I’m frequently asked whether a place I visited was worthwhile. If it’s worth the time, effort, or money expended, it’s worthwhile. For me, this is true in all things travel. For example, I’ve been a member of AAA for many years. Some of you are likely thinking, what’s that? AAA stands for American Automobile Association and they offer emergency roadside assistance. Having used roadside assistance very little in all those years, you may think it’s not worthwhile. But, they also provide travel services including TourBooks and maps, and that’s where I believe I’ve gotten my money’s worth. You can purchase AAA TourBooks on Amazon for $7-$11 so getting them free with my membership is definitely worthwhile to me. In addition, TourBooks are updated every couple of years so each time I visit an area, I get the new edition. As part of my travel planning within the United States, I order the TourBooks and maps for each state before I visit and use them to begin planning. Of course, with the internet, that’s really no longer necessary. You can search any location and find exhaustive information for your planning purposes. BUT, when I was in Yellowstone with no connectivity on my smart phone and no wi-fi in the hotel, the old stone tablet, aka paper books and maps, came in VERY handy. And even outside the park, reception was spotty in Wyoming. Apparently, ATT has some room for improvement in the western U.S.
Upon leaving Jackson, Wyoming, just like in the old days, my husband drove while I read out loud from the TourBook about every town and attraction along the route and some off the route in case we found something worth a side trip. We decided to head to Thermopolis, Wyoming, by way of the Wind River Canyon Scenic Byway. Our first stop, however, occurred when we spotted some hunters on the side of the road. Thinking maybe we’d see some wildlife, we pulled over.
Since this was the only moose I’d seen on this trip, I snapped a picture, even though he was no longer in one piece. I told the hunter I’d really like to see a grizzly bear and he said to come back in the morning to the “gut pile” and I’d likely see one.
By this time, it was late in the afternoon so locating accommodations for the night was our first priority. The TourBook also contains accommodations so I quickly found a good rate at the new Wind River Hotel and Casino in Riverton, WY. We’re not gamblers but we like a bargain and this hotel owned by the Northern Arapaho Tribe fit the bill. By the time we got our AAA discount and all the other perks including gambling dollars and meal vouchers plus some extras because it was my birth month, we figured our room cost around $40. I found it ironic that no alcohol was allowed anywhere on this property although smoking and gambling were plentiful.
The next morning, we headed straight to the Wind River Canyon Scenic Byway. The varied terrain and vast rugged beauty is breathtaking. The photos below are actually in the order taken showing the rapid changes in scenery.
Arriving in Thermopolis, the northern endpoint of the byway, at the Wyoming Dinosaur Center & Dig Sites when it opened at 10 a.m. allowed us to see all the exhibits before the school children arrived on a field trip. We were reminded of our own children when they were school age years before. They would have loved Jimbo, the Supersaurus, and Stan, the T-Rex as well as the Triceratops on display at this delightful museum.
Today, the real draw to this small private museum is the famous Thermopolis Specimen, a fossil of an Archaeopteryx. It is one of only 10-12 specimens in the world and the only one on display in North America. It is also considered the second best specimen in existence. The specimen was discovered in Bavaria and sold from a private collection to an anonymous donor who put it on display at the Wyoming Dinosaur Center in 2007. What a treasure!
This town of 3000 inhabitants has more to offer than just the dinosaur museum, however. It is home to the world’s largest mineral hot springs with over 8000 gallons of water heated to 135 degrees flowing each day. Hot Springs State Park, the first state park in Wyoming, is adjacent to Thermopolis with a free public bath house for mineral springs bathing and swimming year round. In addition, boating, fishing, and hiking are available, and a herd of bison roams through the park.
A visit to Thermopolis was definitely worthwhile and I highly recommend spending some time there. As we headed for home, one last beautiful photo of Wyoming begged to be taken.
Our AAA TourBooks and maps aided us in another worthwhile adventure. And, we were happy to get out of Wyoming and South Dakota just a day ahead of more than 12 inches of snow in late September.
Based on events from September, 2013