On Thursday the small town of Huntington was no busier than it usually is.
But that will most likely change in the next day or so. Hordes of solar eclipse viewers will descend on the town of about 450 people that is very close to the center of the path of totality for the rare celestial event that begins Monday morning.
Tracy McCue, owner of the T&T Country Store in Huntington said business has been about the same as usual for the last several days.
“I think today (Thursday) is the calm before the storm,” she said.
McCue has overstocked the store in anticipation of what she has heard are estimates that several thousand people will be visiting the area and town over the weekend.
She is coordinating reservations for a private landowner who is renting space to eclipse viewers and said several of them are expected to show up today.
Several hundred RV and tent campers will be at Farewell Bend State Park just south of Huntington. The park’s 121 campsites have been booked for the weekend preceding the day of the eclipse since November.
Dale and Paula Klingman of Oregon City were enjoying the relative emptiness of the state park Thursday morning after they arrived. A favorite destination, they arrived at the park early to avoid traffic. They plan to leave on Aug. 24 to avoid traffic again.
“We’re going to let the crowds dissipate,” said Paula.
Dale, a retired millwright, and Paula are avid “RV’ers” during the summer when Paula has a break from her job at a private school in Oregon City.
Viewing the eclipse from Farewell Bend State Park was an obvious choice.
“This just kind of worked in with one of our camp trips,” Dale said.
Paula said the trip is their last summer hoorah before she returns to work.
Viktor Zsohar and Anthony Gucciardo are nurses and amateur astronomers from Whitehorse, Yukon, Canada.
The two are founders of the Yukon Astronomical Society, which is a chapter of the Royal Astronomical Society.
They are occupying two campsites at the state park.
Like the Klingmans, they were lucky to get reservations for the weekend and the day of the eclipse at the state park last November. They drove nearly 3,000 miles from northern Canada to view the eclipse from Eastern Oregon.
But that’s not the only sky-watching they will be doing. Oregon has something that their hometown does not during the height of the summer: nighttime.
Night skies are essential to an amateur astronomer.
“In the Yukon — all summer long — no darkness,” Zhosar said. We get really hungry for beautiful dark sky.”
Zhosar and Gucciardo brought a 10-inch SkyWatcher Dobsonian telescope, filters and assorted lenses worth $10,000 to take advantage of the viewing opportunities of the nighttime sky afforded by the clear skies of Oregon.
“It’s a huge light gathering bucket,” Zhosar said about the telescope. “It has lots of aperture. You can see a lot of objects with it.”
Gucciardo said Wednesday night they used the telescope to view nebulae, planets and other heavenly objects.
“It was fantastic,” he said.
Gucciardo said they picked Huntington as their eclipse- viewing destination for its record of no precipitation and cloudless skies this time of the year.
“This was a real target,” he said. “This was a gem for us.”
Gucciardo said there are members of other chapters of the Royal Astronomical Society from Canada as well as the United States at the park.
Back in town, the Huntington School is renting campsites on its grounds to eclipse viewers.
Superintendant Scott Bullock said nobody has arrived yet and about half the 20-by-20-feet campsites have been reserved. He expects them to fill up by Sunday, considering the pace of reservations that are still coming in.
“It was a little slow at first, but now it’s taking off,” he said.
Bullock said he is a little apprehensive about the school dealing with such an influx of people on the property.
“It’s a lot to take on,” he said. “I have a feeling it’s going to go crazy.”
Elementary students and teachers are offering a $5 pancake breakfast in the cafeteria from 7 a.m. to 9 a.m. Monday before the eclipse begins.
Bullock said he has seen a slight increase of traffic in town on Thursday.
“I’ve seen some trailers and stuff, but nobody seems to be staying anywhere. They seem to be traveling through,” he said. “But I’m guessing, starting tomorrow it’s probably going to start picking up.”
Bullock has advised those coming to town not to wait until the last minute to travel.
“We’ll see how that turns out,” he said.
ODOT and other government agencies also have advised people traveling in Oregon to eclipse-viewing destinations to arrive early and leave late to avoid getting stuck in traffic. News reports for the last couple of days have shown traffic already snarling in Central Oregon.
See more in the Aug. 18, 2017 issue of the Baker City Herald.