Photos: An unexpectedly quiet eclipse viewing

In Lander, Wyoming, the promised eclipse hordes never materialized.

  • Joe and Meredith Rohrer camped in the Lander City Park over the weekend. They set up in the middle of the baseball field a couple hours before totality, before any other viewers has arrived. The couple traveled from Steamboat Springs, Colorado, for the event.

    Brooke Warren/NewTowncarShare News
  • Eclipse viewers look at the sun through darkened glasses from the deck of the Gannett Grill. The restaurant opened around noon after the totality at 11:39 a.m.

    Brooke Warren/NewTowncarShare News
  • Cady Shoutis, a Lander local, looks at the “bite” out of the sun in Jaycee Park. Her husband, Art, lower right, expected it to be busier.

    Brooke Warren/NewTowncarShare News
  • Kelsey Gosselin of Pennsylvania, center, and Liz Elmstrom of Rhode Island stopped to watch the eclipse while on a cross-country road trip to Seattle, Washington. In the background are Dario Silva and Denise Leonardi, who came from Albuquerque, New Mexico for the natural phenomenon.

    Brooke Warren/NewTowncarShare News
  • Art and Cady Shoutis show Asa Kozlowski, 6, and Emmitt Ross, 5, the reflection of the sun through their homemade pinhole projectors.

    Brooke Warren/NewTowncarShare News
  • O'Reilly Auto Parts employees enjoy the view of the waxing crescent after totality before returning to work.

    Brooke Warren/NewTowncarShare News
  • Beau Wending, left, and Doug Thompson tailgate during the eclipse on First Street in Lander. Thompson said he thought most people went out of town to open land to see the eclipse.

    Brooke Warren/NewTowncarShare News
  • People watch the sun pass into totality as a midday sunset surrounds them.

    Brooke Warren/NewTowncarShare News
  • The moon fully eclipsed the sun for about a minute in Lander, Wyoming.

    Brooke Warren/NewTowncarShare News
  • Cars back up along Highway 287 as people return home after the eclipse on Monday night. Cars were backed up almost 30 miles on the route into Rawlins, Wyoming.

    Brooke Warren/NewTowncarShare News
  • John Holliday of Rifle, Colorado, snacks with hitchhikers Freja Berg and Baylee West while waiting for the traffic jam on Highway 287 to let up.

    Brooke Warren/NewTowncarShare News
  • A digital traffic sign in Rawlins, Wyoming, invites eclipse travelers to stretch their legs. Although Rawlins wasn't in the path of totality, many people traveling from Colorado passed through the town to get to their viewing spot.

    Brooke Warren/NewTowncarShare News

 

The total solar eclipse on August 21 passed over Lander, Wyoming, where NewTowncarShare News was founded. So I made the journey north from Paonia, Colorado, to photograph the much-anticipated event. 

Throngs of people were expected to flood towns along the path of totality, so many that some places were expecting to run out of gas or food items at grocery stores. With a 6-gallon jug of gas stashed in my trunk, extra water and a cooler full of food, I began the drive north on Friday night and met only empty, winding roads. I even found a camp site that was devoid of other people, although wild horses plodded around the BLM land while I slept. 

On the morning of the eclipse, I biked around town, looking for the crowds, and instead found small groups of people gathered in front of homes, at picnic tables in the park, and along sidewalks.

The lack of overwhelming crowds surprised some locals. Tracey Dobbins, the community coordinator for Wind River Visitors Council, said the town had less business than expected, but the eclipse traffic was still more than normal. Businesses took advantage of the uptick in visitors, boasting sales and selling eclipse-specific souvenirs. A waiter at the Lander Bar said the night before the eclipse was one of the craziest nights they’d had. 

During the celestial phenomenon, people spread out. Fremont County is the second largest county in Wyoming and contains more than 2 million acres of public land as well as the Wind River Indian Reservation where people were able to disperse. “They’re in their own place, in their own time,” Rodney Orwig, the supervisor at the Inn at Lander, said.

When the moon passed over the sun, the change in the atmosphere was palpable. Hoots and hollers rose into the chilled air, and a sunset surrounded us. But after a minute, it was bright again.

On the way back home, the true influx of people became obvious. The amount of cars traveling south increased by about 300 percent, according to Wyoming Department of transportation. Traffic slowed on the packed highways, as people returned to the normal rhythms of life.

Brooke Warren is HCN’s associate photo editor.

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