Watching the solar eclipse in the Pacific Northwest

Watching the solar eclipse in the Pacific Northwest 1920 1280 HQ

ever since my family and i went to oregon in 2015, i’ve always wanted to go back. i mean, how could i not? everything was so green. everybody was so contemporary and down to earth. people pumped your gas for you. there was no sales tax.

however, this summer, i had the chance to travel back to the pacific northwest with my family.

the moment we drove out of the airport terminal in portland, there was heavy traffic. because of the solar eclipse, many people were driving to oregon to see this once in a lifetime phenomenon.

as i was looking outside the window of our rented car, i could slowly notice the urban city of portland slowly transforming into more of a rural area. the big cities morphed into small gas stations; the people turned from hipsters to the retired; the routes went from highways to gravel and dirt roads and rusty bridges.

it took us about three hours to drive to our destination, which was lilliwaup. lillwaup is a small community located in the olympic peninsula in the western part of washington state. i really don’t know how to describe it, but lets just say- if bigfoot was real (maybe he is!) he would be residing in there. the people living there consist of either the retired looking for relaxation and peace, or bearded fisherman looking for shellfish and salmon to sell. along highway 101 (the highway that goes through lilliwaup,) you can see many small local-owned motels, gas stations, and wooden docks. these things are dotted along the shore of lilliwaup.

there is a certain charm to the town. according to the town’s website, “Lilliwaup is a small town with a BIG love of shellfish. Peppered with serene beaches and surrounded by endless hiking trails, Lilliwaup is all about relaxation and rejuvenation.” there are no walmarts to buy from, but rather small grocery stores with roughly six aisles in them. there aren’t any chevrons to get gas from, but only confined gas stations. everything there is so rural and almost seems untouched by urban life, so it seems.

without traffic, lilliwaup is about two hours away from seattle. however, with traffic included, it makes up to a horrendous three or four hours. the traffic isn’t even because of the solar eclipse, it’s purely commute traffic. every minute that passes, you drive about 2/10 of a mile. its amazing how different lilliwaup is from seattle. the demographic turns from elderly to college students, and the lush green pine turns to modern architectural buildings. the seafood bars turn into a variety of different bistros and cafes. every turn you take, you’re stopped by a group of pedestrians crossing the street in a hurry.

out of everything i saw in seattle, i truly believe the people were the best part of the city. one notable thing about seattle is how diverse and accepting the people there are. everyone i came across was so down to earth. there was a weird atmospheric feeling in seattle that felt me feel like it was home. upon arriving there, you can spot many pride flags hung outside the little stores. it hadn’t even rained during my stay there, but i still saw rainbows. never have i seen so many welcoming people in one area. every small store you entered, you were greeted by a very sweet “hello” and an even nicer “goodbye, have a nice day!” as you exited. the traffic is easily made up by the joyful street performers and smiling florists. although it was a fast paced city, i felt as if time slowed down in seattle.

victoria, british columbia is about a one and a half hour ferry ride from port angeles, a small city on the northern coast of the olympic peninsula. we woke up at 5 am and drove from lilliwaup to port angeles to take a ferry to british columbia. although the headliner of that day was supposed to be victoria, i actually found the secondary act – the small seaside town of port angeles –  to be much more interesting. just like lilliwaup, it is a confined town specializing in fishing and was very local-oriented. however, it is more robust due to the tourists.  a lot of the visitors there were either heading on a ferry to go to victoria, or were going to olympic national park. because of this, many businesses are gift shops. despite this, port angeles still has a very small-town ambience to it.

personally, victoria was much too touristy for my tastes. the thing i found most interesting about it was the ferry ride on the way there. the loading of the cars was very orderly and organized with precision. however, it was very claustrophobic. god knows how many cars they managed to fit in the basement of the ferry. upon parking inside the lanes, i struggled to leave the car in attempt to not scratch the neighboring vehicles. in fact, i even contemplated opening the sunroof just to climb out.

the seating inside of the ferry felt like a waiting room of a social security office, except a waiting room doesn’t have a duty-free alcohol shop and deck attached to it. people took the commute time from port angeles to victoria as either an advantage to sleep or to buy wine without tax.

we left washington to go oregon to see the the great american solar eclipse. when checking in to our cabin that we were staying at, we were given eclipse glasses to view it in all its glory.

the next morning after we arrived, we went to the backyard next to a river. there, we saw the sun in clear view, not even needing to drive anywhere else. there, we made use of our eclipse glasses, and sure enough, the moon started to devour the sun.

what i noticed most about the eclipse was the gradual darkness it made, the temperature drop, and the flickering waves of light you could see on the ground. it was as if the sun was trying to push out its last remaining light to the earth before being covered by the moon. as the moon pushed the sun out of its way, i could feel the surrounding temperature drop about ten or fifteen degrees. as the trees around me became darker, more goosebumps formed on my arm.

it’s been several days since my trip has ended, but all i can think about is the greenness of the trees; the smell of nature that you can not replicate with a candle or air freshener; how close the stars were at night. getting to visit all of these places in the pacific northwest in a span of 12 days made me fall for the culture and way of living there.

Words and photographs by Kacie Ta

See more of Kacie’s work on Instagram



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