I booked this trip to Oregon over 10 months in advance to see the ‘Great American Eclipse’ of 2017. I wanted a short trip, so I could take a limited time off of work, and be able to see other things that were on my bucket list. With 10 months to plan, and being an ultimate planner, I had this trip detailed to the hour with drives across the great state of Oregon to see both Crater Lake and Multnomah Falls in the two days before the eclipse, then back to work on Tuesday. My mom asked if she could join and since I already know we make decent travel partners, I agreed.
Even before I left, things started going a bit south. I cheaped out and got a Lyft Line (carpool ride-share) to the airport, and normally a 30 min drive took over an hour. I had left EXTRA early anticipating long lines at the airport and knowing that missing my flight was not an option since everything this weekend was sold out. Already, I felt like this was a disappointing start to the trip. The plane ride was fairly uneventful, since I slept the whole time and ignored the large nerd who twice tried to strike up a conversation with me.
I flew in on Friday evening, and booked a convenient hotel near the airport so we could get an early start on Saturday. On Saturday, I tentatively planned for breakfast, but ended up eating the complimentary breakfast offered at the hotel – yay! Then, with spontaneity, we decided to go to Portland’s Saturday Market since we had time for this AND the waterfall. So, after we picked up the rental car, we spent a couple hours in the morning shopping the local arts and crafts. On our way out of town, we decided to make a quick stop at Cathedral Park, a much photographed bridge with support beams shaped like a cathedral. Of course, I loved taking photos of the grand, concrete columns.
Then, we drove to Multnomah Falls only to find that the exit was closed and traffic getting to the beautiful falls was completely jammed. I guess other Eclipse chasers had the same idea. We were not in the mood to wait a couple hours for parking, so we drove on. As my mom pointed out, ‘Who cares about seeing this waterfall, when you’ve seen some of the best in the world?’ So, with hunger seeping in, we decided to abandon these plans. I was disappointed, but figured I’d rather see Crater Lake. Instead, we stopped for lunch at the next exit, which happened to be Cascade Locks, home to the Bridge of the Gods. This bridge over the Columbia River was made famous by Cheryl Strayed’s Wild. This was an interesting happenstance and the food was filling.
From there, we headed south, into the interior of Central Oregon, and drove through grassy hills with view of the conical Mt. Hood. There are mountain ranges (The Cascades) in Oregon, however the famous volcanic mountains tower over everything around them, as gods of their own.
We arrived in Bend, Oregon at our rented condo, and settled in for the evening. We walked to downtown for dinner, but first got lost along the way because we took a wrong turn from our GPS.
On Sunday, we woke up early to avoid crowds and drove south to Crater Lake. We drove to Beckie’s Cafe in the morning for breakfast and some of her renowned fresh pie. We planned to get sandwiches and pie for a picnic lunch along Crater Lake. Then discovered they don’t make sandwiches until lunchtime, so we ordered pie to go, instead. Overall, the food was disappointing, so we’re a bit confused why this was a must-try. Due to a wildfire in the area, the lake was obscured by heavy smoke and wasn’t quite as wonderful as we had hoped. The 20 min video at the Visitor Center was the best part of the trip and it advertised your first breath-taking view of the lake as an unforgettable experience. Instead, we got a hazy view with glimpses of the deep blue, nothing near as magnificent as it was touted. I was completely disappointed as I had driven for two straight days and hadn’t really had any great experiences to show for it. I had hoped that at least if I didn’t get to see the eclipse, the awe-inspiring Crater Lake would be worth the trip. Without Crater Lake as a consolation prize, I was feeling pretty frustrated. Alas, we will have to come back for a jaw-dropping view.
Back in Bend, we bought picnic supplies for the next day and decided on Chinese food for dinner. Even though it had 4 stars, we spent the entire time snickering about how it was the WORST Chinese food and potentially one of the worst meals we have ever eaten. How difficult is it to make the typical American-ized Chinese staples? Even at home, I could make better pot stickers. We boxed most of the meal to go, and then threw it away (we didn’t even want a homeless guy to have to experience that). We went to sleep early in anticipation of the Eclipse day.
On Monday, we woke up at 4:30am, before dawn to drive 1.5 hours to Detroit Lake. I wanted to avoid the crowds at the Solar Fest in Madras, Oregon and thought that a hike to Stahlman Point would be away from the general public. With wildfires near Bend and Mt. Jefferson, we researched ferociously to see if smoke would inhibit our views and had determined that winds were blowing smoke in the opposite direction from our intended viewing site. Unfortunately, the best-laid plans often don’t end up going that way and the morning of, we found ourselves driving through a cloud of smoke. We arrived at the trail head to a dozen cars already there, and the summit doesn’t have too much room. I was ready to cry. It felt like everything we had planned for was in the garbage. I wasn’t sure if the sky would clear, or if we should try to drive toward Salem, hoping for clearer skies and less crowds, but not having researched any good viewing spots there. It felt like a lose-lose situation and I didn’t know the right answer, but I was on the fringe of this trip being a complete disaster.
We decided we would have better luck to move on toward Salem. As we descended out of the Cascades, smoke dissipated and my trusty co-pilot was able to navigate us to farmlands with empty fields. We found one spot and then drove on, but I ended up driving back to the first spot. There, we laid out our breakfast picnic and picked wild blackberries as we waited for totality.
People were parked anywhere and everywhere on the sides of the road. Experiencing the eclipse is unlike anything I can describe (though I attempt to describe it here) and 1,000 times better than a partial or even annular eclipse. So, although the rest of the trip didn’t exactly go according to plan, I was thankful that we had a clear view of the eclipse.
After the eclipse, we packed up quickly and drove back to Portland. We were a little worried about our 6pm flights and with good reason. The mass exodus caused traffic jams all over central Oregon and our 1.5 hour trip took over 3 hours, following a mob of cars through small country roads. Luckily, we made it to the airport in time to grab a bite and some local brews before our flights back home. Until next time, Portland!