Before going to Casper, WY we took a little detour to Independence Rock, just outside Casper. This 130-foot tall granite landmark was the July 4th schedule objective for the Oregon, Mormon and California wagon trains that pushed west. Over 500,000 settlers traveled this route from the 1830s to 1870s. Many of the pioneers carved their names into rock and some can still be seen today.
We then proceeded to Casper and stopped for lunch at The World Famous Wonderbar, Casper’s only micro-brewery. In Casper’s earlier days you could ride into the bar on your horse and get a beer for both you and your horse. The place has recently changed owners and is going to be shut down for a remodel and, unfortunately, the brewery will be closing. Could be a good place to start one….
Heading west out of Casper we passed Hell’s Half Acre, which really covered several acres. This colorful area was a beautifully eroded rock formation that does not justify its name.
We camped for the night at Boysen State Park in Tough Creek CG, with a beachfront spot along the reservoir.
The next day we drove up the beautiful Wind River Canyon to Thermopolis, WY. Thermopolis is known for two things: the Wyoming Dinosaur Center and the Hot Springs.
We visited the Dinosaur Center and even though we’ve seen a lot of fossils recently, this place was impressive. They had many unique fossils from around the world, not just from Wyoming and the US.
This was a fossilized horseshoe crab, and the 100 feet of fossilized trail it left behind before becoming part of history.
Many of the folks working in the lab on the restoration of the bones there were quite old. I guess a few folks commented on this because the sticker I got from there said, “Fossils working on Fossils – Wyoming Dinosaur Center” – lol.
The Thermopolis Hot Springs gush out of the ground and into the Bighorn River at a rate of 3.6 million gallons per day at a temperature of 135 degrees. The mineral content of the water is very high and produces the very interesting rock formations.
Over the centuries, the layered pools formed and created a beautiful landscape rich in color.
In 1909, the folks built a stone tee-pee spring vent structure and over time the calcium and mineral rich water created a colorful mound that is still venting water out the top and growing.
The State Park has several pools that you can use for free. We soaked our bones in the mineral waters that are kept around 104 degrees. It felt great, but you had to get used to the sulfur smell.
We then drove back down the Wind River Canyon to camp for the night. We had to pass through a series of tunnels carved in the rocks along the road.
Our camp spot looked right up the canyon entrance. The BNSF railway track was on the other side of the river from the road and cut through the canyon in its own tunnels. The rushing water and occasional train made for a really great place to camp. You felt the rumble of the trains in the ground long before you saw them weave in and out of the canyon tunnels.
Since we had to drive through Thermopolis again on our way north we stopped and soaked in the hot springs one more time before leaving town. We had a lot of discussion on how to get our own hot spring for our next house.
We stopped at the Washakie Museum in Worland, WY. Named for a great Shoshoni chief, the museum had a lot of the local history, including the Cattle Wars, bones from mammoths and bronze statues of Chris Navarro as a short-term exhibit.
Our next stop was Ten Sleep Brewery, just outside Ten Sleep, WY. They had great beer and definitely get the best brewery setting award too.
We then climbed up into the Bighorn Mountains and camped at Lake View CG, overlooking Meadowlark Lake. It was noticeably colder since we were once again near 9,000 feet in elevation.
We dropped down into Buffalo, WY, which turned out to be a busy little town for only 4,600 folks. We spent the afternoon there before climbing back up into the Bighorn Mountains to camp for the night at Middle Fork CG.
The campground was along a small brook and the aspen leaves are turning due to the near-freezing temperatures at night.
We dropped down into Buffalo again the next day and we’ll be here the next two weeks while I complete a Journeyman level blacksmith class in the local forge. Staying at an RV park in town for two weeks may be tough, but it’s walking distance to the forge.
For those “Longmire” book and TV fans out there, author Craig Johnson lives nearby in Ucross, WY and (according to one of the local shop owners) Buffalo is the real life town that Durant, WY is based upon.
Buffalo has a small, but historic Main Street. The Occidental Hotel and Saloon was rated the best western hotel saloon in 2009 by True West magazine. A few of every animal you could possible shot is stuffed and hung on the saloon walls, including a longhorn steer that was a longtime member of one of the local ranches. There were Pronghorn and Buffalo heads I wouldn’t mind having from the bar.
We’ll immerse ourselves into the local activities for the next two weeks before our migration south. Maybe we’ll even be Longmire fans by the time we leave – lol.