Monday, May 15, 2017

Scouting report: Finding the best Wyoming spot to watch the eclipse

View from The Castle, looking west toward Laramie Peak.
The family and I drove to Guernsey State Park for Mother's Day. This is only my second visit to the park in the 26 years that I've lived in Wyoming. The first visit was in May 2008 when I joined my colleagues at Wyoming State Parks and Cultural Resources to celebrate the 75th anniversary of FDR's New Deal, which included the Civilian Conservation Corps and WPA projects for writers, artists and actors. Writers earned a buck from Uncle Sam by writing field guides of the states and conducting oral histories of residents, as Zora Neale Hurston did with ex-slaves in Florida. Nelson Algren and Richard Wright researched and wrote in Illinois. Noted author Vardis Fisher wrote the Idaho guide, still regarded as one of the best of its kind.

CCC workers built many magnificent structures in this park. Guernsey is home to The Castle, a rock-and-timber shelter that overlooks the park. A few paces down the walking path is a restroom dubbed the Million Dollar Biffy. The interpretive sign says that workers gave it that name not because it took a million dollars to build, which is a lot of Depression-era money, but that it took so darn long to build. Unemployed young men from Iowa and Tennessee hewed the timbers and cut the rock and forged the iron. It should last a thousand years, causing archaeologists of 5017 to remark, "These ancient humans certainly built quality restrooms." In 5017, the biffy and The Castle may overlook a teeming inland sea. The waves will be bitchin'.

We visited the park to see if it would serve as an outpost to watch the total solar eclipse set for high noon on August 21. We are a bit late getting started. Some have been planning eclipse activities for years. Hotels in Casper, eclipse epicenter, have been booked up for months. Campgrounds, too along the event's path in WYO, which runs from touristy Jackson in the west to sleepy Torrington in the east, with stops in Riverton, Hell's Half Acre, AstroCon 2017 in downtown Casper, the burg of Glenrock, and Douglas, home of the state fair,  Chris and I  are trying to find an eclipse-watching spot somewhere in there. We bought a Guernsey day pass for Aug. 21. We also got on the campsite waiting list. We thought that might be fun during this grand ol' party celebrating the majestic universe which can't be any older than 6,600 years, give or take.

Chris and I won't be around the next time, when Colorado gets the nod in 2045. By then, we will have experienced a total eclipse of the heart. We hope that the words of the Federal Writers Project will survive, although in what form it's hard to say. Thee printed word has gone through amazing changes since Gutenberg. Since the 1930s, books have gone from typed-and-printed form to e-books. It happened a lot quicker than that -- from the 1980s to now.

One hopes that books survive as long as the biffy.


Annie Shay said...

I love the article! I'm so happy you're getting to see the eclipse this year. Your writing is so resourceful and descriptive. I love reading every bit of it.

Lynn said...

When I lived in Lusk, I served on the State Parks and Cultural Resources commission and got a special tour of Guernsey State Park, during which I learned a lot about the CCC work. Fascinating and inspiring!

Thanks for the info--hope you have a perfect view of the eclipse from your selected spot. We might be missing some of it, staying in Cheyenne to attend that evening's performance by Joe Bonamassa. All about priorities, I guess :-)