a shovel and either a fire extinguisher or gallon of water to put out any fires started by their cars.

If you are willing to brave the possible problems, ranging from fires to clouds, the experience of viewing a total solar eclipse is purported to be an unforgettable and awe-inspiring experience. The weather cools, animals quiet, the corona of the sun is visible, and stars emerge in the darkened sky. Even just being the slightest bit out of the path of totality is supposed to make the experience much less dramatic, since a small sliver of sunlight can make the sky 10,000 times brighter, which makes it impossible to see the leaping gases of the sun’s corona.

So, if you’re up for a chancy adventure, traveling to watch a few minutes of the total solar eclipse may provide the breathtaking moment of a lifetime.

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