Most of us think of surfing as a sport that began with the 60s Hippie Generation…or at least, I did, but surfing is actually one of the oldest practiced sports in the world. Thought of as, the art of wave riding, it is a blend of total athleticism and the comprehension of the beauty and power of nature. Surfing is also one of the few sports that creates its own culture and lifestyle. From surfing came the beach bum, and the draw of the coastal areas. Surfing began with a wooden board in Western Polynesia over three thousand years ago. The first surfers were actually fishermen who discovered riding waves as an efficient method of getting to shore with their catch. After realizing that surfing was fun, catching waves changed from being part of everyday work to being a pastime, and the sport of surfing was born. I have never considered surfing myself, but I think it is interesting to watch.
While I’m not a faithful fan of surfing, I do find it interesting to note the different boards surfers have used over the years. The first boards were little more than a wooden plank, and I have to wonder how the surfer ever got to shore. It would seem to me that without the smooth rounded or pointed front edge, the board would simple dig up the water, dumping the surfer in. And maybe that was the problem. It didn’t take long before the loyal surfer was smoothing the edges of his board to make it more streamlined in the water.
Recently, I came across a picture of some young surfers in the 1920s, and while their suits were odd for our day and age, the thing that shocked me the most was their boards. They were literally a wooden plank, squared off at the end, with braces in a couple of placed in the middle. I began to wonder how they could even make them work. The I started looking at other surf boards through the years. They went from the tiny Boogie Board, used for body surfing, to a surf board that looked like a small boat. I wondered how the surfer even carried that board…or transported it. Those big boat sized boards were often more than twice the size of some of the women standing in front of them. I think it is quite interesting that people have been able to use such a wide variety of boards, and actually manage to navigate the waves without falling in every time, but then I guess practice makes perfect.
There is a unique place near Thermopolis, Wyoming, that some people in Wyoming know about, or maybe they don’t, but people outside of Wyoming most likely don’t know about it. This place is called Wedding of the Waters. The name might seem to imply that two rivers meet and become one, but that is not the case. In this place located four miles south of Thermopolis, Wyoming, something strange happens. It is the only place I know of where one river flows to a certain point, then changes its name and becomes a completely different river. It isn’t that the river was given a nickname, but rather is completely changes it’s name, like a wife does after her marriage.
The way this happened is rather strange. The river begins ninety miles northeast of the actual wedding site. It runs southeast, then winds around to the north and flows through two mountain ranges before joining the Yellowstone River at Bighorn, Montana, 180 miles northeast of the wedding site. From there it eventually reaches the Gulf of Mexico by way of the Missouri and Mississippi Rivers.
When early settlers arrived at the river in what is now the state of Montana, they named it the Bighorn River for the big horn sheep they found near it. Other explorers who found the river south of the wedding site named it the Wind River. Eventually, the people realized that in reality, there was only one river…with two names that had been well established. To avoid confusion, it was decided that a wedding was necessary. That wedding took place, and in fact continues to take place in this quaint little spot known as Wedding of the Waters. The river south of this point is the Wind River, and the river north of this point is the Big Horn River.
The native Indians, mountain men, and early settlers felt like this place was special. I suppose the history of such a compromise made it special. The animals find the place special too, because of the unique vegetation found there. That is mainly due to the warmer water being released from the Boysen Reservoir. Warm thermal spring water adds to the warmth of the water, and it becomes a unique habitat for mule deer, whistling marmots, and mink. The bald eagles are attracted to the rainbow, cutthroat, and brown trout, as well as burbot and mountain whitefish. That makes it great for fishermen too. The fish in the river grow quickly because of the many aquatic insects found in the bottom vegetation. And this area even sports the nation’s first handicap-accessible riverine boat ramp that provides drift boat access to the Big Horn River.
I think it’s kind of sad that this quaint little spot is so often passed by as if it isn’t even there. I suppose it doesn’t have the advantage of the spectacular canyon scenes just to the south, or the draw of the hot water mineral springs just to the north. Nevertheless, the Wedding of the Waters really is a very special place in its own right, and one that is interesting to go see.
Every year in late February or early March, Bob and I take a three day weekend and head to Thermopolis to celebrate our wedding anniversary. It isn’t a long trip, but rather, a peaceful getaway. We have taken longer trips, and enjoyed them immensely, but the nice thing about going to Thermopolis is that there is very little to do in this small town, so you find yourself relaxing and doing the simple things. We like to take long walks along the river, and up by the hot springs. Most of the time I like to be alone…just the two of us, but today was a little different. It’s not that was were with a group of people, but rather the people we interacted with that were so interesting.
First there was the man with his dog. The dog was so happy to be playing in the water again after such a long cold winter. Every time his master threw the toy into the water, the dog could hardly contain himself. He ran splashing into the river, grabbed his prize and brought it back to his master for another go. Then we watched two little boys who were happily throwing rocks into the river. Each one tried to find a bigger rock than their last one had been. They were quite the pair.
There were the fishermen and the strolling walkers, but the one who was the most interesting person who crossed our path was the little girl who was so excited about rushing the ducks, that she didn’t see that I was photographing them until it was too late. She quickly apologized, but I told her that she didn’t ruin my picture, but rather enhanced it. She then decided that the would do the same thing with some geese a little ways away, and I quickly snapped those shots too.
Normally, I enjoy just being in our own little space on the Thermopolis retreats we take, but the people around us this time, who were all excited about the fact that nice weather had finally arrived…all expressing their own individual version of their excitement, were just too interesting to ignore, and we were quickly drawn into experiencing it with them. It was their expressions of the joys of being alive that made each of them interesting in their own way. And I found joy in simply watching them. Spring seems to have finally graced us with its presence, and after the long cold winter, that makes me feel amazing.