Campers next to the Dead River await the eclipse on April 8. Ron Chase photos

I was skeptical about making the effort to view the total solar eclipse on April 8. After several months of wet, stormy, very cloudy weather, I expected another gray, bad-weather day.

About a week in advance of the eclipse, meteorologists with the local television stations began predicting a fabulous, warm, sunny day. After an Easter nor’easter, an April snowstorm and consistently gray, unpleasant weather for several weeks, it was difficult to be optimistic. And it’s not like these well-intentioned folks are always accurate.

Two days in advance, the meteorologists were still firm on the forecast. Clear, sunny skies and warm temperatures were the prediction. I was becoming a believer.

My wife, Nancy, and I were fortunate. Our son, Adam, lives in the anticipated path of totality in West Forks. And he was hosting a hike and eclipse party. Since we had connections, we were able to finagle an invite. Both in our 70s, neither of us had ever viewed a total eclipse of the sun. Our senior quest was on.

The extremely heavy traffic projections in the news were intimidating. The number of people traveling to northern and western Maine to view the eclipse was supposed to be record-setting. The exceptional weather forecast heightened the probability of congestion. I devised a plan to avoid much of the traffic; however, driving from Bingham to West Forks on Route 201 was unavoidable.

Hikers begin the Dead River Trail.

Initially, my plan worked well. However, as we drove along Wyman Lake north of Bingham on Route 201 in busy, late-morning traffic, all of the potential parking spaces and rest spots were overfilled with eclipse worshippers. When we entered West Forks, one enterprising entrepreneur advertised parking spots for $60. Fortunately, Adam saved us a parking space in his yard — and a chunk of change.


We were an eclectic group consisting of six adults, two teenagers and two dogs. Unlike everyone else, the dogs didn’t appear overly excited. We were all rookies; no solar eclipse chasers in our group.

The hike began on what I call the Dead River Trail. Progressing north along the exceptionally scenic Dead River, the trail was replete with hikers and campers all awaiting the eclipse.

The dirt and crushed-rock path follows the river for about 2 miles before ending at the foot of the most significant rapid on the river, Poplar Falls. A washed-out bridge due to a recent storm prevented us from completing the final 100 yards. Conditions on the trail varied from dry to wet and muddy with patchy snow and ice in some locations.

After completing the very entertaining trek, we assembled along the Dead River shore next to a section of whitewater waves to view the eclipse. We weren’t alone. There were small and large parties of viewers spread along the entire lower Dead River in West Forks.

Wearing our eclipse safety glasses, we waited with high expectations while tracking the gradual changes as the moon slowly blocked the sun. We had the benefit of binoculars with protected lenses and a variety of cameras to record the momentous occasion.

The actual eclipse was a captivating experience. The change from light to darkness and chilly temperatures coupled with the brilliant ring around the moon was absolutely breathtaking. Then the glorious sun and warmth returned.


Most in our group expressed the sentiment that the event exceeded their expectations. Although we were concerned about travel problems on the return home, Nancy and I lingered to share the excitement of the moment.

The drive home was a bit of an ordeal. The usual two-hour ride took over six hours. The traffic from West Forks to Bingham crawled along at a snail’s pace. After that, my back roads scheme worked fairly well until we joined Interstate 95 in Augusta. It seemed like all of the traffic from the best viewing locations in northern and western Maine converged at that location. Two lanes of traffic creeping along as far as the eye could see. We had never encountered anything like it in Maine.

Still, the traveling inconveniences were worth the effort to share such a remarkable experience with great friends and family. I don’t think we’ll make the next solar eclipse in Maine, which doesn’t occur until 2079.

My book, “Maine Al Fresco: The Fifty Finest Outdoor Adventures in Maine,” narrates numerous hikes around the state. Unfortunately, none of them include an eclipse.

Ron Chase resides in Topsham. His latest book, “Maine Al Fresco: The Fifty Finest Outdoor Adventures in Maine” is available at or in bookstores and through online retailers. His previous books are “The Great Mars Hill Bank Robbery” and “Mountains for Mortals — New England.” Visit his website at or he can be reached at

Viewers carefully watch as the eclipse begins.

Comments are no longer available on this story