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The eclipse dazzles inside Oregon’s totality

UPDATED: Mon., Aug. 21, 2017, 11:28 p.m.

Visitor from around the country descend on Magone Lake, Oregon. (Mike Prager/The Spokesman-Review)
Visitor from around the country descend on Magone Lake, Oregon. (Mike Prager/The Spokesman-Review)

MAGONE LAKE, Oregon – On the centerline in the path of Monday’s total solar eclipse, the 2 minutes and 6 seconds of darkness passed far too quickly.

The sun disappeared behind the moon, plunging this central Oregon lake and its visitors into a strange twilight at 10:22 a.m.

The last seconds before totality were marked by a bright burst of light caused by sunlight streaming between mountains on the moon.

Hayley Olson, who made the trip from Spokane, described that last moment as if sunlight was being sucked into a diamond ring.

“It was like nothing I’ve ever seen,” she said.

The eclipse drew people from across the country and around the world – a collection of the scientifically curious, the free-spirited and everyday folks.

There were eclipsers on their 11th time under totality and others gathered for their first.

One group of Earth scientists – lifelong friends – spent four years planning their camp at Magone Lake. They even traveled to the lake two years ago to scout a site for their 43 members, one of whom came from England.

They made their group reservation a year earlier.

“We hug the planet we live on,” said Janice Johnson, of the San Francisco area.

Her group spent Sunday making solar filters for their cameras and binoculars using cardboard and solar film.

The sun was showing five sunspots through Bill Ostrander’s filtered telescope on Sunday.

“This is my first,” said an excited Denise Kelley, of Orange, Texas.

Alicia Severson, 28, of Bend, Oregon, said she remembers her first eclipse when she was 10 on a family cruise on the Black Sea.

She said her nearby parents were on their fifth eclipse.

“It’s nice to be older and understand more of it (the science),” she said.

Magone Lake at 4,990 feet in elevation was on the absolute center line of the path of totality, a chief reason why scientists and the college-educated came here.

Stephen Wheeler, a financial adviser from Santa Barbara, California, paddled out onto the lake along with family members for prime viewing.

“We scored,” he said.

Kathleen Pearson, of Oakland, California, said it was “an extremely unique experience.”

The lake is named for Maj. Joseph Magone, a Civil War veteran who packed brook trout to the lake to stock it in the 1880s.

Located in the Malheur National Forest, the lake is about 30 miles of mountainous road north of John Day, Oregon, and east of U.S. Highway 395.

The campground filled days in advance and the spillover crowd gathered in sites just off the main road in a beautiful mixed conifer forest.

Law enforcement and rangers kept a close eye on things.

Campfires were banned and there were warnings along the highways about fire danger.

Gary Kelley, of Orange, Texas, said he was impressed at the preparations by the small rural communities in the scenic John Day Valley.

“It is nice the Forest Service accommodated our group,” he said.

Reports came in that landowners were renting field space for camping at $100 or more per site.

People filtered into the path of totality over many days, but the rush to leave led to major backups on U.S. 395 and other routes.

Law enforcement officers were staggered along the highway to keep things safe. Still, motorcycle riders couldn’t resist the temptation to pass the slow-moving traffic by using the oncoming lane.

Many others stayed behind for at least another night to avoid the congestion.

Reflecting on his short time under totality, David Pearson, also of Oakland, California, said, “What I liked was the darkness.”

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