How close are you going to be to the eclipse this year? Surprisingly, the eclipse will pass over the middle of Wyoming this year. I say, surprisingly, because we are not usually the epicenter of anything here. We value our low population and wide-open spaces, so having a big crowd come to the state makes many of us uncomfortable. The eclipse also passes over many other states, but our challenge here is that we are not really equipped to handle large crowds. Hotel rooms are going for an astronomical price, and restaurants are scrambling to make accommodations for large numbers of customers. We have been told to plan to use cash and plan on stocking up on essentials. It almost sounds comparable to our horrible 2017 winter, when Interstate 80 was closed on a regular basis and trucks couldn’t get through with supplies.
So, my question is, if you haven’t already made plans to be in the prime parts of the state during the eclipse, how can you still experience the full eclipse, while not breaking the bank to do it? Here are my suggestions:
1. Plan to road trip. Stay somewhere close but more affordable, then drive up to spend the day with the eclipse, then return in the evening. The full eclipse hits in the morning, starting in the west, hitting Jackson Hole, Wyoming around 10:16am, and ending approximately 2 hours later. The rest of the state is slightly later, but we’re talking about a few minutes. So long as you are in your target town by 10:00 you should be able to get the full eclipse viewing experience.
2. Think about campgrounds around the state. Check https://www.recreation.gov/ to find public campgrounds in the state. Again, you don’t have to stay in a prime viewing place in order to see the eclipse. Also check each county’s fairground campsites. Many are opening camping sites especially for the eclipse. Camp, then drive. Even the towns that aren’t going to have 100% eclipse will experience 95% or more, which is still pretty good.
3. Many communities are planning some type of eclipse festival, take advantage of these. Many are offering free viewing glasses, but you probably should get there early to find reasonable parking. Casper is having an Eclipse Festival with some events in the week before the eclipse, http://eclipsecasper.com/festival/ . Rock Springs is holding a Nearly Eclipsed event with activities and food, http://www.sweetwaterevents.com/events/2017/nearly-eclipsed-viewing-site/ . The Jackson area has activities planned pre- and post-eclipse, http://tetoneclipse.com/ . Fremont County is hosting numerous events, including a “Dark in the Park” art show and “Blackout” bullriding, http://www.windrivereclipse.org/ . If you are going to be in the Douglas area, you will also be there for our Wyoming State Fair, so there will be lots of activities and concerts for fair week that coincide with the eclipse, http://www.travelwyoming.com/event/douglas-wyoming-eclipse-events .
4. Plan to take your own meals in a cooler. It is expected that cell service and debit/credit cards may not work properly, so plan for that. Take cash, keep your gas tank topped off, and take plenty of bottled water, snacks, and lunch items so that you aren’t fighting crowds in the restaurants and stores.
5. If you want to avoid crowds, you may want to try some of our great backpacking trails. You can find reviews here, https://www.alltrails.com/us/wyoming/backpacking , but also be sure to stop in to the local outdoor shops to get insight from locals.
Wyoming has some of the most beautiful places in the world to view the solar eclipse from. We really do love visitors to our state, but remember that we are used to small numbers of people. Our largest town has a population of around 65,000, many have less than 10,000. Our communities are going all out to welcome people for this event, but remember that many of our highways are two-lane, we have abundant wildlife that graze the sides of our highways, our streets may be narrow, and our children are used to being able to ride their bikes on city streets safely. We value the beauty of our state, so please be sure to take care of trash properly. Come see the Great Eclipse of 2017 from the Cowboy State, and you will surely see why we love our mountains and prairies as we do.