My Eclipse: Part 1
(Sheridan, Wyo) I’ve struggled with writer’s block today. This is not a small issue in journalism, nor a common one. Here in Sheridan, there is always something happening. It’s simple really. News happens and I report on it.
You should know that something is different because I am using the first-person voice for the first time since I introduced myself as the new Dally reporter. This is because I can’t report on the eclipse like I would a routine news story.
My wife, children, father, and I travelled south to Castle Gardens petroglyph site in order to experience the total solar eclipse on August 21st, 2017. Experience is the verb because, as many veteran eclipse-chasers remark, a total solar eclipse cannot be described for those who were not there. This is a problem for a journalist; the lack of a suitable description.
I expected to wake up this morning and piece together all of my video, photos, and notes into a master story about the Great American Eclipse 2017 from a Wyoming perspective. But going through all these materials, I found something lacking. I couldn’t find the “in”, the aspect that I could use as a foundation to build imagery that would resonate with my audience.
An experience is just that. Reading about something is the experience of reading, not the experience that it describes. Excellent writers can evoke a feeling of what it might be like to experience the events that they write about but, when it comes to the eclipse, I guess I’m just not that excellent.
I decided that I couldn’t reduce the experience to a news story. Don’t worry, I’ll share my goodies, but I want to write about what it felt like to witness the total solar eclipse. So here goes…
We thought that we would be clever and take a less-traveled road to the path of totality. Instead of going directly south to Casper, we headed to Buffalo, then over the mountain to Tensleep. From there, a partially paved county road (that was new to all of us) paralleled the west side of the Big Horn Mountains all the way to Highway 26 between Casper and Shoshoni. If you are interested, it is County Road 434 and it has such unique features as “Poison Gas, Turn Back When Flashing” signs and the No-Wood International Airport:
It was an enjoyable view of Wyoming that few of us from Sheridan have seen even though it is so nearby. The arid Big Horn Basin and ancient plateaus abutting the mountains foster deep arroyos reminiscent of the badlands. Historic homesteads still create irrigational oases along the route.
When we reached the turnoff for the Castle Gardens, it was quickly obvious that we weren’t the only travelers who had chosen this destination. It wasn’t crowded necessarily, but clumps of people were spread out all along the road, all of which was within the path of totality.