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Countdown to Totality: My Strange and Hazy Trip to an Oregon Eclipse Hippie Rave

One of our intrepid writers chronicles her "harebrained spirit quest" to attend a party with 30,000 people in the middle of the woods, all in celebration of the cosmic solar happening.

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Lead photo by Juliana Bernstein / Get Tiny

Earlier this month, I embarked on one of the most harebrained spirit quests of my life, journeying into rural Oregon where more than 30,000 people were gathering for a weird and wild week of partying centered around the eclipse. The event was aptly named the Oregon Eclipse Festival. Shit got loony from the minute I landed at the airport and continued through below is a timeline of all my LSD-laced misadventures leading up to the final moment of "totality," the two-minutes-or-so when the moon pulled a Kanye at the VMAs and dramatically interrupted the sun, briefly stealing the spotlight much to our entertainment, delight, and ultimate enlightenment.

Sunday, 12 AM (34 hours to totality)

A nervous-looking, middle-aged man picks me up from the airport in Portland with a chirpy blonde girl from Los Angeles in tow. We'd all met on Craigslist with a common goal: getting our asses to the middle of the woods for Oregon Eclipse Festival. Dude is going to handle the four-hour drive and blondie will pay for gas; in exchange, I'm getting them into the festival for free, thanks to two extra spots on the media guestlist.

Despite a lifelong allergy to sentimental hippie bullshit (I'm no Deadhead), I had been drawn to the festival as the national news cycle became increasingly dominated by the horrors of white supremacy and nationalism. I harbored hopes that the event would be like my generation's Woodstock, providing some kind of political resistance to the tyranny of Trump's reign. At the very least, I'd get an invaluable look into what West Coast "transformational" festivals — a New Age-y scene spawned by the legacy of Burning Man — are really like.

1 AM (33 hours to totality)

Craigslist guy announces that we have to take a detour so he can drop off vials of body fluids, which he "collects" for a living (I did not press for further details), at the local FedEx. I realize that I've been unwittingly sitting next to blood and urine samples for the past hour. I ask blondie if she remembered to buy recreational weed in Portland like I'd requested. She says she smuggled a couple nugs of Sour Diesel in her luggage. Despite its classic status, Sour D to me is the most basic and predictable of all strains. Not that it matters — Craigslist dude says we're not allowed to smoke in his five-seater rental sedan.

6 AM (28 hours to totality)

The GPS lied. It's nearly sunrise and we are still miles away from the festival grounds. Blondie has taken over driving while Craigslist guy snores in the backseat. I start jabbering about my craziest sexual exploits just to make sure we both don't fall asleep. She responds in kind, cheerfully sharing her own romantic misadventures in between yawns.

Photo by Juliana Bernstein / Get Tiny

9 AM (25 hours to totality)

Finally, we drive by a hand-drawn sign with an arrow and a single word: EVENT. We pull up at a forest clearing just as the pink sun begins to rise above the tree-lined horizon. Sucking on a Pax vape, a man with a tribal feather tattoo stretched across his face points us towards campground. Untangling myself out of the car, I step onto the dusty brown earth. The icy morning air is so fresh it purifies my lungs with each breath. My body is aching with exhaustion but I cannot wait to find out where the distant twitchy stabs of drum and bass music is coming from.

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10 AM (24 hours to totality)

We are lost in circles in a ramshackle village of neon hippie buses, white RVs, tapestry-draped tents, and stinking porta potties sprawled as far as I can see. Everywhere is controlled chaos — swarms of 20-somethings dressed in gas masks and colorful desert rave gear kicking up dust on their bicycles; young bohemian families with scraggly-haired kids and PBR-swilling bros blaring hip-hop and psychedelic trance from competing boomboxes; pot-bellied men beckoning behind tables lined with pipes and gemstones for sale. A long-bearded dude with a striking resemblance to a wizard gives me a sapphire blue crystal, asking for nothing in return but a smile.

12 PM (22 hours to totality)

Craigslist guy suddenly says he's had enough and decides to drive back to Portland. I am baffled but decide not to question his decision. Blondie and I are left standing in the parking lot with no camping gear and a rising sense of panic. All I have for warmth is a fur coat and thick Hood By Air sweatpants. Blondie is freaking out because she forgot to bring pants. I try not to worry about the fact that I have no idea how I'm going to get a ride back to Portland to catch my flight back to LA in a few days. After all, this scene seems like the hitchhiker-friendly type.

1 PM (21 hours to totality)

We meet a crew of beatnik kids from Mexico in the parking lot, and they offer up their spare tent. A shirtless, sunburned Cali bro teaches me how to pitch it, then offers me and blondie some acid with little cherry symbols on the blotter paper, which we gratefully accept and save for later. I want nothing else than to witness the trippy interstellar phenomenon of the eclipse in a wavvy state of mind.

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2 PM (20 hours to totality)

Our ragtag crew of six heads to a massive, sapphire-blue lake in the center of the festival grounds, bordering the seven musical stages and half-dozen other tents hosting a variety of workshops, talks, and yoga-related activities. Hundreds of naked people are splashing around on inflatable unicorns or dancing to tropical house, waving signs that say "Gluten-Free Hugs." I've never seen so many gorgeous tits — and shriveled dicks — in my life.

Photo by Juliana Bernstein / Get Tiny

4:20 PM (17.5 hours to totality)

A fellow pothead friend told me to meet him at the "Witches Village" tent but he's nowhere to be found. So instead, I settle into some cushions and listen to a psychology professor from Massachusetts give a talk on the new "Psychedelic Renaissance." As she explains how psilocybin, ketamine, and MDMA have helped people suffering from PTSD, drug addiction, and other afflictions, I think about how these substances could provide an antidote to America's unhealthy relationship with Big Pharma. Maybe one day. At the very least, it feels like a proper activity to engage in at 4:20 ;)

9 PM (13 hours to totality)

I wake up from a nap in the Witches' Tent feeling refreshed. I strike up a conversation with a girl from New York, and she gives me two hits of acid and I stick them both under my lip. Time to party.

Photo by Juliana Bernstein / Get Tiny

12 AM (10 hours to totality)

I am at a pyramid-shaped stage that seems designed specifically for LSD aficionados — video projections of fractals and other fragmented tribal patterns spiral wildly off its walls while a studious-looking Asian man with glasses assaults us with shuddering bass. At least a dozen people in the crowd — supposedly including OG psychedelic artist Alex Grey and his wife — are crouched over easels, painting pictures of mandalas and other trippy imagery to the music. Looking around at the sea of dreadlocked hula-hoopers and fire-spinners around me, I am torn between their contagious enthusiasm and the nagging thought that keeps popping into my head: this is some white people bullshit.

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Photo by Juliana Bernstein / Get Tiny

3 AM (7 hours to totality)

Temperatures are dropping dramatically. Shivering, I stumble upon a circle of Native Americans sitting around a fire hearth. They are among the many indigenous people from all over the world, ranging from North America's Sioux Lakota, Oneida, and Gila tribes to the Brazilian Amazon's Huni Kui people, who've been invited by the festival to lead the eclipse celebrations. A man with wrinkled, kind eyes and a pointy moustache speaks in Spanish while a rosy-cheeked young woman translates for the crowd of a dozen or so festival-goers, adding her own commentary from time to time. In hoarse voices, they tell us they've been tending the fire for the past four days without sleep, waiting for the grand moment of celestial alignment that their grandparents had told them about.

5 AM (5 hours to totality)

I wander over to the techno stage, where a DJ named Max Cooper is playing an unforgivably lame house remix of the Aphex Twin classic "Windowlicker" by Trentmoller. Adult white men dressed as unicorns or in top hats and kimonos fist-pump with glee. I smoke a quick joint and make my escape.

Photo by Juliana Bernstein / Get Tiny

8 AM (2 hours to totality)

I stumble upon the psy-trance stage to watch the sunrise. I am delighted to find myself surrounded by freaks — bearded men and grey-haired women with striking resemblances to forest elves dance barefeet in the dirt, the pitter-patter of their toes in sync with the music's buzzing, speedy rhythms.

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9 AM (1 hour to totality)

All the stages pause their music, and everyone walks towards two golden shrines built from gleaming wood to watch the eclipse. Elders from tribes from around the world have gathered in a circle for a ceremonial ritual, chanting some of the most beautiful prayers I've ever heard. "With doves from my heart," says a Japanese shaman as she ends a speech about the importance of protecting our environment. Another shaman from Peru presents an offering of ayahuasca from the jungle to the sky.

10 AM (totality)

The sky turns black and a sudden, eerie chill fills the air. Thousands of people fall to their knees, raise their arms in a Jesus pose, clutch their loved ones close, or quietly meditate in lotus position. Everyone around me is singing, crying, or shouting with unadulterated joy. Without really understanding why, I find myself sobbing behind my dorky eclipse glasses, thinking about my family. A few minutes later, it's over. The crowd streams back to the stages for more music. I curl up in a ball in the shadow of one of the temples and pass out into blissful, blank sleep.

Photo by Jonathan Palmer

Photo by Jacob Avanzato

Post-Totality

When I wake up, most people are back by the lake, lounging on the grassy banks and cuddling with each other in the water. The vibe is light-hearted and euphoric, as if everyone has been purged of any lingering negative ju-ju by the cathartic cosmic spectacle we've just shared. However, even with the festival's emphasis on environmentalism, signs everywhere reminding us to leave no trace, and armies of volunteers who've have been picking up recyclables all week, garbage cans are overflowing with all sorts of other trash — a reminder of how difficult it is for such large-scale events to be entirely eco-friendly, despite their best intentions.

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Stepping over a mini-mountain of empty plastic water bottles, I make a beeline to the media tent, praying that I'll run into a friendly face who can help me get out of here. After two-days of non-stop partying, my feet are scabbed and bleeding, and the dirt-caked JNCOs I've been wearing for the past 12 hours are emitting an unholy stink. This eclipse festival wasn't quite the Woodstock I was hoping for, but it gave me a sense of spiritual renewal that I hadn't been expecting. Now, I wanted nothing more than a ride home where the only body fluids touching my skin are my own.

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