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Preparing for a Total Solar Eclipse in Northern Maine

Preparing for a Total Solar Eclipse in Northern Maine

For generations, visitors to Maine have flocked east to the rocky coastline, with its lobster boats and crashing waves, or west to ski resorts, peaceful lakes and mountains. Few ever set foot in Aroostook County, a remote northern expanse where residents are prone to suspect — not without reason — that no one south of Bangor even knows that they exist.

So the news that “the County,” as it is known in Maine, would be smack in the path of totality for next month’s solar eclipse — making it a destination for potentially thousands of visitors — has generated mixed emotions in this proudly unpretentious place. Accustomed to ceding the spotlight to showy spots like Bar Harbor, some in the county are not sure how they feel about its fleeting status as the place to be.

“It’s a little new for us here, so it is stressful,” said Lindsay Anderson, manager of Brookside Bakery in Houlton, a town of 6,000 that borders Canada, where the plan for eclipse weekend includes baking 500 whoopie pies, Maine’s official “state treat.”

Next door at Market Square Antiques and Pawn, a compact shop watched over by several mounted deer heads, Tom Willard, a co-owner, had worries of his own.

“Where are 20,000 people going to pee?” he asked.

No one knows how many people will travel to Aroostook County for the eclipse on April 8, making planning a bit of a roulette spin. Estimates range from 10,000 to 40,000, though the turnout may be curtailed by sheer distance. Extending north beyond the end of Interstate 95 to the Canadian border — where the little-known, combat-free Aroostook War raged from 1838 to 1839 — the county is about as large as Rhode Island and Connecticut combined. Caribou, near its northern apex, lies 400 miles north of Boston, a drive of more than six hours.

For eclipse fanatics, though, it might not matter. Dan McGlaun, 60, who has seen 15 eclipses and runs a website dedicated to the one next month, said he had once traveled to French Polynesia and hiked “eight miles through banana plants into the middle of nowhere” in order to be — for 1.5 seconds — the only person on earth in the path of the eclipse, by his own estimation.

“Eclipse geeks, we’re a weird lot,” he conceded.

Northern Maine is not the only remote corner of the country expecting an influx. The path of totality also crosses places including the Ozarks, the Choctaw Nation in Oklahoma, and sections of South Texas, all of them hoping to capitalize on the fleeting…

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