In October, I took a two-week trip to a) make some connections for Borrowed Light booksignings b) attend my Park Service boss's retirement party c) visit my son on the Montana/Canada border d) attend an LDS meeting house dedication in Torrington, Wyoming e) just hit the open road.
I did all the above and it was a great road trip. There's one part of the trip that just "happened," that I keep remembering, especially now that it is chilly out. On a wild hare, I visited the Wyoming State Bath House.
Aha, I'll almost bet you didn't know the state of Wyoming had a bath house. Even better, it's free, even if you don't happen to be a current resident of said state.
Here's how it happened: On the last leg of my trip, I spent a night at Old Faithful, in Yellowtone National Park, visiting with another ranger-friend. Bob and I go way back to our Fort Union Trading Post NHS days, and he likes my chocolate chip cookies. After I left Yellowstone, I just naturally went to Cody, Wyoming, which is 53 miles from Yellowstone's east entrance. My dad was from Cody and I love the town.
I did the museum thing there - five world-class museums, and tried to eat at the Irma Hotel. The next morning, I started toward home in Utah. When I was a kid, my Grandma Baier would talk about going to the hot springs in Thermopolis, a small town south of Cody. I remember wondering about that, so I decided to stop, some 55 years after I first remember her talking about it. It was on the way, so why not?
There it was: Hot Springs State Park. There are two state-owned pools, each on the smallish size. The water comes out of the springs at 127 degrees, and it's reduced to 104 degrees for the pools. State health officials have designated 20 minutes as the limit per visit. It's free, but if you're stopping on a whim and don't have a towel in your possession, that'll cost you a dollar to rent one. Best buck I ever spent.
I rented one, got out my swimsuit, and took the soak. Me oh my, heaven on earth. One pool is indoor, and the other isn't. Since it was early October and nippy but not prohibitive, I opted for the outdoor pool, which I had all to myself. I shared it with some falling leaves. The small pool is probably 3 feet deep (I'm not much of an estimator, though), with a stone bench lining the inside, so you can wade in and sit down. When I sat, the water was about chest-high on me.
The heat was divine, and the smell of sulfur totally medicinal. I sat and thought, and felt those cares melt away. Yes, it was hot, but it was glorious. I thought about Grandma Baier, and her good farm cooking, and how she would laugh at me in later years when I tried to get her to give me cups and teaspoons on those recipes, so I could try to reproduce her glorious food in my kitchen. ("Oh, Carla, you just add a smidge of this and a handful of that!") I remembered the fun of visiting her and Grandpa in Cody, with its nightly summer rodeos and Indians dancing in the streets, and cowboys and silver dollars, because no one in Wyoming ever used paper dollars. Not for years and years, anyway, and these were the big silver dollars, not those genteel gold ones you can get now. You know, wimpy money.
I got out of the free water after twenty minutes, dried off, got dressed, and immediately phoned my older sister to say, "OK, Karen, next year. Here. You, me and Wanda." We all have some old bones to soak, some memories to remind each other of, and a care or two to send to the hot springs gods.
And I'm going to have my own towel, because I really want that soak to be free, courtesy of the great state of Wyoming (which has always had the coolest state flag and the coolest license plate, way before any states had cool plates).
If you're anywhere near Thermopolis, stop and enjoy.