My idea of a perfect way to experience the Great Wyoming Solar Eclipse, Aug. 21, 2017 would be lying on my back looking up at the sky on the summit of Crowheart Butte between Riverton and Dubois.
This is highly unlikely for a myriad of reasons, but it sure seems like a marvelous place to take in the spectacle.
Folks from Jackson to Dubois to Lander/Riverton to Casper to Glenrock/Douglas and on to Glendo/Wheatland and Torrington have lots of events planned. Even places like Evanston, Rock Springs, Buffalo and Sheridan, which are not in the totality path, are planning events.
In a column earlier this spring I predicted some folks would put on a Burning Cowboy festival, sort of like the nutty and outrageous Burning Man Festival held in Nevada each year. But so far, no word about such an amazing artsy event in Wyoming.
For those of you who have not been paying attention, total solar eclipses are rare in the USA and this year we are going to experience a doozy. Everything is perfect and the route crosses the center of Wyoming. Last perfect one was 1917. Next one is 2045.
Estimates as high as 500,000 people coming to the state have been made. If the number is one-tenth of that, 50,000 people, it will have a significant effect on those cities and towns along its path.
I did a brief survey of some of my friends around the state and based on what they are hearing, we are going to be absolutely inundated with eclipse aficionados.
And here is a prediction: Sometime in the week just prior to the eclipse, the weather reports are going to say that all those folks wanting to watch it in Oregon, Idaho, Nebraska, Missouri, Kentucky, Tennessee and South Carolina will be predicted to be under heavy overcast skies and they will not be able to appreciate what a blue sky eclipse will look like.
Where are all these disappointed people going to rush to? Why, Wyoming. “That’s WY,” to coin the latest state tourism slogan. If that happens, I predict a million visitors will descend upon us. God help us.
One web site put out a map of the country, which shows that Wyoming is the closest destination for some 10 million people, if they want to experience a real eclipse.
On a personal level, so far, I have brothers and their families coming from California, Colorado and Cheyenne to enjoy the event here in Lander at my home.
One person I know has 38 people coming to their house. All of them uninvited.
Tom Cox, like me, is entertaining three families at his home outside of Lander. Amy Surdam of Cheyenne, the new director of the Wyoming Aeronautical Commission, is going to be camping at Glendo Reservoir with a few thousand of her closest friends. It will be bumper-to-bumper.
She said airports all across the state are gearing up for a tremendous influx of private planes as people fly into the state. Additional tie-downs, extra fuel supplies and additional staff are being planned for most airports. The Casper airport will actually be shut down for 30 minutes around the time of the event.
John Angst of Dubois plans on kayaking on the lakes under Squaretop Mountain. Wow. Others want to see the eclipse from the summits of Gannett Peak, the Grand Teton and Devils Tower. There will be crowds in those places.
Steve Mossbrook of Riverton has friends from all over the country coming to his house for the big event.
Hundreds of Wyoming homeowners are using AirBnb to rent out rooms in their homes. I know a gal here in Lander who rented her home for three nights at $1,600 per night. People with pasture are being pressed to provide space for campers and motorhomes.
Hordes of enthusiasts are coming to Casper to attend a big Eclipse Festival, which has been scheduled for years because of this event.
In Jackson, the place is pretty much sold out. Some of the higher end properties have held back a limited number of rooms for their best customers but officially are sold out.
I am still not sure where I will be, but it probably will involve entertaining some siblings. This could also involve imbibing a special Snake River Brewery version of its Pale Ale in an Eclipse can or sipping Wyoming Whiskey out of a special package featuring the sun with the moon blocking out its rays.
Check out Bill Sniffin’s columns at billsniffin.com. He is a longtime Wyoming journalist from Lander who has written six books, which are available at fine stores. His latest is Wyoming at 125. His books are also available at wyomingwonders.com.