On August 21st, the sun will go out. The temperature will drop 20 degrees. Animals will think it’s night and go to sleep. Massive streamers of light will arc across the sky. It will last about two minutes and 40 seconds if you’re in the path of the last total solar eclipse in North America until 2044.
Across the American west, campers have been laying plans for watching the solar eclipse. If you haven’t made plans yet, it’s time to get on get on the ball. You don’t want to miss this.
What Is It?
A total eclipse is when the moon blocks the entirety of the sun. Unlike a lunar eclipse (where the earth’s shadow falls across the moon) in a solar eclipse, the moon simply gets in the sun’s way. It won’t last long—the whole process of the eclipse will last two hours, and the totality just under three minutes.
Eclipse Day is Monday, August 21st. The time of the eclipse depends on where you are on the planet. It moves in a West-to-East arc from the Oregon Coast to South Carolina. The eclipse path includes some stunning spots: Cape Lookout, the Oregon Cascades, Smith Rock, and Grand Teton National Park, to name a few. The time depends on where you are, beginning at 9:06 a.m. in Central Oregon, and 1 p.m. in Columbia, South Carolina.
Where to Camp?
Obviously you’ll want to camp somewhere within or near the path of the totality, and an open spot without a lot of trees or obstructions will give the best viewing. You’ll also want to get away from city lights. There are plenty of scenic spots along the path of the totality and camping is the best way to experience the eclipse.
What If You Didn’t Plan?
Many people made reservations for key campgrounds months or years ago, and reservable campgrounds along the path have been fully booked for a long time. So have motel rooms, and hoteliers have taken advantage of the demand to raise prices. Many towns have hired “eclipse coordinators” to make sure they can put up with the influx of people. Some people are renting out camp spots on their farms or in their yards. First-come, first-serve campgrounds are likely to be full of folks who are staking out their spot.
The eclipse coordinators may be able to help you find a camp spot. Another option is to drive into federal land that allows dispersed primitive camping, as is legal on much of Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management Land. Just be sure to bring your own water, portable toilet system, and pack out your waste.
Avoid driving on Eclipse Day: it’s expected to be a snarl of traffic as people rush to get into position: after all, you’ll only be able to see it for a couple minutes, so don’t be late.
How to Watch It Safely
The Eclipse can blind you. Looking at the sun without some sort of Eclipse glasses—through a camera, binoculars, or with the naked eye—will damage your eyes. Solar filters should be put over telescopes and other optics. The only time it’s safe to look at it directly is during the totality.