Monday, August 21, 2017

On the total eclipse and rural gentrification

Jackson Hole, Wyoming, August 21, 2017
I've spent the last week or so in the rural West, between Bozeman, Montana and Jackson, Wyoming.  I've become what they call a shadow chaser, I guess, having been drawn here for the total eclipse of the sun.  Right now, I'm in Moose, Wyoming, in the midst of Grand Teton National Park.  (Moose is populated primarily by families with "inholdings," wikipedia tells us).  Moose is about a dozen miles north of posh Jackson Hole, which I've long considered a prime example of rural gentrification.  (Some prior posts mentioning Jackson Hole are here and here).  I'm ready for today's total eclipse, ensconced in the Dornan's complex (where I'm staying in a cabin), which has security posted to keep out the hoi polloi--those who have not bought a "ticket" to be here, one such ticket being a $60 lunch.    Another "ticket" is being a passenger on one of the two busses who've apparently purchased the right to be here.  Dornan's has closed all of their businesses until after 1 pm, about the time of the fourth contact (a/k/a the end of the eclipse).

Dornan's complex, Moose, Wyoming, looking toward the Grand Teton Mountains
Anyway, the New York Times posted this story last night, showing a location very near where I am.  The headline is "Before a Solar Eclipse Crosses 14 States, a Great American Road Trip."  We pulled into Jackson from Yellowstone on Saturday afternoon, and the traffic wasn't too bad about 40 hours before the eclipse (though plenty of slow, thoughtless RV drivers failed to use the turnouts, which did slow us down).   However, as we plotted a trip into Jackson for dinner on Saturday night, the traffic entering town put us off, and we returned to the Dornan's complex for a mediocre pasta meal.

What has been remarkable to me is the air traffic coming into Jackson Hole.  Our cabin is in the flight path, and I cannot imagine that as many commercial, scheduled planes come into Jackson Hole as we are hearing and seeing--even in high season, which we are in--on a typical summer day.  Some folks I met here said their friends are coming in on a private jet from Seattle, and they had been told that there was no flexibility to change their flight window because the airport will be so busy today.  I just checked this morning's flight arrivals in Jackson Hole, and the last four planes to land have been private:
Flight log into Jackson Hole Airport, morning of August 21, 2017. 

In an earlier post about the eclipse, I wrote about the plight over very small towns--including Glendo, Wyoming, that were likely to be overwhelmed by eclipse visitors.  Glendo had set up a "Go Fund Me" account to help defray the costs of porta potties and post-eclipse clean-up.  One had the feeling that Glendo would just as soon not be in the path of totality.  Not so with Jackson Hole.  The town has street banners touting the eclipse, and lots of eclipse paraphernalia and T-shirts for sale, including one that says "The Hole Eclipse" (which I'm hoping gets marked down before I leave town!).   The Jackson Hole Police had a pop-up tent "booth" on the town square and several officers on horseback. Needless to say, a different group of folks are flying into Jackson than are driving into Glendo, and that's a reflection of the places' respective economic fates and geographic features.  In short, it's a reflection of rural gentrification vs. plain old rural (or even rural decline, rural population loss).

Horse-back riding police officer in Jackson Hole, August 20
Yesterday, we rode bikes to South Jenny Lake, inside Grand Teton National Park.  Along the way we saw lots of porta potties stationed along the road.  We also saw signs touting places for eclipse viewing in the park--apparently the efforts of the National Park Service to channel visitors (in one case, into a large open plain).  Many RVs were parked along the roads in the park, perhaps intending to be there for the duration.  Certainly, I wouldn't want to be moving anywhere in a vehicle at this point on August 21, 2017.

As a ruralist, I'm thinking it might have been more interesting--if more stressful--to have visited Glendo for the eclipse.  But I'll have a ready opportunity to visit a low-population and high-poverty rural locale for the 2024 eclipse.  My hometown, Jasper, Arkansas, will be barely in the zone of totality for that one, and I plan to witness it there.

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