Why You Should Make Sure to be in Southeastern Oklahoma for the April 8 Total Eclipse

7 minutes

If you’re not aware by now, there’s a total solar eclipse on April 8, our soon-to-arrive March/April issue—featuring a Bigfoot cover illustrated by Dale Coons of Ponca City—will remedy you of that.

As you’ll read in this issue’s cover story, there are about two total solar eclipses somewhere on Earth every year—but since the planet is quite vast and mostly covered in water, it’s pretty rare that one happens close enough to get to see it. This year, while all the parts of Oklahoma will see some visible dimming of the sun—even the Panhandle will see 75 percent shadow—the path of true totality travels through the state’s southeastern quadrant.

ECLIPSE MAP ILLUSTRATION FROM ISSUE. Illustration by JJ Ritchey

ECLIPSE MAP ILLUSTRATION FROM ISSUE. Illustration by JJ Ritchey

In my life, I’ve experienced two solar eclipses. The first was when I was in the eighth grade—an annular eclipse threw the moon’s shadow across a swath of North America, including a wide swath of western Oklahoma. Where I was stationed on that day—at Brink Junior High in Moore—we were told we’d only be seeing a 98 percent eclipse as opposed to full totality.

I remember two main things about that day. One was disappointment: Even at the moment of highest coverage, it felt like just another cloudy day. It was a hazy spring Oklahoma sky, which didn’t help, but the moment of greatest darkness felt the same as a cloud passing over the sun. This experience, which I’d been so excited for, was a bit of a dud.

The second thing I remember is that this kid Erik came up and took my eclipse viewer off as I was looking at the sun, because fourteen-year-old boys are all sociopaths, every last one of them. Myself included.

Fast forward twenty-three years. No longer adolescent, I gleefully discovered that there would be a total solar eclipse. And not wanting to be disappointed this time, I loaded up my sweetie, and we took off for Ravenna, Nebraska—a small town I’d chosen more or less at random that would be in the path of totality, about eight hours north of Oklahoma City. We drove up, camped at a state park, and got up early to get good seats at Ravenna’s watch party.

Ravenna, Nebraska, during the total solar eclipse of 2017. Photo by Nathan Gunter

Ravenna, Nebraska, during the total solar eclipse of 2017. Photo by Nathan Gunter

As the moon began to cover the sun that day from the perspective of Ravenna, my entire previous eclipse experience was, well, eclipsed. It was the spookiest, weirdest, and most eerie experience of my life—and also one of the most meaningful. As the moon’s shadow swept across Nebraska, the light changed, as if the sun had been replaced in the sky by a different star from somewhere else in the galaxy.

Eclipsing sun

Eclipsing sun

I understood, there in the lunar dusk, why ancient peoples found these experiences so ominous—even to my science-informed perspective, the part of me that knew what was going on, the occasion assumed an air of cosmic significance. I took turns alternately staring at the eclipse through my viewer and looking around me to see my world bathed in a kind of light I’d never seen before. I took in the crescent-shaped shadows on the ground and listened to the awed expressions of the other people there.

Full totality

Full totality

In a few minutes it was over, and as the sunlight returned, people broke out into spontaneous applause—way to go, Moon and Sun, it seemed to say. We all knew we’d experienced something special that day. I barely noticed the slow traffic as we left town.

Two eclipse experiences, totally different. I tell you these two stories to emphasize how much different—how much higher a quality the experience—is for those who make it a point to enter the zone of totality. So even if it’s just to drive down and back for the day—you’ll want to be stationed at your viewing spot no later than about 1:30 at the latest, as totality begins around then.

Places to overnight may be difficult to book at this late stage, so if you do find something open, book away. Otherwise, you may be down for a day trip to southeastern Oklahoma (I recommend making an early dinner reservation at Reba’s Place in Atoka for the drive back).

Having done this for myself, I can pretty much promise you’ll find the trip worthwhile. The chance to be present for this kind of celestial happening inspires thousands to go globetrotting every year in search of that magical light. This April, it’s coming to us—and to a part of the state that’s rich in gorgeous scenery, plenty to see, and great food to boot.

Pick up our March/April issue to find out how you can get your own set of commemorative eclipse glasses. Current subscribers and those who subscribe online by March 22 will receive them in the mail. We hope to see you in the southeast on April 8.

Written By
Nathan Gunter

A sixth-generation Oklahoman, Weatherford native, and Westmoore High School graduate, Nathan Gunter is the magazine's editor-in-chief. When he's not editor-in-chiefing, Nate enjoys live music, running, working out, gaming, cooking, and random road trips with no particular destination in mind. He holds degrees from Wake Forest University and the University of Oklahoma. He learned how to perform poetry from Maya Angelou; how to appreciate Italian art from Terisio Pignatti; comedy writing from Doug Marlette; how to make coconut cream pie from his great-grandma; and how not to approach farm dogs from trial and error. A seminary dropout, he lives just off Route 66 in Oklahoma City.

Nathan Gunter
Previous Blog

"Oklahoma Today Podcast: February 19"

Next Blog

"Weekly Events Calendar: February 26-March 3"

You May Like

Oklahoma Today Podcast: April 15

Friends of the Wichitas president Howard Styron joins the podcast as this week's guest, talking about all the ways his organization suppo...

Friends of the Wichitas president Howard Styron joins the podcast as this week's guest, talking about all the ways his organization supports the Wichita Mountains Wildlife Refuge.

By Ben Luschen | 1 min read Read BLOG

Weekly Events Calendar: April 15-21

This week in Oklahoma: an archery exhibition in Broken Bow, party like it's 1889 in Guthrie, and Earth Day celebrations across the State ...

This week in Oklahoma: an archery exhibition in Broken Bow, party like it's 1889 in Guthrie, and Earth Day celebrations across the State Parks system.

By Ben Luschen | 9 min read Read BLOG

Raisin’ the Bar

She might not have opposable thumbs, but the Oklahoma City VA Medical Center’s most experienced canine therapist helps to heal hearts eve...

She might not have opposable thumbs, but the Oklahoma City VA Medical Center’s most experienced canine therapist helps to heal hearts every day.

By Karlie Ybarra | 8 min read Read BLOG