• View a collection of social media posts chronicling the eclipse on our Storify page which can be found here.
A handful of Palo Alto residents had a prime view of Monday's solar eclipse from the path of totality, an experience they described as once-in-a-lifetime.
Tanya Buxton and her family drove to Bend, Oregon, where they spent the night at her brother-in-law's home before leaving around 4 a.m. for Culver, 40 miles to the north. They managed to find a farm where they parked next to six other cars with permission from the owner. They were near a valley offering an unimpeded view of the eclipse that she described as a sunrise and sunset happening at one time.
"It was awesome. It was just epic," Buxton said.
They experienced a minute and 55 seconds of complete darkness, during which time the crickets made noise but the birds stopped chirping. Venus was visible in the night sky and the sun sparkled like a diamond ring, Buxton said. People were yelling for a minute before becoming silent.
The timing worked out for Buxton, a biology teacher at Menlo School, which starts classes Aug. 24. Her 15-year-old son, William, is also a student there. Her husband took time off from his engineering job at Analog Devices, and her 19-year-old daughter, Maddy, has yet to begin classes at Wellesley College, where she studies physics.
The family of four held a colander in the light, which created crescent shapes on a piece of solar paper, and took pictures of light coming through tree leaves with cameras that had special filters.
Buxton also spoke to the numerous apps that allowed the public to be citizen scientists during the eclipse, collecting weather-related data such as temperature and humidity. The teacher recorded a temperature drop of 4 degrees Fahrenheit during the total eclipse. She hoped the event will inspire children to become interested in science.
For Julia Nelson-Gal, watching the eclipse from the Madras Municipal Airport in Oregon was better than any picture of the event that she could have seen.
The 14-year Palo Alto resident and her husband, David, trekked up in their RV to Madras, where they reserved a parking spot at $300 for five nights. She estimated 100,000 people gathered for the Oregon SolarFest, a "solar town" featuring tribute bands, food trucks, water stations, a NASA tent and the National Guard, who were there for crowd control.
She found it fun that a bunch of people were gathering in one place to do the same thing together - look up at the sky.
"It got very dark and it was pretty amazing," said Nelson-Gal, who added people were also skydiving during the two minutes of totality. "It felt like something very rare and very special."
Her only wish was that her two sons, ages 20 and 24, were with her to watch the eclipse.
The Nelson-Gals were joined by Ann Crichton and her husband, who brought their own tents, water and food because they weren't sure what supplies would be available in Madras, a city of roughly 6,000 people.
Reached by phone after the eclipse, Crichton called it "fabulous" and "wonderful" -- but then said she had to hang up and navigate the post-eclipse traffic.
John Cassidy, a 40-year Palo Alto resident, also had an optimal view of the eclipse from his home in Stanley, Idaho, a city with a population of roughly 63 people that welcomed thousands, including astronomers and T-shirt sellers for the event.
Cassidy, his wife, Nancy, and a handful of friends wore "silly, goofy glasses" as they viewed the phenomenon from his front lawn, just 25 feet away from the Salmon River.
Cassidy was most struck by the black hole and surrounding bright ring that blocked the sun, a "dramatic, qualitative change" that was met with whooping and hollering.
"It's the black hole that will knock you down the ground," Cassidy said.
Jamie Formato, a Menlo School physics teacher, headed up to his family's vineyard in Amity, Oregon, which conveniently fell within the path of totality. As he watched the eclipse with his family on their yard, he described the "weird" aura as totality approached.
"The light changed dramatically to something that's hard to describe. It's not nighttime or daytime but some weird in-between state," he said. "It certainly got chilly, and once the totality began the spectacular corona just erupted behind the moon."
Formato, who calls himself an astronomy person at heart, was most interested in seeing the corona with his own eyes.
"Photography fails to capture its splendor. It's sort of this eerie, ghostly thing up there behind the moon," he said.
"I've followed astronomy my whole life and learned a lot about these things but nothing prepared me for the actual experience," Formato said.