“This will be our last trip,” my father told me, shortly after I retrieved my bag from the tiny airport in Worland, Wyoming. This year marks their 20th visit to Thermopolis, the largest town and the county seat of Hot Springs County. As of the 2010 census the town population was 3,009. The local 9th-12th grade high school serves 185 students.
They come for the waters that they claim heals, or at least, eases, their various aches and pains. Produced by the emergence of geothermally heated groundwater from the Earth’s crust, the springs feed into the pools. The natural minerals require no chlorine or other chemical additives though the air smells like sulfur.
With the exception of one year, they drive, usually in the heart of winter, preferring the flexibility of their own car and timetable. They have visited friends along the way and return, sometimes traveling as far south as New Mexico and Florida, being away a month or more. This year, they’ll return directly home after about 10 days. They have their favorite routes, motels, car mechanics, and Chinese restaurants and know practically everyone in town.
I decided last minute to meet them this year for a couple days. I joined the water aerobics class this morning and we’ll return for another soak this afternoon before dinner. We alternate between the indoor pools and outdoor pools and hot tubs, staying submerged until our finger tips are wrinkled like raisins. The town doesn’t offer much—it’s a tourist stop on the way to Yellowstone and other Wyoming attractions and fueled by the oil and natural gas industry.
Yet the mountain air is crisp and cold; the sky blue and vast. Leaving the Northeast, I appreciate the size and scope of the US and its diverse geography and cultures.