Wednesday, August 30, 2017

The Great American Eclipse of 2017 - the camp

We went up two weeks before the eclipse to find a place with good camping. We found a spot that had TREES on a round formation called Pine Mountain, about 25 miles West of Casper. Sadly we didn't find a camp with trees that a low-clearance van could follow so we picked another spot. Here's one of the maps we made for people. Green X marked our proposed campsite.

How cool is this mountain?
the orange areas are Bureau of Lan Management (BLM), public lands. barring a special circumstance, they are free to camp on. the blue line is the exact center of the eclipse totality

Unfortunately for us, a local rancher decided they didn't like the idea of potentially having a lot of people camped nearby so they put up no trespassing signs - illegally as far as we could tell - with a claim about deeded land. So this is what we found when we arrived at 9:30pm on Friday night:

What to do? We had 32 more people coming up (B&T) had already found this sign and had camped elsewhere). Tired after a long day, we found we had cell reception and called the sherif's department (Natrona County). We explained the situation and asked if they had any way to corroborate or disprove the no trespassing sign's claims - they did not have that info so they gave us the BLM's after-hours number. We called them but the employee manning the desk also didn't have that information. We left our number and the coordinates and asked for a call back. It was late and we had to start work on Plan B, finding a new site.

Not that there was any doubt that we weren't going to camp there. A rancher that would do this would also be likely to be armed and belligerent. We just wanted to register our grievance with the BLM and see the jerk weasel who did it put on the radar of the authorities (*cough* Strohecker owned ranch nearby *cough*).

We drove up to another possible site and it was taken. We drove back the other way to another spot we knew and that was taken too. It felt like everywhere we went there were people. We were just exhausted since we have little kids and we're usually in bed by 9. We finally found a spot to camp and crawled into our bags at midnight. We slept like the dead.
asleep by midnight - a low point on the trip

The next morning, a quick jaunt in the car revealed that we had, essentially, found ALL the other campers in the area the night before. There were, intact, many more sites and since the weather was expected to be good, we could even camp right on top of hills...which we did. Party saved! Later we found out that T & B found a great camping spot with trees that we could have gone to if we had only known. Oh well, at least we wouldn't have to move to view the eclipse here. Besides, there's a beauty to being out in the wide open...that's our story and we're sticking to it.

easy change to the directions
took a spot up top (500 feet from the exact center of totality)

We had cellphone coverage for voice but no network for texts or email or internet. We called everyone and told them he new directions.
home sweet home for the next three days
camp sign on the road
up went more  tents as new people arrived
fantastic 360˚ viewing areas
Camp life ensued...

I found bones!

why there were so many bones up there

Seiji got hold of the camera and took it for a spin

the NonaDome was the main hangout

windstorm the evening before took out some sunshades and a few tents

more coming...

Monday, August 14, 2017

The Great American Eclipse of 2017 - preparing for Wyoming

There's more information on this event than I ever would have guessed. I particularly like this website: 

I've added hindsight comments in ITALICS.

Our car-camp gear list is at the bottom of this post. Temperatures were expected to be mid-80s during most days and in the low 50s at night - lovely camping conditions overall (but windy). The temperatures were right on but we had one really good blow where the windspeed in the middle of camp was over forty mph - woof!

A short list of cool things to look for/at during an eclipse:
- Racing shadow of the moon, Solar corona and prominences, mini-eclipses on the ground under trees (it's a very good overall article):

-See Mercury, Mars, Venus and Jupiter:

-Shadow bands:

-Freakish sharpness of scenery: no reference found, I remember that Ansel Adams remarked on it but forget where (probably one of his photography books)

-Animals' and birds' reactions:

Drivesheds, drive times, crowd sizes, oh my!
watershed - driveshed, get it?
love the way the the visitor density gets so low in Wyoming - that's where we're going
Wyo-ming, over 100,000 visitors expected near Glendo (shudder)

Add caption

The BLM map of Wyoming. Dispersered camping is allowed on almost all BLM land (just can't invade a leased farm or something like that). 

go to to make a detailed version for the spot you've picked out for yourself
Our strategy was to go to the boonies early and come back late.
Well, going really early turned out to be mostly unnecessary. There weren't that many people in the area we chose and traffic was light going to Wyoming all the way until Sunday morning. However, leaving the day after the eclipse was a major planning win. Almost everyone else tried to go back immediately after the eclipse. A 4-5 hour drive back to the Denver area became a 10-12 hour drive. Ouch!

Here's our gear list for the trip. it applies to any not-too-hot-not-too-cold camping trip:
I've included some food items that are often forgotten and end up being needed.

Sunshade and lots of stakes and guylines to hold it down (Wyoming is windy)
Wyoming IS windy - we had a number of tents and canopies get smashed by 40+mph winds one evening (just 15-20 minutes worth). 

sleeping pads
sleeping bags
pillows (if you want ‘em)
small tarp / rug for tent entranceway—this really helps keep down kid mess
repair kit if you have it (Tear-Aid!)

We also brought a Helinox Nonadome for sheltering the cooking area
Camp chairs (HELINOX, of course!)
Picnic blanket (for kids to eat on)

table (for food prep)
Pots, pans, cooking utensils
plates, bowls, eating utensils (pack a few extra ), wine glasses, mugs
Salt & Pepper
Hand sanitizer —lots of it!
Paper Towels
Garbage bags—we always leave camp cleaner than we found it
extra ziplock bags—you will thank me
Extra lighter
Soap & Sponge 

Bug spray
Sun hats
Sunshade if you have one
1st aid kit (bandaids, neosporin, tweezers, etc.)
Solar shower

Did I say water? 1 gallon per person a day
Water Bottles
Things to make water tasty (lemon, EmergenC, whatever)
Backpack for day hikes

Painkiller/fever reducer for kids
Toilet Paper
Latrine hole shovel/pick 
Because we had a large group (38 people), we dug large holes in an out-of-the-way part of the hill below camp. It was hidden from the main group area by sage and the hill's slope but it was exposed to all the higher areas (which were a ways off). Nevertheless, everything worked out fine. Holes were dug 12-14" deep by 8-10" diameter with a full-sized steel shovel. People covered their poop as the hole was used. We ended up leaving 20 holes - all tidy and not a trace of TP or anything else to be seen. True leave no trace camping.

Hair brush (if you need one)
Hair ties, extra hair ties

Whatever entertainment you need 

CLOTHES WE PACK FOR THE KIDS—works for adults too
Please adapt to your kids habits and needs
This is for staying 4 nights

3 warm PJs
2 long pants
3 shorts
3 long shirts
4 T-Shirts
2 warm socks
4 socks
sun hats
warm hat
2 fleece / sweater
wind/rain jacket (pants if you have ‘em)
warm jacket
sunglasses AND eclipse glasses
long underwear
5 underwear

Drawing / craft stuff

There's a state-wide fire ban so no wood fires are allowed. But conferring with the BLM Ranger revealed that our CanFire IS ALLOWED - YAY!

We had a spot scoped out that was big, smooth and tucked just a little behind some hills.
easy to see why we're bringing a big Nonadome for the cook area

Monday, August 7, 2017

How to use a Helinox chair according to N (5) and O (2)

There's nothing like a fresh set of eyes on a subject...

latest masterpiece
are you allowed in the tent with that, youngster?
seems straightforward enough - carry on

double duty: chair/table √
rayguns? laser spaceships! things little boys do

lounging like a pro

they did this rather a lot
it's all in the grip...