Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Thermopolis & Tensleep!

Under threatening skies, we left Lander with a slight limp.  Our van suddenly developed a small hole in the hose that leads from the Intercooler to the Turbo.  Actually, we first noticed this whining sound on our return from the Winds.  Instead of the normally silent purrrr of our Mercedez Turbo Diesel Engine, we started hearing a roaring whine whenever pushing it into the Turbo Range.  The last thing two jobless roadtripping people need is Sprinter Van problems.  And so, we hoped to faith that it wasn't going to be too expensive a fix.  Fortunately, we were able to find the hole relatively early and patch it with some good ole' ducktape.  This tonic kept us running smoothly to Rapid City South Dakota, where a Dodge Technician replaced it; and to our pleasure it was still under warranty!  But now I'm getting ahead of myself.  From Lander we encountered rain and strong headwinds (and at this point we had yet to fix the hole with tape) all the way to Thermopolis.  Along the way we drove through a magnificent rocky canyon filled with the big horn river.  Two words: Limestone forever!

Construction gave us pause at the entryway to Big Horn Canyon.  This lady was a riot!!

Once in the Big Horn Canyon we made steady downhill progress and arrived shortly thereafter in Thermopolis.  This town lies just outside one of the many reservations that dot the land.  And, most importantly is home to the "Worlds Largest Mineral Hot Springs".

It is truly impressive eh?  And, what a great billboard on the hill pointing this fact out to the less aware who might not notice the elaborate travertine terraces directly below.
But, our first order of business was dinner!   Driving just makes one hungry.  So, although we cook 95% of our own food, we decided to splurge on some classic All American Food.  That means BURGERS peeps!  On the Western edge of Thermopolis lies one of those A & W restaurants from a bye gone era.  It had come to town 50 years ago.  There is a bowling alley attached to it.  And as for service...one simply picks up the phone and places ones order right there at the table.

Needless to mention, our burgers were right down delicious.   Yum.

Yep, that "one huge beef patty" was all mine.  It rocked my world...and my stomach of course.

Sometime in the late 20th century a treaty was signed with the natives relinquishing their claim to this land.  One of the stipulations in the treaty was that free soaking be made available to the public.  So, within the state park that hosts two venues with waterslides and elaborate pools (read: $$$), there is an alternative State run bath house----free.  The doors close at 5:30 and we had been too late to make it that day.  So, we hunkered down for the night in one of the motel parking lots and arrived back for action the next morning.  Upon entering we learned that the myriad of personal soaking tubs had been removed years ago; and that although the two soaking pools are free, there is also a twenty minute limit.  The soaker must then exit, wait two hours, and then come back if he/she wants more.  At 104 f, we both had our fill and left completely satisfied.  The pools are hot and clean.  The mineral water is funneled in from the travertine and exits from opposite side of the pool.

Next on the menu for us was Tensleep.  If you're not a climber...there's not a significant amount of attraction here. The quaint town of Tensleep lies on the fringe of the Big Horn Mountains.  The population can't be any bigger than a couple hundred people.  Surprisingly, there is a really outstanding wood fired pizza place called: Sacket's.  It was here that we celebrated our first year of marriage.  And you know what?  It only cost roughly 10 bucks.  Now, that is a deal!  I love this woman!
For us, Tensleep was a place of solace.  The weather was perfect, the free camping options endless, and the proximity to recreation unparalleled.  During our six day stay we climbed 5 with nary a rest day in between (one to be exact).  Ben finally got some fitness back and focused on milage.  His personal highlight were clipping the chains on a couple 12d's first try, and doing the same on a 13a while hanging draws.  Walls visited were Mecca, Grasshopper, Slavery, and Superratic.  There is just something magical about being somewhat fit, having new routes to try, and giving ones personal best.  Props to all those persons involved in establishing the many great climbs we encountered.  From the looks of it, many greenbacks have flowed into this magnificent destination.  Tiffers, who hasn't climbed much in a couple years put the hurt on some 10- climbs and demonstrated her incredible nack for smooth footwork.  Rock ballerina!

To the left is Superratic.  This area has some really nice pocket pulling sport routes.

It was a quick trip here.  And, although I would have loved to stay longer...the leaves are a turning in the NE and at this point we were starting to feel the pull of Devil's Tower National Monument.

We'll be back Tensleep!  You rocked our worlds...

Ok, we're not that sentimental of course.  But, we did sure like it here.

During our one rest day we wandered up higher into the Big Horn and found a great hike to Mirror Lake.

Though the fish were not biting in the lake proper, Ben was able to reel in 8 brook trout in a creek behind the lake.

These fish are beautiful!  Wish they were big enough to keep...

Of course barbless...

This elk was just having a great time.  He was a yodling to his other male elk friend as we made our way back from the lake.  Ben attempted to communicate in Elk.  And, although this raised some eyebrows, our human to elk relationship didn't change much.  

Our Van (pictured to the right) demonstrates just one of the excellent bivy spots along the big horn mountains.

Adios Tensleep!


  1. My momma was born in Thermopolis during a snow storm on Christmas Eve in 1923. Nice spot eh? It just feels surreal there, detached, a separate world. Great pics! Congrats on year one!

  2. Great Blog Ben! I loved Tensleep when I visited this summer, so much that I'm making the drive back next year. Do you think Dancing with Cows would make a good project?

  3. Thanks for the comments guys. Senior Mitchell! Yes, we felt a strange alien presence emanating from just below the springs. And, then there are those strange dreams that we just couldn't quite explain... but seriously, it is really cool there.

    Dom, Dances with Cows would be right up your alley. I nearly flashed it on TR and I think it might help to either have small fingers for those small grips and/or ability to stand on very small foot grips. Regardless, do it! I just really loved that wall. Don't go though if it is warm out..