OREGON ECLIPSE FESTIVAL
The sun was falling in the sky, bleached red by a cloud of smoke rising up and over Mt Whitney in the distance. Forest fires in Yosemite we were told in a gas station, one of thousands across the breadth of California, now in it’s seventh year of severe droughts. In front of us lay what seemed like an infinite stretch of asphalt, the road disappearing through the eye of a needle as we lumbered on towards our destination, the Oregon Eclipse Gathering on Big Summit Prairie.
With 800 miles to the north and some 250 covered since leaving the City of Angels, we decided to pull in for the night, taking refuge in the warm, sulphuric pools of the Mammoth Hot Springs. Bathing the dust from our bodies as the sun dropped below the horizon, the whimsy and romanticism in the air was tangible. Tomorrow was going to be a big day on the road.
We woke at 5am, packed up the roof tent and hit the ground running, next stop Reno where the rest of the Noisily and Ooligan Alley team were waiting. Pulling into town at around 11am, we diverted to the camping store to stock up on essentials, before heading to the warehouse where our stage was being pre-fabricated ahead of it’s construction at the festival.
Our convoy pulled out of Reno at 4, driving north through the last few miles of Nevada into Oregon. By 11pm we were exhausted, our eyes dried by the dust and weary from straining through the darkness, their lids fatigued and heavy. We pulled over into a truckstop to sleep as temperatures dropped to around 5 degrees Celsius, instantly regretting our decision to hold off buying the super warm sleeping bags until later in the season, our breath hanging in the air like a thick soup.
Waking at 5 again we covered the final 100 miles to Prineville, meeting the rest of our crew for breakfast before climbing up through the wilderness to Big Summit Prairie.
The lush landscape promised online was a far cry from the dust bowl in which we found ourselves, and whilst the views stretching out for miles in all directions were sublime, the fine powdered dirt kicked up by the festival traffic was almost unbearable. This showed no sign of relenting for the week we were there, and we couldn’t help feeling a pang of relief that we had decided against going to Burning Man with the rest of the team the following week.
After two days intensive set up, the obelisks, control tower and 24 laser cut chandeliers complete with over 700,000 individually programmed LEDs were up, and, easily viewable from space! But for us, it was what was in space which we could see from Earth that we were interested in, and nothing could’ve prepared us for the event we were about to see.
40,000 humans gathered together next to the lake and in the shadow of the purpose built Native American temples on the prairie, as elders from tribes from across the globe shared blessings with the crowd. Wise men and women from countries like Australia, Peru, Nicaragua and Japan imparted their wisdom and ancient rituals, as we lay down in silence, soaking up the energy around us.
Just before the moment of totality, a streaker ran right past us chanting, “Life’s a game, life’s a game, life’s a game”, injecting some comedy, then, as if the lights had been switched off, the world around us plunged into darkness, and reaching for my camera I took this….
A total solar eclipse is like nothing I have ever seen before, truly humbling and quite literally out of this world. We rolled around in laughter and tears, stirred by an alien feeling which instilled humility in even the most hardened of realists.
The next one is in Chile in July 2019, and although there won’t be a festival alongside, we’ll be there with our walking boots and cameras, ready for the lights to be turned off once more.