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Medford pauses to watch solar eclipse

Surrounded by more than 100 people at RoxyAnn Winery in Medford, Daria Land gazed at the solar eclipse through special viewing glasses.

"It's more exciting than I expected," said the Talent resident. "With these glasses, the ability to see it and process information is amazing."

Although the Rogue Valley was outside the path of totality — where people could view the moon completely blotting out the sun during a total eclipse — Land said she was glad she stayed in Southern Oregon to see most of the sun covered up.

Crowds flocked farther north in Oregon to see the total eclipse, including to Central Oregon. Multiple traffic jams stretching for more than a dozen miles developed as eclipse viewers converged.

"I wouldn't want to be in a traffic jam and watch the eclipse," Land said. "I think that would take away from the pristine moment."

At the winery in the foothills of Roxy Ann Peak, the mood ranged from festive to awe-struck as spectators leaned back in chairs, sipped peach mimosas made with fresh Hillcrest Orchard fruit and watched the moon's progress across the face of the sun.

Land said viewing the eclipse through special glasses was a different experience than when she was a middle school student during the last total solar eclipse in the United States in 1979.

"We were warned, 'Don't look at the eclipse. You'll go blind.' It was my first real memory of any eclipse. It was a big deal and it was new for me," she said.

While Land was able to view the eclipse because of her flexible schedule as a telecommuter, Rebecca Vietz of Medford took an early lunch break from her job at KeyBank.

"I think everyone should have the opportunity to see this," Vietz said. "It's so rare. If aliens were landing, you'd want to see that, right?"

The next total solar eclipse visible from the continental United States won't be until 2024. Oregon will miss out, with the total eclipse path crossing from Texas to Maine, according to NASA.

California residents Pam and Robert Littlefield, who also have a home in Eagle Point, drove as far as Prospect with hopes of viewing the eclipse from Crater Lake National Park. With wildfires burning near the iconic lake, heavy smoke and fire trucks and helicopters battling the blazes, they turned back.

But they said the eclipse viewing event at the winery turned out to be fun. They had rave reviews of the eclipse itself.

"It was awesome. It was great," Pam Littlefield said as the moon began drifting away from the sun.

"It's spectacular," Robert Littlefield said.

California residents Theresa Hall, Sarah Ryan and Chris Isidro made a spur of the moment decision to drive to Oregon for the eclipse.

"We planned this one day in advance," Hall said, noting they decided not to go farther north into Oregon because of eclipse-related traffic.

"We thought the adventure of going up to Oregon would be fun. We met a lot of eclipsers in Ashland. We came in all shapes and sizes," Isidro said.

Tom Stavish of Medford said he learned facts about the eclipse from other people attending the viewing party at the winery — making the event both entertaining and educational.

"Our house has a lot of trees around it," said Tom Stavish, who came with his wife Nancy Stavish. "We wanted to be sure of a clear view."

Haley Walker, 12, and Grace Bakke, 11, didn't have time to get eclipse viewing glasses, but they made a pinhole camera out of a Cheerios box and aluminum foil. A miniature image of the eclipse was projected through a tiny hole into the cereal box.

"For me, I've never seen an eclipse before. I'm pretty excited," Walker said. "It's a really cool experience."

— Reach staff reporter Vickie Aldous at 541-776-4486 or valdous@mailtribune.com. Follow her at www.twitter.com/VickieAldous.

The moon covers the sun during a total eclipse Monday, viewed near Redmond. Medford-area residents didn't get a total eclipse, but still flocked outside to see a 93 percent covering of the sun. [AP / Ted S. Warren]