Saturday, September 8, 2007

Wild Wonderful Wyoming

After we left Devil's Tower, we headed back toward Interstate 90 to drive west and then south to Thermopolis. But we'd no sooner left the area of the visitor's center when we encountered some of the area wildlife--a parade of wild turkeys crossing the road in front of us! By the time I got my camera out, they'd taken refuge in the trees by the side of the road. Undaunted, I jumped out to try to photograph them, and then Joey pointed out that there were also mule deer resting under the trees too! I think you can see both in the photo below:

The turkey is in the center, and a deer, with antlers silhouetted, is lying on the other side of the tree.

I turned from chasing turkeys, and this scene was behind me!

It turned out our drive was longer than we'd expected, and we encountered some rain and a lot more fog and mist (which thankfully had lifted as we'd explored Devil's Tower in the morning.) By the time we left the Interstate and headed over the Bighorn Mountains, I was very concerned about both the visibility and the fog. Joey was doing the driving, and I was doing the worrying. I'd read in that this was the safer and easier road over the Bighorns, but that it was still a little scary. I'd also read that it was extremely beautiful, but we couldn't tell a thing--at times the visibility was only about 50 feet; and we could never see anything that resembled a view as we went up the mountain.

When we got to the peak, however (at 9,666 feet, no small height!), and started down the other side of the mountain, the visibility immediately improved and suddenly we could see! And it really WAS gorgeous! I was wishing we had the time and leisure to camp up there in the Bighorns--it is public land and as such, you can camp in any number of places for free. The land is also used for grazing, and we were warned by our books that we might encounter cattle on the road. Luckily, we only passed them once, right beside the road but not actually in the roadway. I must say that Joe did a great job driving in adverse circumstances on a scary road; and Mo did a great job too!

As we came down the mountain and just where it got especially steep, the valley opened up before us. It was so stunning that we utilized a large pullout so I could take some photos.

We drove for another 60 miles or so, and the terrain was simply amazing! First we continued down and through the Ten Sleep Valley, which was totally gorgeous (these photos were taken as we headed down toward the valley itself.) Then we drove through the Wyoming landscape. I can't even begin to describe it--it changed constantly. There are so many different rock landscapes, and colors, and shapes. We'd go over a hill, and on the other side was a totally different landscape! One great thing the state of Wyoming does is have signs on the side of the road telling you the type of rock you are seeing, the period (pre-Cambrian; Jurassic; etc) and how many millions of years ago they were formed. It was just stunning. And all of that was enhanced by the fact that for at least 30 miles or more, we saw NO ONE ELSE!! No one passed us, no one was in front of us, and we only passed about four or five cars going in the opposite direction. It was literally the middle of nowhere, and we were the only ones there. Just an astonishing experience for two kids from crowded, frantic New Jersey!

Not a single car ahead or behind us

Our destination campground was called Fountain of Youth RV Park, and that name, and the fact that it is in Thermopolis, might tell you why we are here. When we pulled in I wasn't so sure, because it is very unprepossessing in terms of the sites themselves (we are only about 15 feet from our neighbors on either side.) But the real attraction is that this campground has its own hot spring-fed pool! It is huge, about the size of 3-4 olympic pools, and is fed by a hot spring called the Sacajawea Well. The well was dug in 1918; the owner of the land and a friend were looking for oil, and struck a hot spring instead. The water wells up in a fountain on one end of the pool. Then there are 3 large sections: the first is too hot to swim in (the water comes out at 130 degrees). The middle one is probably about 104 degrees, and the last is about 100 degrees. Joe and I went into it after dinner, and it is 5 feet deep and absolutely wonderful! To show this is no fluke, at the far end of the campground, where we walked Roxy, there is a small spring just bubbling away all by itself. What a cool thing to have at a campground!!

Tomorrow we plan to go to Hot Springs State Park, here in Thermopolis, to the Dinosaur Center, and to Legend Rock to see the petroglyphs. A busy day!!

I forgot to take a photo of the pool at Fountain of Youth while we were there! But after we got home, I found this photo of Chris and Jim of "Geeks On Tour" soaking it up there, a few years ago. So thanks, Geeks, for the advice (how do you think I learned to upload photos to a blog in the first place??) and for the photo!

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