For several days starting even before we got to Eugene, eclipse plans were part of every conversation.  Our friends Anna and Jose who had moved to Eugene from Long Beach told us they had a camper.  We told them they should take it up into the path of totality, and stay in it the night before (they did).  Colin and Natacia planned a week camping in various wilderness areas, and witnessing totality there.  The other Eugene residents had various plans to drive on back roads up to a town just west of Corvallis.  Most of the Sunriver crew saw the eclipse in Madras or Culver; a dozen flew up there on a little plane which had gotten one of 500 landing spots, spaced 50 seconds apart, for which an air traffic controller had been brought in specially.  The inmates near John Day, already being almost on the centerline, were hopeful they’d get a chance to see the eclipse; we gave them some glasses to help.  Our friend Mark from Seattle met some of his friends on a forest road near John Day.  And a couple of the guys at Clear Lake went to Oregon, one to a big festival with 40,000 people, and the other to a hayfield in Culver.

I had long viewed the eclipse as a good excuse to see Jill, my sister, who I hadn’t seen for a few years.  My cousin Carole suggested a family reunion in Kansas City, but I talked her into doing it in Boise where the weather prospects were better (clouds kill eclipses; fortunately there were no clouds anywhere in the West, not even at the coast.)  Her brother Hugh and his wife Rita live in Boise, and their house became a base of operations.  Carole and her husband Larry flew up from Garden City, Kansas; cousin Scott from Phoenix flew up; and cousin Ryan from Santa Clara flew up with his family (though their flight was overbooked, and his wife Beth didn’t make it until Sunday morning, after being incorrectly rerouted, fixing it herself, and spending the night in Portland with Ryan’s sister Larissa.)  And Jill drove down from Bozeman with her daughter Annika, who had rather dramatically changed from being 9 when I’d last seen her, to being 14.  Hugh and Rita fixed dinner for all of us for three nights, assuming that restaurants would all be too crowded.

On Sunday we did a reconnaissance trip with Ray’s college friends Bob and Joyce and their son John.  We went north out of Boise up highway 55, which was a narrow river canyon.  I wanted to check out Garden Valley, which Ryan had told me was a “wide valley” after looking at Google Earth.  So we turned up highway 17, another narrow river canyon, turned left at Crouch, and went up the road through the valley.  Most of it was pretty unfriendly (lots of “private road” signs, and even one that said “Get Bent”) but there was a county road across the valley, and as it started up the hill we saw a place called “Dino’s Taxidermy”.  Our curiosity was piqued, because it was in such a perfect spot.  We stopped; Dino came out and said “Are you OK?”  Bob said “we’re looking for a place to watch the eclipse”, Dino said “I don’t care where you watch it”.  He was incredibly friendly and funny and had tons of stories, and we agreed we’d be there in the morning.  Our recon was complete, and we drove back to Hugh and Rita’s for dinner.

Sunday afternoon it clouded up, but they were afternoon clouds.  I worry about that, anyhow.

At 6am Monday morning, five cars including the 13 family members and the 3 college friends headed up to Dino’s.  There were many cars on the road, but we were able to drive the speed limit all the way there.  We ended up with a little time to kill, and headed back to Crouch to shop for more eclipse shirts.  We returned to Dino’s and set up chairs out in the middle of his horse pasture, and waited for the eclipse to begin.  Dino joined us when it did.  At one point Ray told him that an eclipse phenomenon was that birds go roost a little while before totality as it starts getting dark and cooling off.  And a few minutes later, Dino pointed out “there go the magpies roosting in their tree.  And there go the ravens to their tree.  And there go the doves.”  We passed around Verizon phones to talk to a few family members who were elsewhere (AT&T doesn’t really do rural much.)

And then totality happened.  There were easily visible shadow bands that many of us saw (I forgot to look, I was concentrating on the sun.)  The corona looked to me like a devil’s head, with pointy ears and a very long pointy beard, probably the longest corona I remembered.  Prominences at 12 and 3 bracketed a solid stripe of chromosphere.  Regulus was visible near the sun with binoculars, and Venus is always visible, but I didn’t see Mercury or Mars.  Of the 17 of us there, it was the first total eclipse for all but three, and I was happy to have helped get them to that place to see it.

After the sun came back, we took a little tour of Dino’s house and taxidermy studio.  He has an elk and three antelopes mounted in his living room, which he shot and stuffed decades ago.  Modern taxidermy consists of ordering a foam form from one of the companies that make them, and stretching the hide and antlers over it, with perhaps a plastic jaw and tongue, and glass eyes.

As heavenly as the eclipse was, the ride back was hell.  It took four hours to drive back to the hotel.  The narrow river canyon roads had become parking lots.  Ryan and I walked 20 car lengths to each other’s car, and he gave me back a radio so we could at least talk to each other on the way back.  When Ryan got back his cell coverage, he learned that his flight the next morning had been canceled, and he ended up having to rent a larger car and drive 11 hours all the way back to the Bay Area.