You might have heard there was a total solar eclipse the other day.
We here in Wyoming were fortunate to have a huge portion of our state smack dab in the middle of this event, and believe me, it did not disappoint. If I had my way, we would do this every day in the summer. Sort of like our Cody Nite Rodeo which operates from June 1 through August 31.
Here in Cody we “only” had 98 percent obscuration, and the show was incredible. As much as I enjoyed watching the moon pass in front of the sun – using my approved glasses which I picked up at our visitor center – what really got to me was the number of people who just stopped what they were doing to walk outside and enjoy this experience. Locals and tourists chatting each other up is nothing out of the ordinary, but there were so many of us that I will be shocked if I ever see many people in our town shaking hands and putting aside their cares at the same time.
My friends inside Yellowstone National Park tell me they saw similar scenes with bumper-to-bumper, stop-and-go traffic in the Old Faithful area. The state as a whole is calling it the largest tourism event ever in Wyoming. According to estimates, more than 500,000 people traveled here to witness the eclipse. We basically doubled our population for the day.
What this experience tells me is that while we have our wide-open spaces, there are times when we need to pack our patience and not worry so much about making great time getting to our next destination. Even though I have seen elk, bears, pronghorn and more on a regular basis my whole life, I get it when that car from Ohio (or Illinois or California) stops because someone spotted a moose. Sure, I might be on my way to an important meeting, but when kids are literally jumping up and down in the car with excitement I still get a little excited as well.
Let me offer a few tips when traveling in Buffalo Bill’s Cody/Yellowstone Country.
Budget extra time, especially if you are driving in the middle of the day. Your smart phone might say it takes 56 minutes to travel from one point to the next, but it does not take into account what happens when a grizzly bear and her two cubs are crossing a river to the delight of the drivers in front of you.
Be extra vigilant at dawn and dusk. Wildlife is very active at these times of day, and they deserve to be safe as well.
If you’re heading into the park, try to work around peak periods. In other words, take a backcountry hike in the middle of the day and watch Old Faithful erupt after dinner. Spend a night at one of the park lodges and head to Cody in the morning while others are entering the park.
Remember that while we have high speed limits in the West, the distances are deceptive. Massachusetts and Wyoming might each fill a page in your atlas, but they are not even close to the same size.
Enjoy the journey. Sure, our destinations are terrific, but getting here is just as much fun.
Until next week, I am lovin’ life – and trying to figure out how to manufacture another eclipse – here in Cody, Wyo.