We did not know how crowded and crazy it would be along the path of the total eclipse in Wyoming. We wanted to be in place several days beforehand, but we kept getting kicked out of areas that we thought were on public land.
Our First Night in Wyoming
Our first stop in Wyoming was to an area where we frequently camped when we lived in Casper. We drove to the Curtis Gulch campground on La Bonte Creek near Douglas, WY. There are only a few campsites there and they were full, as we suspected they would be. We were also surprised to see campers in every available nook and cranny up and down the creek. People had already staked out their territory four days ahead of the eclipse. We knew that we didn’t want to watch the eclipse from here because the canyon is narrow and wouldn’t give us the broad viewing field that we were hoping for. We spent one night here in an impromptu site.
The next morning we rode our bikes up the trail that goes back into the big game area. We had hiked and four wheeled this trail many times. We had also done quite a bit of hunting and fishing back here. This was the first time that we saw other people on the trail in all the times we had been back here. This is a recurring theme in our travels–everywhere is much more crowded than it used to be. The area is still as beautiful as we remembered, though.
The old game trail that we used to take has become overgrown. We were pleased to see lots of elk droppings. There is still great hunting back here if you are prepared to bushwack.
We Try to Find Public Land for Camping
We were now three days before eclipse date. We left La Bonte Creek in the early afternoon to find a campsite on public land just south of Casper. We were using Google Maps to find Forest Service and BLM land (in green on the maps.) We drove up Box Elder Canyon until the map showed we were on government land. By the time we found a good viewing area, there were already about five parties who had set up camp. We made friends with our neighbors (more about these great people later.)
Going Down Memory Lane in Casper
We left the next day to drive into Casper to get supplies and to see how much the town had changed since the 80s. We revisited the Marathon Building where we first met when we were working as oil company geologists. The original name for Marathon Oil was the Ohio Oil Company, which was incised in granite above the front door.
After we got groceries, beer, and ice we drove southwest out-of-town to Alcova Reservoir. We used to take B’s motorcycle out to the Reservoir for after work swims. Our favorite swimming place was right above the dam.
We drove around the lake admiring the red rock landscapes that we miss so much since we’ve moved from the West.
Our last stop was Fremont Canyon on the other end of the Reservoir where we used to go rock climbing. There were about 10 parties climbing, and women seem to be well represented in the groups–such a change from when we were climbers.
As we were cooking supper that night, a young fella from Fish and Game came by to tell us that we were on private land and that we had to leave. At least he was nice enough to let us stay that night if we promised to leave first thing in the morning. Apparently the landowner didn’t feel hospitable even though the eclipse was a once in a lifetime event for most of the people there. We wondered if we were really on private land. There weren’t any no trespassing signs and our map showed we were on Forest Service Land. We and our new friends were very annoyed because now we only had one more night before eclipse eve.
We and our new friends drove down the road until we felt sure that we were on Forest Service land It was starting to get a bit crowded back there as people who were just arriving were setting up camp, and all the people who got kicked our of our area were picking out campsites as will. B and I decided to not even set up camp just in case we got kicked out again. We spent the morning riding bikes and locating the best place to view the eclipse. We found the perfect place on a nearby granite knob.
That afternoon another Game and Fish guy came by to have us move on. This new ranger was fully armed and not as nice as the first guy. He said that we were still on private land. He showed us a detailed Forest Service map that showed that we were, in fact, on private land. He said that most online maps were wrong. I told him that I thought it was sad that these ranchers could not make an exception for an event such as this. He said that some landowners were but this particular one was not. What could we say?
The Final Staging Area
The eclipse was the next day, and we and our friends were getting nervous about finding a good area for viewing. They drove ahead in their RV and found a good site in the Hanna Basin on a ridge overlooking the plains. We were sure that we were finally on BLM land, but they wouldn’t have been able to get us out there with dynamite at this point.
Next up–the eclipse with friends!