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September 11, 2017 / Jim Fenton

Colorado Road Trip Day 4: Eclipse

Monday, August 21, 2017
Trip Odometer: 1015

TotalEclipseToday is a relatively rare event: a total eclipse of the sun, stretching from coast to coast. The timing of Celeste’s move-in at University of Colorado made it possible for us to take a detour to central Wyoming to try to catch this.

Except that we didn’t stay in the path of totality, we prepared for the worst in crowds. We stopped at a grocery store last night to pick up sandwiches for a picnic lunch, expecting that the lunch offerings in the area of totality would be limited. We got up extra early, and departed a little after 7 am for the 2 1/2 hour drive (under normal conditions) to Pavillion, Wyoming, right on the centerline of totality.

There was more traffic than usual, but we were surprised and happy that there were no traffic delays on the way. We drove just past Pavillion to the centerline, which turned out to be about where the paved roads end. There had been warnings not to park on the grassland due to high fire danger (mufflers, etc. igniting the grass) so we found an elevated spot on the edge of one of the quieter dirt roads. We got there about 10:10 am, and totality was at about 11:40 am.


The time went by quickly as I set up my camera and Kenna and Celeste played Frisbee (very appropriately, with a Frisbee painted as the moon). As totality approached, we spent more and more time watching the Sun through our eclipse glasses. The Sun got dimmer and the air got noticeably cooler.


Then all of it sudden, it was twilight. We heard cheers from the other eclipse-watchers scattered nearby. I took a bunch of pictures, focusing on the spectacle of the Sun’s corona. Kenna and Celeste noticed that it looked like the sun had just set — everywhere! In all directions, there was light around the horizon. We took some panoramas of the horizon as well. Suddenly, it was over. The Sun got quickly brighter, and we re-donned our eclipse glasses. After a few minutes talking about what we had just seen, we enjoyed our picnic lunch.

A woman who lives nearby rode up with two small children on an all-terrain vehicle, and thanked us for coming all the way from California, and she hoped we were having a good time in her area. We asked her what we should see while we were there, and she suggested we see Sacajawea’s grave, which was just a few miles out of our way.

SacajaweaWe passed through the small community of Pavillion (population 232) on our way out. We drove past a park where there apparently had been an eclipse-watching party as well as by a small tavern. It was quite nice, especially considering that it is such an out-of-the-way place.

Our next stop was at Sacajawea’s grave, just outside the town of Fort Washakie. Sacajawea, the native guide for the Lewis and Clark Expedition, was nicely memorialized by a statue and plaques describing her important contribution to the Expedition. The graveyard was interesting too, with many colorful and well-decorated graves, primarily, I assume, of members of the Shoshone tribe of the Wind River Reservation.

LanderBakeShopWe started our return trip, and made good progress until we reached Lander, the county seat (and large town, with a population of about 5000). Traffic came to a dead stop, so we decided to wait it out at the Lander Bake Shop, a cafe we saw. While enjoying our drinks, we noticed that traffic was moving very little. Fortunately the shop had WiFi so we were able to look at traffic on Google Maps, and decided to stay a while. We walked around the town, visited a couple of art galleries (not what we expected in central Wyoming!) and returned for more coffee and an excellent ice cream sandwich, this afternoon’s ice cream treat.

At 5:00 the bakery closed, and we decided to press onward. We were optimistic because Google said that it would take a little under two hours to get to Rawlins, our stop for the night. But what we hadn’t considered was that much of the route has minimal to no cell service, so Google didn’t really know about the traffic along much of the route. While there were sections that got up to 70 mph, there were also long stretches that crept along at 15 mph or less. We arrived about 9:00, had a late dinner at the Burger King next to the hotel, and turned in for the night.

Overall, we had a great day in central Wyoming and were glad that we were able to be there for the total eclipse.

This article is part of a series about our recent road trip to Colorado and back. To see the introductory article in the series, click here.

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