We decided to make the trip up to Wyoming for the recent total eclipse, along with a fair chunk of the state of Colorado. It’s possible that Wyoming’s population doubled for the weekend.
Nhu, Felix and I, along with my brother Taylor, all made the trip up. We went up late morning on Friday the 18th, so traffic heading up was not bad. We stayed in Gillette, which was north of the path of totality, so we had a reasonable room rate. For the long stretch of road between Douglas and Gillette, there was virtually nothing. I decided to stay up there so we could spend a day at Devils Tower, which we did the following day, but not after traveling out to see Mount Rushmore. We also attempted to visit Jewel Cave, but by the time we arrived at 11:00, all of the tours for the day had sold out. After we visited Mount Rushmore, we went to Rapid City for dinner, and headed to Devils Tower to catch sunset.
I decided that I wanted to drive back to Devils Tower the next morning to catch sunrise, which meant waking up at 4:15 in the morning. Taylor and I both went, while Nhu and Felix slept in at the hotel. On the drive there, I nearly hit two deer, and had to swerve to miss them. This despite my taking extra care because I knew there would be deer out at dawn. Sunrise at Devils Tower turned out to be a bust, due to excessive clouds at the horizon. So, Taylor and I decided to hike the three-mile trail around the tower, where I missed stepping on a baby rattlesnake by roughly an inch. It made no noise and I had not seen it; Taylor noticed it move only after I had walked by. The near miss was quite unnerving!
After finishing the trail, we went back to the hotel room and relaxed for the rest of the day, having found nothing better to do in the area. We did have a fantastic dinner at a local restaurant though; after some nice fried green tomatoes, Taylor and I both had very tasty buffalo ribeyes, while Nhu had some very smoky ribs. Felix had some of everything, and he loved the place too.
The next day was the day of the eclipse. We all woke up early, had breakfast and drove back down to Douglas at 5:30 AM. After a quick stop at Safeway, we found a nice relatively secluded spot to view the eclipse on a dirt county road called Bedtick Road. After we selected our spot and had been there a while, a lady and her children drove up on a big wheel golf cart to greet us and some others up the hill. Not long after they left, the partial eclipse began, and we started watching through our (real, not fake, purchased from Amazon) ISO-certified glasses. The sky began to get darker, but it felt more like looking through a polarizer than actual darkness.
Then totality hit. The experience was surreal; it looked like a 360-degree sunset, though the sky was black rather than dark blue. We had to take the glasses off to see the sun’s corona during totality; nothing was visible through the glasses at that point. Taylor also noticed that it had gotten noticeably colder, and the cows were mooing up a storm. I captured as much of the experience as I could, but sadly it all lasted for just over two minutes.
Once totality was over, we jumped into the car, got onto I-25, and headed home. Unfortunately, there were 500,000 others doing the same thing. Traffic was snarled for many, many miles, and it ended up taking us over 7 hours to get home. It had taken us under three hours to drive the 215 miles up. If I had it to do again, I would definitely have taken one of the one-hour-plus detours to come home! But taken as a whole, I would unreservedly say that the experience was worth the trouble, and I’m looking forward to seeing the next North American total eclipse in 2024!