In Oregon, Zach Urness of the Salem Statesman Journal traveled across much of the state to get a sense of the excitement around the eclipse. He and a photographer friend ended up backpacking into the Strawberry Mountain Wilderness and were there on Eclipse Day.

Here's his account of the big day, as he reported for the Statesman Journal.

We woke at 4:30 a.m. and hiked up the road to the trailhead, then followed the trail through dark forest and morning’s reddish-orange glow to one of Oregon’s most beautiful sights.

Strawberry Lake shimmers wide and blue, surrounded on both sides by rugged mountain peaks and glassy rivers that roll into the 36-acre body of water.

Just as the rangers said, the lake was surrounded by tents, some camped at suspect locations. Overall, though, the scene wasn’t awful — it was just a lot more people than normal at a beautiful spot.

We toured the lake, meeting people who’d made the trip. They were mostly from Oregon, California and Washington, but said they’d met backpackers from Sweden, Norway and Germany.

“Happy Eclipse Day,” hikers said as we passed.

The scene was joyful, as campers traded plans on where to view and photograph the eclipse. Some had dutifully scouted the sun as it rose each morning and told Jeff and I which ridge it would rise over.

Krista Swan, of Portland, had backpacked to Strawberry Lake with her family a few days earlier.

“We’re nature lovers, so for this once-in-a-lifetime experience we wanted to be in a beautiful place like this,” she said. “There’s a lot of people — at least 100 tents — but everybody is happy and friendly. It’s a real excited feeling.”

Three generations of the Scovil family from Eugene — grandpa Roger, father Nate and two kids Griffin and Mason, had also backpacked in early.

“We wanted to experience it out in nature,” Nate Scovil said. “We figured we’d make it a backpacking trip, and have the eclipse at the end to really seal those memories in.”

The eclipse started with little warning, while people were still claiming their spots around the lake. Everyone seemed so focused on the time listed for totality, 10:16 a.m., that it came as almost a surprise when the moon started crashing into the sun.

“Hey, it started,” somebody yelled.

The unique quality of watching the eclipse in a place like Strawberry Lake immediately became apparent. The cliffs surrounding the lake began to darken, first into shadow, then an odd shade of purple. As the temperature dropped, clouds appeared in the sky, where none had been previously.

As totality approached, a few stars appeared in the sky.

Howls echoed between canyon walls as the lake dropped into darkness. In a weird way, the sound reminded me of a concert crowd that’s just heard the first chords of their favorite song.

It was, of course, over too quickly. Especially for those of us frantically snapping pictures and fumbling with camera equipment.

Luckily, other people filled in the blanks.

“I gotta tell you, I saw the eclipse in 1979 and the only thing I remember was it getting dark,” Roger Scovil said. “This time, seeing corona around the sun was just awesome. I can’t think of anything to compare it to.”

So did seeing the eclipse in the wilderness really create a better experience?

“I think so,” Nate Scovil said. “It’s not just the eclipse. It’s the entire experience — camping, hiking and then the eclipse — that made it so awesome.”

Reporting also by Doyle Rice, USA Today

Published Aug. 23, 2017