Sunday, August 20, 2017

Notes From the Eclipse Trail (with apologies to Ken Burns)

{Note: This may not work right unless as you read you hear the voices narrating a Ken Burns documentary, like the Civil War, or Baseball...}

Dearest Ones...

It is August 20, 2017. I pray that our missive arrives intact from the hinterlands of the Oregon Territory. Our journey has been long and arduous, and the outcome remains a great uncertainty. As you no doubt recall, we left the familiar fields and cities of our Central Valley home a week ago, but the time might as well have been a year. We are tattered and dirty, but we remain resolute in our goal of witnessing a total Solar eclipse.

Our progress slowed as we entered the great forests of what the local inhabitants call the "Redwood Trees". The trees were immense, and the forest dark. It was hard at most times to even know the location of the Sun in the sky above. We pressed on, looking for some kind of shelter or inn that would take us in for a night. We found accommodation at an outpost called Albee Creek, in the deep forest of Humboldt Redwoods State Park. We found ourselves surrounded by wagons once known to us as VW Microbuses. It was an uncomfortable and worrisome night in the dark forests, as we listened to the sounds of men, beasts, and air-cooled four stroke engines.
We explored this strange new environment following the mere traces of human pathways, which we found to be covered with potholes and twisting and turning through the forest in confusing fashion. Navigation by the sun or the stars was well-nigh impossible, as we could not see them through the forest canopy above. We did our best with tattered maps provided by the local constabulary called "park brochures".
We have been set upon by the beasts of the forest, who seem to track our every move. The night was filled with the rustlings of animals large and small. There was the snap of branches, the snuffling of noses, and the munching sound of apples being consumed nearby. We even witnessed one of the behemoths high in an apple tree, stripping it of its bounteous fruit.
It was becoming clear to us that the eclipse would never be visible to us in the deep forests of Northern California, and so we set forth with few provisions and even less knowledge over the borders of the land called Oregon. At first little seemed to have changed, but as we continued further into the wilds, we saw that the inhabitants of the land of Oregon were different. As we stopped to refuel our conveyance, we were not allowed to handle the mechanism for pumping the petrol. It was done for us, but not out of human kindness. It was because of statutory decree. What kind of tyrant controls these poor inhabitants?
Still, we pressed on deeper into the land of Oregon. We realized that our hope of witnessing an eclipse would require more open lands, so we worked our way down to the coastline where the restless waves lashed at the solid rock in a mighty conflict. Eventually we arrived at a small village called Florence, where we found shelter with some of the locals. They are a kind people, and generous in their sharing of their meager resources of ribs and Chinese cuisine. We have benefited from their generosity and have regained strength for the journey ahead.
There are rumors passed around the local peoples of the days ahead of giant crowds, clogged highways, and high costs of parking. We fear for the future, yet we face it with a steadfastness that grows from our intense desire to see the incredible event high in the morning sky of August 21st. From our base camp, we sent an exploratory party in search of potential viewing sites, and there is a discovery of potential spots in the coastal areas with such names as Waldport, Seal Rock and Forfar. Our strategy and only hope for success is that we can arise before the sun itself and set out for these choice viewing localities. And so it shall be done, and only Providence knows whether success can be had.
As for myself, dear ones, I press on. I am covered with scrapes and bruises, as I may have misinterpreted the advice of the sages, and put on the eclipse glasses a bit soon. I have been walking into trees and walls at a horrendous rate and our medical supplies are running low.

But through our trials and troubles, the goal remains true and we hope attainable. It is known that no American can hope to see such a spectacle on American soil again before 2024, no matter their bravery and skill. We can only hope to press on with fortitude and stubbornness born of being earth scientists and astronomers.

Yeah, we'll let you know if we make it...
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