Part 12: Southern Wyoming to Thermopolis, WY


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The Trip

We spent the night in a mountain meadow at the base of Bridger Peak.  It was cold and somewhat windy, but otherwise it was a good camp.  Next morning, we continued north on the dirt county road toward Rawlins, WY for a resupply and then north again to Pathfinder Reservoir.

The Photos

The photos below are what we saw.

11,000+ foot Bridger Peak is visible in the distance from our camp.

We continued north on the dirt track and eventually left the forested highlands for the plains below.

Escarpments resulting from erosion were visible on the horizon.  The vehicle at the side of the road is some kind of testing lab for the road construction that has been happening.  Note the nice crushed rock erosion prevention channels at the side of the road.

We continued north to Rawlins, WY.  I am sorry, but there is no way to put a happy face on Rawlins.  It is a God-forsaken, wind-swept wide spot in the road that would not be there except for the Union Pacific Railroad.  We did a re-supply and then headed north toward Pathfinder Reservoir and got a lesson in map-data-quality.  Our map (a Delorme Atlas, which is not our preferred vendor) showed a county road that went from the main highway to the reservoir.  The road started out bad and deteriorated rapidly eventually degrading to a trench in the sand dunes that comprise the terrain.  We eventually were forced to go into four-wheel-drive because the deep unconsolidated sand was causing us to bog down.  The path followed some oil pipelines and eventually degraded to two ruts.  But, oddly the country road signs were still there.

The Ferris Mountains showed evidence of uplifting and exposed some large layers of light-colored sandstone.

As we crossed through the backcountry areas, we encountered many herds of western pronghorn antelope, which I refer to as "pillowbutts".  The fluffy white fur on their rumps distinguish the breed and make them visible from long distances.  This herd watched as Thor approached then bolted in unison when it became too scary for them.

The trail passed through very sandy terrain that reminded me of Mexico, but at 7,000 feet altitude.  There were significant sand dunes alongside our path.

The route to Pathfinder reservoir was a bit more than we expected.  Succinctly put, it beat the shit out of us and both of us were very ready to make it to camp.  Mid-way into the hammering I jokingly said to Kathleen "...the only thing that would make this better is the reservoir to be dry.".  Oops, wrong thing to say.  When we made it to our destination, and guess what?  The reservoir was not actually dry, but rather "at a very low level" where the water was several miles from the end of the trail.  Since it was past 1800 and we were both tired, we found a place on a point that overlooked the previous reservoir and dropped anchor.  Above is a view looking northeast across the reservoir basin.

Looking to the east it is easy to see where the lake had been.

There was still water in the reservoir, but it was miles distant and to reach it would have required crossing treacherous mud flats.  So, our camp on the ridge with the 360 degree view was a fine substitute.

While Kathleen chose the perfect spot to park that was flat, she spotted this nest of a ground bird.  There were three eggs present.  We did not touch them and gave the nest wide berth.

The clouds were coming in and the wind was howling.  It has been windy for the past week.  Every day.  All day.  All night.  But, now the wind has increased in velocity to perhaps 40 mph.  Later in the evening, Thor's camper was rocking so hard that we strongly considered repositioning the truck so the nose was into the wind to prevent a roll-over.  We elected to take no action and we did not roll.

The fading sun provided interesting illumination of the exposed bottom of the reservoir.

Next morning it was still blowing as hard or harder than the night before.  As we broke camp, I got a nice view of the antelopes grazing on the lake bed below.

The distant water was clearly visible in the morning light.  We continued north and then northwest to another county road that crossed the Rattlesnake Hills.

You cannot make this stuff up.  In an area called the Rattlesnake Hills we spotted no less than 4 rattlesnakes from the dirt road.  This one was in the center, so I stopped and got the photo above.  This snake was pissed and was hissing like there was no tomorrow.

As the road crested near Bald Mountain, we got a commanding view of Wind River Range to the west.  The light-colored area in the photo above are sand dunes.

Just past the crest, we passed a quarry that was used to produce the crushed stone for the county road.

Near our return to the blacktop, we spotted this pillowbutt next to the road.  Look at the veins standing out on his rear legs!  These 'lopes can really run.

We turned to the northwest and took the highway past Shoshoni and into the Wind River Canyon.  The river cut a deep gorge through the mountain.

We decided that we would spend the night in Thermolopis, WY.  Hot Springs State Park is at the springs at Thermopolis so we decided to give it the once-over.  The flow stone on the banks of the river are from the depositions of the hot springs.  Note the remnants of the anticline in the distance.

A suspension bridge was built in 1916 to allow crossing the Wind River.  It has been rebuilt several times since then but is still available to foot traffic.

The painted rocks advertise the hot springs.

The flow stone has left large deposits around the hot springs.

Wyoming has built a "state bath house" around the spring.  The baths were free and the place was nice and clean.  And, the water was hot, about 104 degrees.

The winds were blowing clouds over our position.  The excess  flow from the hot spring was diverted to some ponds that nourished a large grove of trees.  The excess flow continued over the flats of the deposition basin.

Kathleen was focused as she prepares to take a photo with my Fuji X10 camera.

The flow stone deposits went right into the Wind River.

Beyond the flow stone is a water slide that provides entertainment for the children.

We spent the night in an RV park close to the Wind River.  My observation is all RV park infrastructure is constructed by the same set of mechanically mis-inclined individuals that produce the same mistakes time and time again.  Given a large bathroom stall, why is it the toilet has to be crammed against the wall?  Why is it each park owner cannot tell the difference between "hot" and "cold" water lines and consistently reverses them?  The list goes on and on.  All I can say is "WTF?".

Tomorrow, we head north toward a Unimog buddy near Cody, WY.

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