Camping, Hot Springs, United States, Wyoming

Chasing Waterfalls & Adventures in Wyoming’s Bighorn Mountains – Day 4: Thermopolis and Kcymaerxthaere

“Do I really need my job, and do we really need to go home?”

That was the theme of my morning as I struggled to wake up on the final morning of our Bighorn Mountains adventure.  Y’all, I really struggled with getting up on this morning!  Kubo jumped up, started preparing some coffee and sandwiches for breakfast (we had cooked and eaten all of our traditional breakfast food by this point).  I finally dragged myself out of the tent, and was treated to over a dozen cow elk running through the field near our campsite!  Dang, this trip sure showered us with lots of wildlife!

Mattress and sleeping bag packed, down came the tent, and the hammock, and everything was tucked back into Fozzy and we set out west on US Highway 14A.  We descended down the canyon into the Bighorn Basin and towards Lovell.

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Nice informational sign along US Highway 14A
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The Bighorn Basin
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Bighorn Lake

We made a quick stop at the Bighorn Canyon National Recreation Area visitor’s center in Lovell so I could get my passport stamped (and get heckled by the ranger for not actually visiting the main part of the area…).  Then it was back in the car for a few hours of driving south through the basin towards Thermopolis.  After days of decently cool mountain temperatures, we bristled at the 90+ degree weather in the basin, and the brown scenery.  Okay, so we were in Wyoming after all!

After eating random camping fare for days, we treated ourselves to a restaurant meal at One Eyed Buffalo Brewing in Thermopolis.  The food was alright, but nothing to write home about, and I wasn’t too big of a fan of the beers Kubo and I got.

Even though it was stupidly hot, we wanted to get in a short soak in the hot springs that Thermopolis is famous for.  To avoid the opening rush at the Wyoming State Bath House, we walked around the Rainbow Terraces boardwalk and across the swinging bridge over the Bighorn River to get some photos, which are all located in Hot Springs State Park.

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Rainbow Terraces on the shore of the Bighorn River, and Monument Hill, which points visitors towards the “World’s Largest Mineral Hot Springs.”  The terraces consist of travertine minerals
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Boardwalks guide you safely across the Rainbow Terraces
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View of the mineral deposits along the banks of the Bighorn River
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Unlike hot springs that are created by volcanism (think Yellowstone or Iceland), the hot springs in Thermopolis are created by water aquifers that go so deep in the ground that the earth’s heat warms it, and then the water travels back up via faults.  The water coming from the largest spring the area, the Big Spring, is only about 140 degrees when it emerges, which is significantly less than the boiling waters seen in volcanic geothermal areas.

Short walk in the heat accomplished, we headed to the Wyoming State Bath House.  Though Thermopolis is home to several hot spring pools all right next each other, this one is free.  There is a catch: you can only soak 20 minutes max.  If you want to return, you must leave the building for two hours before you can return.  This is for safety reasons (it is a state facility after all, so they’re a little more strict than private/commercial facilities).  Twenty minutes for free still seemed like a bargain for Kubo and I, and we checked and headed to get ready for our soak.

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State Bath House, which is fed from the Big Spring. 104 degree mineral water greets visitors for their 20 minute soak.  There are indoor and outdoor soaking areas.
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The outdoor pool at the State Bath House
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The 104 degree mineral water is semi-milky, and absolutely heavenly, even if the air temperature is over 90 degrees!

Once our soak in Thermopolis was complete it was time to turn the car towards Cheyenne for the long drive home.  We made a pit stop at the Kcymaerxthaere site, “More Than One Moon in the Sky” in Shoshoni.  Kcymaerxthaere is a global project that tells that tells the stories of a parallel universe that intersects with our linear world.  I had visited this installation before last summer (and later one of the ones in Hellnar, Iceland), but I wanted to walk around it a bit more than I had the chance for my first time.  More information on the Shoshoni one can be found here.

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Kcymaerxthaere installation in Shoshoni
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Kcymaerxthaere site in Shoshoni
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Kcymaerxthaere site in Shoshoni
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Kcymaerxthaere site in Shoshoni
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Shoshoni was on the solar eclipse path in 2017, and the Kcymaerxthaere site commemorates it.

After a coffee break in Casper, a crazy storm in Glendo, gas stop in Wheatland, and Chipotle run in Cheyenne, we finally arrived home from our awesome adventure!  All in all, we traveled over 1,000 miles!  Quite the busy four day weekend, but also relaxing!  Here’s to seeking adventure in my own Wyoming backyard!

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