20.08.2017 - 23.08.2017 85 °F
Anyone living in the US heard plenty of news on the eclipse this summer. As the date got closer, more and more information hit the newspapers, magazines, TV, the Internet, etc. Las Vegas was only going to have 70% on the Sun blocked so I decided to drive to Wyoming where they would have totality. My first choice was Jackson or Grand Teton National Park. But I kept hearing the week before the eclipse that both locations were packed with eclipse watchers. When I read that ranchers were charging and getting $1000 to let RVs park on their pasture, I looked for another location. Several articles were suggesting that the Wind River Reservation would have far fewer visitors and plenty of free parking. I called them and confirmed that the Wind River Casino would have free parking and Native American ceremonies leading up to the eclipse. My friend Chris was back from Thailand and I checked to see if he wanted to go as well. He did but was suffering from prostate issues and had a Dr. appointment on the 22th. I had booked a room in Evanston WY a few weeks before the eclipse just in case Chris decided to go. I can sleep in the back of my van but not both of us. When he declined I decided to keep the room.
Sunday, Aug. 20 was my departure date. I figured most of the eclipse watchers would already be in place and the traffic would not be too heavy. I got up early and headed North on I-15. I stopped in Beaver UT for gas and then saw the sign for Fillmore. I knew Fillmore had been the historic capital of Utah but had never stopped. Brigham Young picked the location as it was in the center of the Utah territory. Fillmore was named for the President at the time, Millard Fillmore. It was the territorial capital between 1851-56 when the capital was moved to Salt Lake City. I pulled into Fillmore and followed the signs to the old capital. Being Sunday nothing was open so I just walked around a popped a few photos. Click on any of my photos for a larger image and additional information about the photo and what I experienced.
I decided to take 189 at Provo instead of driving into SLC. 189 is very scenic and plenty of people were rafting the Provo River. I got on I-80 and headed for Evanston. I used my GPS to find the Knight's Inn where I had made my reservation. Found my room and took in my stuff. I drove over to the closest Wendy's and had a salad, frosty. Stopped for gas, back to my room. I did my stretching, sit-ups, shower, TV, read, bed. I set my alarm for 6 am and headed for the lobby area for BF. I saw the room when I checked in and was happy to see that they had hot, cold cereal, bagels, and a waffle maker. Several guys were already using the waffle maker so I had a bowl of oatmeal until they were finished. I got some OJ and then made my waffle. By 6:30 am I had packed my van and was on the road. To Rock Springs, then took 191 North to Lander. Traffic was light all the way. I turned onto 138 to made it to Riverton about 10 am. The Wind River Casino was off to my left and had hundreds of people on their grass setting up their lawn chairs and tripods. I joined the crowd and set up close to family that had a solar filter on the lens. I asked Steven if he could help me get my Canon G 12 set-up for the eclipse. He was very helpful and fiddled with my Canon until he thought it was ready to go. I then took my Nikon and started taking some photos of the Arapahoe dancers entertaining the crowd before the eclipse started. The guy on the microphone announced that they had free eclipse glasses for anyone that needed them. I got a pair and Steven help me tape them in front of my lens. The eclipse had started by then and I started firing away. The beauty of digital is that you can check your results in seconds. He got my camera on max zoom and then reset the shutter speed for better results. I fired away until the clouds rolled in. We had perfectly clear skies until about 20 minutes before totality. My shots before totality were OK for my camera and lack of a real solar filter. The ones of totality were not worth anything because of the clouds. We were all disappointed but what can you do? Weather is always a crap shoot and you take the good with the bad. Most of the time we had good visibility but not at totality. The crowd cheered when it went dark at totality. For 2 minutes we had dark skies at noon. I quit fiddling with my camera and just enjoyed seeing a total solar eclipse. The crowd was buzzing with excitement as we were all witnessing something special. We all knew this may be the only total solar eclipse we will ever see. I talked to people from Texas, Colorado, Michigan and all of us were glad we made the effort to get to Wyoming. As soon as the sun came back, many people started packing up and leaving. I stayed and took some photos after totality and then decided to go inside the Wind River Casino to use the bathroom and take a look around. Since I live in Vegas I was not temped to gamble any of my hard earned money while in the casino! After 15 minutes I headed back to my van to decide what to see next. I really should of joined the folks that left immediately after totality because I would get caught in horrible traffic shortly.
I saw on my atlas that just outside Lander was Sacajawea's grave. I had watched Ken Burn's 'Lewis & Clark's Expedition on PBS and knew Sacajawea was a vital member of the Corps of Discovery. Since her grave was not far off my route, I decided to take the time and visit her grave. The traffic was pretty heavy heading to Lander but never came to a complete stop. I turned right onto 287 and headed for Fort Washakie. There is a marker telling you when to turn and I followed several RVs that were also turning. We all stopped at a graveyard within a mile after turning, guessing her grave would be close to Chief Washakie's memorial. Wrong. I asked them if their smart phone would guide them to her grave but never got a good answer. I decided to go back a half mile and ask at the Wind River Center. They had a map printed up and gave me directions. The Native Americans have decided not to have clear direction signs on the highway. Not sure why but it does make it a bit more difficult to find. I drove to the Sacajawea Cemetery and grabbed my camera. There were dozens of people wandering around the grave site and I joined them. After a few photos, I headed back to Lander.
Plan A was to drive towards Dinosaur National Monument and find a room in Vernal. What I did not count on was a massive traffic jam in Lander. I stopped for some gas and tried to get out of Lander. Unfortunately, there is only one road that will get you out of town and thousands of eclipse watchers were all heading South on 287. I spent 3 hours going 2 miles trying to catch 28 to Rock Springs. By the time I got to Rock Springs it was 8 pm. I stopped at Wendy's for dinner and got on my laptop to see what motels were available. Most were either full or were still overcharging because of the eclipse. My GPS told me that a Wal-Mart was not far and I headed there. Inside to clean-up, toilet and then parked alongside over a dozen RVs, vans, big rigs. Plenty of others were going to sleep in Wal-Mart's parking lot as well. I made up my bed and by 10 pm I called it a night. I was up with the sun and started driving for Vernal. I stopped at the Flaming Gorge Dam and took a few photos. A FLDS couple was there as well. Not an uncommon sight in UT. As I was leaving the dam, a herd of deer crossed the road. If I had been 30 seconds faster or slower leaving the dam I would not have seen them. I took a quick photo through the windshield and continued on to Vernal UT.
I got to Vernal around 9 am and stopped at a public park. Bathroom break and then a few photos of some cement Dinosaurs that they have erected in the park. Vernal's claim to fame is being the gateway to Dinosaur National Monument. You go with what you have and Vernal plays up its dinosaur relationship.
There is a nice Visitor's Center when you turn off highway 40 to enter the NM. A quick stop to chat, fill up my water bottles and get a map of the Monument. I got out my Senior Pass and entered Dinosaur NM. I got my day bag, hat, camera and walked to the VC. I got my stamp for my NP passport and waited for the shuttle van. They run every 10 minutes or so from the VC to the building housing all the bones. I walked into the building and started taking photos. I chatted with the Ranger and got some good information on the history of building, the bones displayed. After 30 minutes I took the shuttle back to the VC and decided to drive over to see some of the petroglyphs and go down to the Green River. After seeing both I decided to start the long drive back to Vegas.
I could either drive to Nephi and catch I-15 South or head for Richfield and take I-70 West until it joins I-15. The lady at VC googled both routes and suggested going home via Richfield. It is a more scenic drive and I have never been thru that part of Utah. Back to Vernal, 40 to Duchesne, then head Sout on 191 to Price. It rained off and on as I got closer to Price. I had one of my apples and a few granola bars on the way to Price. I stopped for $20 worth of gas and just to walk around a bit to loosen up. On to I-70 West to Richfield. I stopped at Wendy's for lunch, then on to Cedar City. I loaded up on fuel and 3 hours later I was back in Vegas. My eclipse adventire was over.