“Human consciousness arose but a minute before midnight on the geological clock. Yet we mayflies try to bend an ancient world to our purposes, ignorant perhaps to the messages buried in its long history. Let us hope that we are still in the early morning of our April day.” – Stephen Jay Gould
It was time to set out for the much anticipated Solar Eclipse. Our kids, and Matthias in particular, started jumping up and down every time the word Eclipse was mentioned these past months. We made a little detour through Smith Rock on our way to our eclipse campsite (that we booked months and months in advance, and back then it was hard to find a spot on the totality line). We explored, hiked, found caves, admired climbers, produced echo’s, hiked some more. Until someone noticed “Hey, the sun is setting!” Shoot! We had another 3 hours of driving ahead of us…. We lost daylight quickly, and that had us slightly worried, I’ll admit. After a good 2 hours of driving through nothing but pine forest, and treated to a fantastic sunset, we saw light in the distance. Hope! The friendly folks of Mitchell pointed us to an open, public field where we set up in the pitch black. We rolled out our blankets and cuddled up under the stars. A magical family moment, complete with shooting stars, the milky way and satellites rotating through. Closing my eyes, I felt so incredibly grateful. This day represented everything we hoped to find during our travels – traveling slow and losing track of time, exploring the grandeur of nature and connecting as a family. Check. AND the Mitchell field was free. Bonus points.
Clearly all these towns around the eclipse line were prepared for thousands of visitors, but it remained eerily quiet. No significant traffic jams this side of Oregon, no overflowing parking lots. Just a super friendly, quaint atmosphere. We were virtually alone in this massive field, and it would stay that way.
One more day before the actual event. We spent a lot of time at the Paleontology Center at Sheep Rock, part of the John Day fossil beds. Small, yet very well done. We got to peak into the laboratory where they work on uncovering history. A painstaking process, we learned, from the macro to the micro treatment of fossils. Here, history started 65 million years ago (post dinosaurs, fyi). The exhibits focus on habitat, vegetation and mammals and explain how this particular area has formed through mass events like volcano eruptions. There’s a great exhibit on natural selection in a species like the horse, over the course of aeons and mega-annums (yes, I had to look that up too). We could touch and feel … the rock made from cooled lava, and the rock from cooled volcanic ash. Names, anyone? (Answers below :)). A fun activity book for the kids keeps them engaged, and in the junior rangers room they got to build boxes to watch the solar eclipse. Afterwards, we walked down to the waterfront by the historic ranch, where we got all dirty making mud balls! I pinch myself that this will be our life for about a year ….
* Answers: basalt, and tuff respectively
p.s. Used a laundromat facility for the first time in my life. Don’t laugh! It was actually an enjoyable experience. Clean, well organized and great wifi. Only thing missing was a Starbucks corner 🙂