This post was written by BikePortland Subscriber Tom Howe.
The August 21 solar eclipse may be four months away, but now is the time to start planning if you want to experience it in the Path of Totality as part of a bike camping trip.
A few days ago Oregon State Parks released a thousand extra campsites which were all reserved in about an hour, and many of those sites are not even in the 70-mile wide path of the total solar eclipse where the sun’s corona will be visible. Eclipse expert Xavier Jubier has created a neat zoomable map showing the eclipse path. Clicking anywhere in the path of totality on this map will give that spot’s length of the total eclipse, which in Oregon tops out at just over 2 minutes as the moon’s shadow races across the state.
But camping is still available at private sites outside the state park system. One notable location about 40 miles from central Portland and well within the path of totality is the Wooden Shoe Tulip Farm near Woodburn. Here is a zoomable map that shows a rural bike route down to the tulip farm from Portland.
The tulip farm offers tent camping for $20 a night with up to four people in each site. The annual Wooden Shoe Tulip Festival is going on right now, so last week a few of us rode down there to check things out. This paved rural route is pleasant enough, and was even entirely devoid of cars for a stretch of several miles South of Lone Elder. But things changed dramatically a few blocks from the festival when we turned onto S Meridian Rd – the main automobile route to get to the tulip farm. Cars were backed up well before our turn onto the road, but we were able to merge with traffic and carefully ride to the right of the jam to bypass it.
This may be a harbinger of conditions the morning of August 21, as people statewide converge on the zone of totality. No one can say right now what traffic conditions will be like for this event, but it’s possible all the roads in the area will be jammed with cars. So it’s safer to go the day before and camp overnight to experience the eclipse the following morning. You might think Oregon will be no different for crowds than the other 11 states the total eclipse passes through, but that’s not the case due to weather probabilities. Oregon is generally sunny in August, and is the state most likely to have clear weather for the eclipse. Popular eclipse sites like GreatAmericanEclipse.com list Oregon as their top state for viewing. The proximity of Portland International Airport will also make Oregon a popular destination for travelers from abroad. Oregon has been so popular that Rainbow Symphony makes commemorative eclipse viewing glasses for Oregon, but not for any other individual state.
The total eclipse lasts that longest at the center of the path of totality, but the difference is not that great compared to the position of the Wooden Shoe Tulip Farm. At the farm, totality will last for 1 minute, 22 seconds starting at 10:17 AM, while at Stayton, OR, right in the middle, the duration is exactly 2 minutes. But reaching Stayton would require another 25 miles of pedaling on what will likely be roads with increasing traffic.
So what if Oregon turns out to be cloudy the morning of August 21? Clouds over the entire state will be a problem, but if the cloudiness is just in the Willamette Valley, the solution will be to get in the clear on the East side of the Cascades. Pay close attention to the forecast leading up to eclipse day and plan accordingly. Madras, OR would be the best place to cycle to, and is about 115 miles from central Portland following Hwy 26 – the most direct route, but also the busiest. That riding distance goes up to 130 miles following the more rural route to Madras through Ripplebrook. Madras is planning big for the eclipse with Oregon SOLARFEST. There are a number of camping options available starting at $150 and going up. These are all 5 day camping sites. The festival does not offer camping for a single night, although you can stay for just one night while paying the 5-day price.
If you have any other suggestions for eclipse bike camping, please post them in the comments section below.
— Tom Howe