Anatomy of an Eclipse Trip – DAY FOUR – August 16, 2017
Peter K. Detterline
From town, Guernsey State Park is just across the North Platte River and about 3 miles to the northwest. The Park has some beautiful trails, and the finest examples of the Civil Conservation Corps (CCC) work in the Rocky Mountains. The vistas over the lake are incredible, and best seen from the Castle, which is a gorgeous stone structure thanks to the CCC. It is perfect for parties and picnics with its huge fireplace, winding stone staircases, and open air design. The ground around it is scrub with cactus and pines. The Museum is also a showcase made with hand hewn timbers and forged iron. A smooth flagstone covers the floor and cedar shingles the roof. The museum hosts some beautiful displays of life in early Wyoming. There is one shower in the Park (bring lots of quarters). Guernsey State Park contains 12 campgrounds, (5 around a lake) with a total of some 245 sites.
Todd Stevenson, the Park Supervisor, expects at least 5,000 people to view the Sun on eclipse day, but they are aware that the number could swell to 30,000. This will certainly set a record for the Park, and they too need to prepare. They are already setting up an additional 150 campsites to bring the total number closer to 400. Take a look at this empty field with lines and numbers set up for sites and rows of porta pottys dotting the landscape. Now imagine it packed with people, and vehicles and telescopes on Monday.
Visitors on eclipse day will enter through both lanes on the road to the Park, so no one can exit except through the lesser used North Entrance. The National Guard will be brought in to help keep things organized and orderly, but the main concern in the park is fire. They are still recovering from a blaze that occurred in 2012, and consumed some 2,681 acres of land.
The town and the Park have agreed to set up a no fire policy during the week before and after the eclipse. This is quite common in the west, and along with traffic, their greatest concern.
Events scheduled for the eclipse at Guernsey include an astronomical talk about researching the eclipse given by the University of Hawaii, and a general talk about eclipses and a star party given by Gary A. Becker and Peter Detterline. We will be giving eclipse talks during the day, and talks on the sky and constellation identification at night, starting tomorrow. Compensation for this is the use of two yurts (think of it as a really luxurious tent). Each yurt sleeps six and is complete with a deck and two grills (but remember no fires). Our group currently totals 29 people, so most will be camping around the yurts. The remaining 2 yurts are used by the University of Hawaii.
Yesterday afternoon we loaded and secured our gear into Yurt 4 as a tremendous storm approached our position. The picture of the storm would’ve been perfect with a few lightning strikes below, but apparently that wasn’t Mother Nature’s plan even though we heard the roar of thunder echo constantly across the valley. Today when we arrived it was a completely different story. The sky was beautifully clear and as Gary and I set up our telescopes we practiced on the Sun. We’re ready. Is Mother Nature?
Accuweather still has us in the fair zone, but basically skirting the border with good. The only places that won’t see the eclipse appear to be the coast of Oregon and South Carolina, although there could be some cloudy skies in between but that’s hit and miss. Adam Jones’ forecast still calls for 80%, but he’s certain that tomorrow’s weather should be very similar to Monday’s for the eclipse. It’s great to have him on our team!
For tonight the sky is clear enough to polar align the telescopes and do some imaging. So we’re switching into night mode, and will go to bed in the morning twilight.