Casper to Thermopolis, Post Eclipse

We were to spend the days post eclipse leisurely revisiting some of our old haunts before we left Wyoming. 

After we said goodbye to our friends David and Brooke, we dropped back by Alcova Dam for a swim, then headed west through the Wind River Basin. Finding dispersed camping was a lot harder than it used to be, but we finally found a place among some hogbacks about 15 miles west of Casper on Poison Spider Road, on (we thought) BLM land.  These are our favorite campsites–scenic, convenient and lonesome.

Camping on BLM Land, Wyoming
Camping on BLM Land, Wyoming

We had originally planned to view the eclipse from Garfield Peak, which is an area that B knows well from doing field work there on his thesis.  We drove there the next morning to hike up the peak and see what had changed.  I’m so glad that we decided to stay in the area south of Douglas for the eclipse, because at the base of Garfield Peak we found locked gates and no trespassing signs.  We were fortunate to meet up with a rancher who had taken some friends out to view the eclipse on horseback, and she gave us permission to access the peak through her locked gate. That was nice, but so different from the “old days,” when we never saw anyone, and just closed any unlocked gate behind us.

We hiked up through the sagebrush along a creek that had been dammed in several places.  It seems like the West is wetter this summer than we ever remembered it.  We did not expect to see such lush greenery in August.

Oasis in the Sagebrush Around Garfield Peak, Wyoming
Oasis in the Sagebrush Around Garfield Peak, Wyoming

We settled in to the 100-mile drive through the Wind River Basin.  We have made this drive so many times in the past on our way to climbing trips in the Tetons and Wind River Mountains.  There used to be absolutely nothing along this stretch but now there one rest area.  It is what George Hayduke from the Monkey Wrench Gang would call a “three beer drive.”  That description fit perfectly with our field testing 30 years ago.

We turned north at Riverton towards the Wind River Canyon.  This is a spectacular drive along the Wind River through cliffs of decreasing age.  We stopped near the end of the canyon to pay homage to the Phosphoria formation, the focus of B’s thesis.  The rocks are still there, but the cute little spring has been fenced off and is now plugged with sheep and their dung.

Wind River Canyon Wyoming
Wind River Canyon Wyoming

We climbed up the rock face to see if we could find the fossilized mud cracks that mark the top of the Phosphoria.  We were rewarded with one of the views that make us regret ever leaving the West.

Looking For Mud Cracks in the Phosphoria Formation
Looking For Mud Cracks in the Phosphoria Formation

There are several state campgrounds in the canyon, and we were excited to find a great tent site right on the river.  When mosquitoes launched a vigorous attack, we abandoned that great camp site and decided to camp higher up in the sagebrush closer to Thermopolis.

On our way through town we took a quick soak in the hot springs.  The State Park has two small pools with a 20 minute limit.  You have your choice between indoor and outdoor pools. There are two other larger commercial pools but we saved those for later days when we had time to enjoy them.  The State Park pools are FREE so are perfect for an impromptu soak.

Free Outdoor Pool at Hot Springs Wyoming State Park
Free Outdoor Pool at Hot Springs Wyoming State Park

 

Free Indoor Pool at Hot Springs Wyoming State Park
Free Indoor Pool at Hot Springs Wyoming State Park

After our quick 20 minute soak we headed up into the sagebrush and camped on (what we hope was) BLM land with the rattlesnakes–but no mosquitoes!

Next up–A few great days in Thermopolis.

 

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