Shortly after the sunrise on the day of the Oregon Eclipse, I find myself standing on a rocky incline in central Oregon’s Deschutes National Forest, on the verge of tears. It’s not because I’m overcome by the majesty of the outdoors but because I am certain I’m going to lose my footing on the way down a ridge I’ve just recently climbed up, ending in a pile of broken limbs, embarrassing fat, and panic urine.
“I can’t do it,” I declare in a feverish sweat, scuttling back up to safety, where my companions are killing time debating whether or not a card game is actually called Spit or Speed (a quick Google search indicated the names are regional).
As I settle back onto a blanket and look out over foothills carpeted in Ponderosa Pines, I come to a decision. “I just won’t eat or drink until we leave.” There’s a toilet bucket set up in a privacy tent at the bottom of the ridge path and I don’t want nature to call me to use it.
This isn’t the attitude of an outdoorsy, Pacific Northwest-y person with a Patagonia hoodie and some Merrell hiking boots I suspect, but it is the one that feels most likely to keep me in one piece. Some people eviscerate a large animal to make a carcass sleeping bag and other people opt not to enjoy champagne or Ocean Rolls so they can avoid walking downhill.
A week prior to the eclipse, I had no idea that I would be watching it with a small group of strangers in the path of totality or that I would be doing so on a large forested ridge. As a freelance writer, I keep weird hours and I generally spend the majority of my time sitting at my desk and living through the magic of the internet. I mean I have a window in front of the desk that opens onto a parking lot. But, there is a park just past the parking lot and I can see it, so it’s kinda like I am naturey. Kinda.
Point being: When I was offered the chance for a five day stay in Bend, OR for the eclipse, I jumped at the opportunity to get out of my borderline Hoarders apartment and into a new locale. Despite living just over the Oregon/Washington border, I have never been to Bend — though I did once buy tickets to see The Pixies play their first reunion tour at the amphitheater, before skipping the trip at the last second. I’ve always meant to rectify that.
As my father had been calling me daily in fully realized panic mode (seriously, he urged me to bring a first aid kit, blankets, and water — as if I was driving into an active volcano), I was certain that Google’s approximation that the drive would take three and a half hours was a gross underestimate, and I would instead spend ten hours crawling through the small towns that sporadically punctuate Highway 22. My solution was to leave town at 9 am. “In your face traffic,” I thought with no small measure of hubris.
It took me three hours of Tom Jones demonstrating his vocal prowess on the speakers of my tiny Toyota before I arrived. In my face.