2023 Annular eclipse viewers
High on Adventure


Story and photos by Lee Juillerat and as attributed

2023 Annular Eclipse Ring of Fire
The ”Ring of Fire’ (Dana Sharman)

The weather forecast had been discouraging. Overcast skies and clouds were predicted. Bummer!
So when I peeked out the window the morning of October 13 and saw glowing planets and twinkling stars, I was excited. Pumped! The weather gods were with us! In another few hours the morning sun would be rising over the mountains to the east, journeying on a path to intersect with the moon to create an astronomical phenomenon called an annular solar eclipse.

Or, as Johnny Cash sang, a “Ring of Fire.”

  2023 Annular Eclipse  
2023 Annular Eclipse
Almost total (Liane Venzke)
Cec and friend (Matt Amuchastegui)

I’ve seen two total eclipses, one in 1979, another in 2017. To see my first eclipse, early in the morning I drove from my home in Southern Oregon’s Klamath Falls, due north to just outside the Central Oregon town of Shaniko, where I joined others who had parked overnight in a highway rest area. I had intentionally driven the long way home after running a marathon a day earlier. To see the second eclipse, following a multi-day backpacking trip, friends and I camped along the Metolius River, again in Central Oregon, to view the total eclipse, or “Moonshadow.”

  People watching the eclipse    
Watching the 2017 total eclipse (Lee Juillerat)

Gathering at the Klamath County Museum
(Liane Venzke)

Traveling to the recent annular eclipse was much easier. It was a less than mile from my house to the Klamath County Museum, where a small crowd, all of us wearing eclipse glasses, gathered that morning. Several telescopes and viewfinders were provided in order to better appreciate and safely see the happenings. Klamath County and areas of Southeast Oregon had been prepping for the event for months because all were directly inside the path of the eclipse, which began at 9:13 a.m., then raced across the U.S. to Texas before continuing to Central and South America. The national news media had been hyping the event, so there were hundreds of thousands of eclipse-peepers gathered at sites directly under the eclipse’s path, which included Crater Lake National Park and Klamath Falls.

  Phases of the annular eclipse   The eclipse path in New Mexico  
Phases of the annular eclipse
The eclipse path in New Mexico

What is an annular solar eclipse? First off, annular doesn’t refer to “annual,” but is defined as “having the form of a ring.” Annular eclipses happen when the apparent size of the moon’s disk is slightly smaller than the apparent size of the sun’s disk. As the partial solar eclipse begins, the moon moves across the sun, first seemingly taking a small bite, then gradually nibbling away more of the sun and – wait for it! - moving directly inside the sun’s shadow. It takes about an hour and 15 minutes to make the crossing, but the actual “Ring of Fire” lasts only a few minutes before the moon slowly continues working its way across the sun, gradually allowing the fiery orb to again be fully exposed.

Excited eclipse viewers
Excited eclipse viewers (Patricia Card)

Eclipse morning was exciting and fun. Like dozens of others, my friend Liane and I were bubbling with anticipation. The gathering included both friends and strangers. All of us had eclipse glasses, which are necessary because during an eclipse phase the sun shines brightly enough to cause serious eye damage. We mingled, shared stories and made new friends, including a teenager ready and eager to help others preserve memories. His mother explained that he had studied how to safely photograph the event by placing a filter under a camera or a cell phone atop a telescope and then snapping away.

During my 1979 total eclipse outing I sure lucked out. As I later learned, morning clouds obscured views for most other areas of Oregon, but it was clear from my rest stop vantage point. This third time, my downtown Klamath Falls 2023 location was also perfect. News stories later told how viewing at nearby Fort Klamath, where a series of special events were held, including a rollicking concert by the 1900s band Smash Mouth, and elsewhere were partly or mostly blotted out by clouds.

  Early phases of the moon crossing the sun   Early phases of the moon crossing the sun   Early phases of the moon crossing the sun  
Early phases of the moon crossing the sun (Michael Blaise Hackett)

The phases of the eclipse moved quickly - too quickly. As we watched, most people were quietly focused, viewing intently as the moon slowly began across the sun. There weren’t any whoopings and hollerings, just soft gasps. Unlike a total eclipse, when the sky turns eerily dark, the morning light only slightly dimmed. Fascinating, too, were the eerie shadows – some appearing like softly lit fluttering curtains.

  A "bite" out of the sun   A "bite" out of the sun  
A bite out of the sun (Danny Hawkes)
Bigger bite (Liane Venzke)
  Annular eclipse shadows   Annular eclipse hand shadow   Annular eclipse shadows  
Shadows cast during the annular eclipse (Liane Venzke)

As I’d learned from viewing the total eclipses, the excitement builds as the sun oh-so slowly disappears. There’s a sense of anxious anticipation as an eclipse happens. But as the moon passes the sun, what follows is anticlimactic. People disperse. And that’s what happened after the four-plus minutes of the annular eclipse.

  Eclipse "Ring of Fire"   Eclipse view from Capital Reef  
‘The Ring of Fire’
View from Capital Reef (Katie Chambers)

For our lucky crowd with cloudless skies, the much-anticipated annular solar eclipse was an experience. For several days, friends near and far posted photos on Facebook, and many of those images – most of them credited to and approved by those who posted them – appear with this story.

  2023 Annualar eclipse seen from Lake County, Oregon   2023 Annualar eclipse seen from Odell Butte, Oregon  
Lake County, Oregon (Marie Lee)
Odell Butte, Oregon (Jill Brennan)
  2023 Annualar eclipse seen from near Cedarville, California   2023 Annualar eclipse seen from Christmas Valley, Oregon  
  Near Cedarville, California (Will Campbell)  
Christmas Valley, Oregon
  2023 Annualar eclipse seen from Bly, Oregon   2023 Annualar eclipse in the shadow of clouds  
Cloudy ring near Bly, Oregon (Danny Hawkes)
In the shadow of clouds (Dino Vournas)
    2023 Annualar eclipse seen from Klamath, Oregon    
Clear skies in Klamath Falls
(Matt Amuchastegui)

But the story didn’t end after October’s annular eclipse. For many it whetted appetites to see another eclipse. Good news. Another will happen on Monday, April 8, 2024 - a total solar eclipse, already dubbed the Great North America Eclipse - will cross the U.S. Unlike the trajectory experienced this year, the 2024 eclipse will cross North America and be visible to tens of millions of people – 31 million live in the path of totality. Its path will be different. After starting in Mexico, it will enter the United States in Texas, then travel north and east across Oklahoma, Arkansas, Missouri, Kentucky, Indiana, Ohio, Pennsylvania, New York, Vermont, New Hampshire and Maine. Several people are already making plans to head to Texas, where the maximum duration of totality will be four minutes and 28 seconds at Piedras Negras.

If Johnny Cash’s “Ring of Fire” set the musical theme for this year’s annular eclipse, Bonnie Tyler’s 1983 hit, “Total Eclipse of the Heart,” will set the tone for 2024.

2017 total eclipse
The 2017 total eclipse – waiting for 2024 (Lee Juillerat)

And when I’m asked if I’m excited about the coming eclipse, the answer is easy – Totally.

The Klamath and Modoc Tribes have stories about eclipses. According to GeorGeorge Nelson, a member of the Klamath Tribes, the first story is from Leslie Spier’s “Ethnography on the Klamath Tribes of Southern Oregon,” while the second legend is from the HathiTrust digital library website.

Indian stories about eclipses 

About the Author

  Lee Juillerat is a semi-retired writer-photographer who lives in Southern Oregon. He is a frequent contributor to several magazines, including “Southern Oregon Magazine,” “The AG Mag,” “Range,” and “The Cattle Mag.” He has written and co-authored books about various topics and places, including Crater Lake National Park and Lava Beds National Monument, and, most recently, “Ranchers and Ranching: Cowboy Country Yesterqwday and Today.” Lee has produced photo-stories for High On Adventure for more than 20 years. He can be contacted at 337lee337@charter.net.   Lee Juillerat