For my birthday last weekend, my sweetie whisked me off to Thermopolis, Wyoming for a little adventure.
As you can see from the hillside sign, Thermopolis bills itself as the world’s largest hot mineral springs, and while it’s smaller in acreage than the Mammoth terraces in Yellowstone, apparently about a million-and-a-half gallons of hot water gush out of the springs every day. The springs themselves, as well as two hotels, two commercial pools with slides and saunas and other entertainments, and a State Bath House with both an outdoor and indoor pool, are all part of a really lovely state park. There are numerous picnic areas, and a bandshell, and they’d put up just the right amount of holiday lights — enough to be pretty, but not so many that they overwhelmed the place. The whole vibe was just good in the way that well-run public amenities often are. Everything was beautifully kept up, and even in December there were people using the whole place — not just the pools, but we saw a cute family having their Christmas pictures taken, and various dog walkers, and even some fishermen (who were taking themselves far too seriously). Oh, and there’s a lovely retirement home there as well, which seems sort of ideal.
We stayed at the Best Western, which is a converted Sanitarium built around a central courtyard where the pool and mineral hot tub are located. It’s a fairly recent conversion and they did a great job. We had a corner room which was enormous, with nice furniture and good views and it was down a little corridor from the outdoor balcony/hallways surrounding the pool area, so it was nice and quiet. The hot pool was wonderful, and when we asked they turned it up a little bit (by increasing the amount of springs water coming into the pool). We were joined by two other couples from Sheridan, and then a dad with his little girl, and the conversations were wide-ranging, lively, and best of all, friendly. When two die-hard lefties like us can spend a fun evening trading stories about wolf management and wolves-we-have-seen, and discover connections (on my part) among the horse people, and just generally shoot the shit, well, it gives you hope that despite all the yelling on television, actual Americans can still manage to have conversations with one another.
It’s a fair drive from Livingston, so we got there with about an hour of daylight left with which to explore the park. The first “sight” was this big ball-o-mineralization. There’s a tiny burbling fountain on the top and when you get closer, you discover from the useful sign, that under all that mineral accumulation is a stone teepee!
We went for a nice walk around the park, which was refreshingly devoid of fences and warning signs. They seemed to somehow feel that people were probably going to be bright enough not to burn or drown themselves. We walked up the hill to the source spring, and along the mineral terraces, and out across the swinging bridge (which I didn’t get a photo of, it spans the Big Horn River, which runs alongside the park).
While we were on the bluff overlooking the river and the terraces, a huge flock, thousands of little black birds, starlings perhaps, came swooping up the canyon below us, nearly engulfing us, while below ducks and geese fished the river in those places where the hot springs met the colder river water.
As we turned to head back to the hotel, and begin our quest for dinner (more on that tomorrow) the sun was setting through the steam. We lucked out on weather — two blue sky days in December, and even with the buildings on site, you really got a sense of what the springs must have looked like to the Indians who used them for centuries, and for the first white settlers who stumbled upon them.
Tomorrow: The Food Desert that is Thermopolis