n Aug. 21, the vast majority of people in Central Oregon will be staring at the sky, watching the moon move in front of the sun, and seeing dusk hit in the middle of the morning. Many will still have to go to work, and those who don't will likely be seeking out the best-possible viewing spot. However, six lucky people will get to watch the eclipse on the slopes of the second-highest peak in Oregon: Mount Jefferson. Even more rare than the eclipse is the fact that those people will get to view it from the eastern flank, on the side of the mountain owned by the Confederated Tribes of Warm Springs.
This is the first permit issued for that area in 138 years.
The trip, chartered and guided by Big Mountain Heli Tours, comes with a steep price tag—$80,000 for the party of six— but 80 percent of the proceeds will benefit the tribes. And the view should be pretty spectacular, even the best in the entire country, according to Patric Douglas, CEO of Big Mountain Heli Tours.
"They will get to enjoy the view, and watch the shadow of the eclipse move across the land and eventually envelope the whole mountain," described Douglas. He envisions sending a guide/EMT up a day before to set up camp, then bringing clients up the night before the eclipse. This will give them a chance to acclimatize to being at 8,500 feet. As far as camping goes, this trip will be on the "glamping" side of things; the guide will take care of all the provisions and accommodations, Douglas said.
This permit has been a long time in the works. Douglas started talking to the Warm Springs Tribal Council in January about making it happen. Other companies have approached the tribal council about similar permits, or bringing in other kinds of tourism, but all were denied.
"The August 21. solar eclipse presents a historic opportunity for the entire Central Oregon region as well as the Tribes," wrote Alyssa Macy, chief operations officer of the Confederated Tribes of Warm Springs ,in a July 26 statement. "As such, the Confederated Tribes of Warm Springs has made available one permit for exclusive access to Mt. Jefferson to view this historic celestial event through a partnership with Big Mountain Heli Tours. This is the first time in the history of the Tribes that this exclusive access has been granted."
"I feel so honored that they are giving us this permit," Douglas expressed. "The tribal council is saying, 'We trust you to treat this mountain the way it deserves.'"B
ig Mountain Heli Tours specializes in low footprint tourism, which follows Leave No Trace guidelines, while still allowing people to see places that might otherwise be unexplored. Because preserving the landscape is important to their mission, part of the permit requires them to come back after the eclipse and clean up the area, removing garbage, including removing any human waste left by climbers, and taking apart rock rings that people made to contain fires. "We want to leave the mountain better than we found it," Douglas explained.
Its partner, Leading Edge Aviation, also routinely works with the Forest Service to help mitigate forest fires, like the one currently burning on Mt. Jefferson, Douglas says. (As for that fire, Douglas hopes it won't be a factor Aug. 21, as officials project it will be contained within a few days.)
The Warm Springs Indian Reservation is approximately 650,000 acres—mostly inaccessible to people outside of the tribe. There are four areas where people can purchase fishing permits—most are along lakes or parts of the Deschutes.
"Mount Jefferson speaks to you," Douglas said. "It hits you right in the heart—it's a special, amazing place."
Big Mountain Heli Tours still has spaces available, so if you're interested in being one of those people watching the eclipse from the side of a mountain, contact Douglas at email@example.com or 541-668-7670.
Big Mountain Heli Tours