Thermopolis

Thermopolis, Wyoming…a favorite destination for my husband and me. We take a trip there every year for our anniversary. I suppose that for many people, Thermopolis would seem too quiet, too small, and too little to do, but for us it is just perfect. With its hot springs and river walk trail, it is just perfect for us, and the hot spring ponds filled with goldfish of a size you simply cannot imagine until you see them. I’ve been told that they came from people getting rid of the small goldfish, and the warm water, along with the pond size, allowed the smaller goldfish to grow quite large. Thermopolis also had a dinosaur museum, although we have never been there. We go to the area for the hot tub and the trail for sure.

While Thermopolis might seem like the safest little out of the way place, there was a time when it was actually a target for an attack. During World War II, the Japanese set their sights on Wyoming. It makes little sense to me, but it was the target they chose. During World War II, the Japanese were experimenting with a new kind of bomb. It really wasn’t the greatest idea, but they did send some of them out. The problem with balloons is that it’s difficult to control where it is going…especially when it is unmanned. It’s hard to say what the exact target was, but on December 5, 1944, coal miners outside of Thermopolis heard something from the skies above and saw an explosion streak across the dark sky. When the object landed, it was discovered to be a Japanese Fu-Go Balloon Bomb. Though the Japanese launched 9,300 of these bombs, only about 300 made it to land, and the Thermopolis bomb was the first one to reach the United States.

I find it hard to believe that the first Fu-Go Balloon Bomb made it all the way to Wyoming before exploding, when the only Fu-Go Balloon Bomb to actually kill anyone was one that landed near Bly, Oregon on May 5, 1945, that killed a pregnant woman and five children after they approached the unexploded balloon that had landed nearby. The balloon exploded as they investigated it. After that, the public was warned to stay away from the objects, but the news stories were still scarce. In fact, the Japanese only ever learned of the landing in Wyoming!! I have no idea how the media held themselves back.

Landing so many balloons in America was an impressive feat because the inter-continental attack was considered impossible at the time. Whatever the Japanese had hoped to gain by this relatively ineffective “bomb” is unknown, but it was a real failure. My guess is that most of them exploded over the ocean, doing no damage. Nevertheless, these massive balloons were a bit of a marvel…so to speak. They had to carry more than 1,000 pounds across the ocean, which was no easy task, especially for technology at the time. The fact that any of them made it here was impressive, I suppose. They were impressive balloons from a technologic standpoint. They were controlled by altimeters that kept the balloon in the newly discovered jet stream until it was over America, where it would fall to the ground and detonate…or so was the plan. The goal of the mission was to cause panic and fear in the United States, but a media blackout meant that these landings and explosions went unreported. A blackout was the only way.

These attacks were actually quite amazing, because they were the longest ranged assaults in the history of warfare. It wasn’t until 1982 (during the Falkland Islands War) that the distance was topped. Today, the story of the Fu-Go Balloon Bombing is rarely told in Wyoming outside of Thermopolis, where it has supposedly become local folklore. Strange that I have never heard of it, even with the many years we have been spending our anniversary there. I will most definitely have to ask about it the next time we go.

As I was thinking about my brother-in-law, LJ Cook’s birthday, I decided to talk to his daughters Machelle Moore and Susan Griffith about the special memories they had of their dad. Susan started thinking back on all the experience her dad had gained while he was in his working years, and how that made him the person he is today. She thought, and I agree that those things are LJ had been a Deputy Sheriff and later a truck driver, but he really always wanted to live in a small town. I think he liked knowing many of the people he lives around. So, he and his wife, my sister-in-law, Debbie moved their family to Thermopolis, Wyoming. They loved living in Thermopolis, and my girls, Corrie Petersen and Amy Royce loved going up there to stay for a week in the summers to hang out with their cousins. Then LJ got an offer he couldn’t refuse, and the family moved to Powell, Wyoming where he began managing Empire Gas. That move would change the life paths of the whole family. Susan tells me, “Dad was the manager of the store, and was put in charge of all the propane tanks in the Big Horn Basin, which is a big area. It was his job to go to each tank and refill them. It was the late 1980s, so there were more people then using propane than there are now. They needed the propane to cook, and some to heat their houses with. He tells me about some of the places he got to go to switch out the tanks. He met a huge array of people and got to see a lot of cool places that the average person doesn’t get to see, since all of the tanks were on private land. Listening to him talk about the job made it sound like the most ideal job.” I think for LJ, it really was.

LJ has always been a jokester. He told Susan about this one day at work. There was a bee (or some kind of bug) on the window sill of his office while he was working at Empire Gas. He said he somehow cut the head off the bee (Susan thinks he said with his pocket knife). Well, it kept flying around without it’s head. Every time it hit something it world sting it. Susan says, “He said he told his secretary what happened and she took off out the front door. Which is exactly what I would have done if there was an AWOL bee flying around. He laughs so hard when he tells the story. It must have been pretty funny to see her take off out of there so quickly.” And speaking of bees and LJ, apparently they really don’t bother him a bit. LJ’s daughter, Machelle tells me that he has been helping his best friend, Bill with his bees!! LJ does cover up a little, but doesn’t mind getting stung. Bill has a truck load of bees he goes and gets every year in California. LJ goes around to different places where Bill has the bees to collect the honey for him. I guess he wouldn’t have run out of a room with a bee in it.

Recently, LJ had to have back surgery. He was in so much pain, he could barely walk…with a walker. Following his back surgery, LJ Cook had to take things rather slowly for a while. He and Debbie normally spend much of the summer in the Big Horn Mountains camping, but this year was turning out to be vastly different. As he has recovered, he has been able to start swimming, and hopefully that will help with recovery and mobility. He has really missed out on things since his back really got bad. His daughter, Machelle told me that they did manage to get up to the Big Horns over the 4th of July to spend time with the family, and they really enjoyed it.

Machelle told me that LJ has several extra vehicles, and so decided to sell a couple of them. It was his grandson, Easton, who decided to buy the Bronco. Machelle remembers that when they first got the Bronco, she was never allowed to drive it. So, now that her son is going to be the owner, and not her dad…will Machelle be allowed to drive it? Time will tell, I guess. With this family of jokesters, my guess will be…not for a while, hahahaha!!!

Susan tells me that while she was growing up, if she was in a bad mood he would always find a way to make her smile and feel better. You could say he is the best girl-dad Susan could ask for. Even though he used to embarrass her terribly sometimes. Susan reflected, “A few weeks ago, I came down with a bad bug that gave me a low grade fever and it made me think of when I was super little, I would go sit on my dad’s lap and just sitting there made me feel a little better. When I was sick, I was wishing I could go sit on my dad’s lap. Well that definitely can’t happen anymore because I would then get him sick and the world seems to be a different place with regard to sicknesses right now. I know I can still go sit on his lap, but it’s just not the same as an adult.” No, I don’t suppose it would be. Today is LJ’s birthday. Happy birthday LJ!! Have a great day!! We love you!!

Sometimes, the “best laid plans” turn into the biggest unplanned event. Bob and I take a trip to Thermopolis, Wyoming each year to celebrate our anniversary. Thermopolis is a dinky little town with very little to do, except that it has amazing hot springs she that adds up to great mineral water soaks that are terrific for the body. We also take wonderful walks along the trail that is set up on the Bighorn River, which flows through town. It is a peaceful tradition that we love to continue. Nevertheless, sometimes life can throw you a curve ball.

Bob and I have both been snowed in during our lifetimes, but this storm was still something new to us, because we are not snowed in. We are snowed out!!! Thermopolis got no snow at all, only a sprinkling of rain, but in Casper, which is home, it is a very different story. I have see n measurements of 18″ to 24″, and I’m sure it could be more by now. The roads in and out of Casper are closed, and since we are in Thermopolis, where there is no snow, we are not snowed in, but we are snowed out of Casper. It is a matter of the fact that you can’t get there from here…at least not today.

I can’t say that I am exactly heartbroken about having to stay at least an extra day in Thermopolis. In fact, I’m hoping that a lot of the snow will melt before we get home. That would simply not hurt my feelings one bit. I have been talking to my sisters, Cheryl Masterson, Alena Stevens, and Allyn Hadlock; and my daughter, Corrie Petersen and grandson, Chris Petersen in Casper; and one sister, Caryl Reed in Rawlins, and they have graciously provided me with what I cannot see here. Tons and tons of snow!! The pictures of all the work trying to dig out, and the futility of such a venture in most cases, are shocking. It’s hard for me to fathom the amount of snow from here, but I can say that it is massive. Even my niece, Lindsay Moore in Laramie, and my nieces, Liz Masterson, and Jenny Spethman in Casper, have added to the amount of pictures that have told the story of this huge snow day. It is truly a kid’s dream, and for those who couldn’t go to work today and won’t be tomorrow, it isn’t the most horrible news either.

My nephew, Rob Masterson has had what his wife, Dustie recalls as a “not very interesting” year, but as I talked to her, I determined that maybe that analogy wasn’t quite accurate after all. Rob, who is a supervisor in the auto shop and tire sales area of Sam’s Club, has done something that no other employee of that area of Sam’s Club has done so far. Rob became the first Sam’s Club employee, at this location, to complete all of his out of state tire trainings. At his trainings, Rob learned everything anyone could possibility ever want or need to know about tires, and probably more than most of us ever cared to know. Nevertheless, Rob found it quite interesting. He told Dustie that he drove cars with new tires on the front and then another one with them on the back to feel the difference. He got to drive all kinds of tracks on many different vehicles and wheels.

Dustie is sure, and I would agree, that Rob’s favorite training trip was to Las Vegas. The Vegas trip was the final training trip, so Dustie told me that the training was a little more relaxed. I would say so!! According to Dustie, “He got to drive a Ferrari, Lamborghini, and an Alfa Romeo on the last Vegas speedway. He got some video of it. He was driving like a madman!” Not many of us, who are not racing drivers, get the chance to feel what it is like to race on an actual speedway…much less to drive a Ferrari, Lamborghini, or an Alfa Romeo in the manner of a driver in a real race. Rob got that opportunity, and he relished it. I’m sure many men would have.

Work, for Rob, might not have seemed interesting to Dustie either, but for most of us, this year has been quite interesting, indeed. How many years have most workplaces adopted the practice of wearing medical masks. Not many who are not medical workplaces, I would wager. Nevertheless, while at work, and especially while helping customers, masks have become mandatory in many businesses. The jury is still out as to how effective the wearing of masks is, in disease prevention, but for now, this is the situation in which we find ourselves.

Because they have worked so much this year, Rob and Dustie and decided that they owe it to themselves and their children, Raelynn, Matt, and Anna to take some trips this summer. They decided that even though travel is necessarily somewhat limited right now, Wyoming has enough historic and beautiful places to allow them to spend all summer traveling and learning the history right here in their home state. They are planning trips to Devil’s Tower, and Thermopolis for sure, and are looking are several other places too. I’m sure they will have a wonderful summer, for sure. Today is Rob’s birthday. Happy birthday Rob!! Have a great day!! We love you!!

If you ask my nephew, Rob Masterson, about his daughter Audrianna, he will tell you that she is a joy to be around, and like his other children, she is the joy of his life. i believe that is true of all his kids. As to Audrianna, casually known as Anna, she is a soft-spoken girl, who makes friends easily. This 4th of July, at the fireworks display in Casper, Wyoming, while viewing them with the daughter of a co-workers of her dad’s, Anna met a girl named Aurora, casually known as Rory. You might think that Aurora is a unusual name, but not in our family, because Anna also has a second cousin named Aurora. Be that as it may, Anna and her new friend, Aurora quickly became good friends. in fact, Aurora spent the night if the 4th with Anna, and the next day, she got to go to Thermopolis with her friend as a part of Anna’s birthday celebration. Most of the swimmers came back sunburned, but not Anna or her brother Matthew, who both tan easily. A great time was had by all, and the summer looks to be going great for the new friends.

Anna is a smart girl, who loves school. She is very inquisitive, and gets almost straight As as a student. This is something I have noticed in Anna as well. She is a concentrator,much like her Great Aunt Caryn, and will think on a problem until she has a solution to it. That makes her a great student. She just doesn’t give up. Anna is also very loving, very protective of her sister, Raelynn and her brother, Matthew. Eve though they are both older than Anna, she can be fierce if anyone is picking on them. People don’t and really, shouldn’t mess with Anna when she has her mother bear instincts working. Nevertheless, most of the time it is Anna’s loving nature you see. She is quick to hug and to let her friends and family know that she loves them.

Anna loves to play Minecraft on the family Xbox. Again, I find myself looking to see what Minecraft is all about, because I get it mixed up with Minesweeper. Minesweeper is about sweeping an area for landmines, while Minecraft is about building things with blocks. Somehow the name doesn’t fit my idea of what it is. What do mines have to do with building blocks, anyway? Nevertheless, the game looks interesting, and it might be something I would like…if I were into games. Anna, however, is into games, and very into Minecraft…as are her siblings and just about every other kid I know. It is just what the kids do these days, I guess. Today is Anna’s birthday.I can’t believe she is already 11 years old. Where has the time gone. Happy birthday Anna!! Have a great day!! We love you!!

20100623_4_editedLike all good things…our Anniversary Weekend has come to an end. That’s that bad thing about long weekends, holidays, and vacations…they end way too soon. It doesn’t matter how much you like your job, we all hate to see the weekend come to an end. It’s no different for me, and I find myself a little sad that the annual trip Bob and I take to Thermopolis to celebrate our anniversary is over. When we go to Thermopolis, we don’t go to the pools in town, but rather just enjoy the hot tub at the motel. We don’t go there to be around a lot of people, but rather just to be with each other.
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This year’s trip was extra nice, because the temperatures were in the sixties. The early Spring was evident everywhere. The geese don’t really leave…at least I don’t think they do…because with all the warm water, staying warm is easy. Nevertheless, the birds were all everywhere, twittering and being all lovey…sure signs of impending Spring. The fishermen were out in force, and enjoying the warm weather to get back out there and enjoy a favorite sport.

Since we don’t fish, Bob and I were able to get out and do our favorite sport too. There is such a lovely river trail at the edge of the motel property, and it runs all the way up to the hot springs and pools, making for the perfect walk. For us though, this was the Chasing geesecelebration of 41 years of marriage, and that makes it an amazing trip for us. It’s our time to disconnect from everyday life, and just enjoy each other’s company…almost like a second honeymoon that you take year after year.

Sadly, this weekend trip like all other good things must come to an end, but as we head home, it is with a renewed relationship. That’s one of the beautiful things about these mini honeymoons, we come home more in love than when we left, if that is even possible. Bob has been such a blessing in my life, and of all the good things that have to come to an end, I’m thankful that we have not, because he is the love of my life, my soulmate, and my one and only. I had a wonderful weekend, Honey. I love you!!

IMG_5984IMG_5935For a number of years now, Bob and I have made a trip to Thermopolis each year in early March in celebration of our wedding anniversary, which is March 1st. Driving through the Wind River Canyon that many times, I feel like I know the face of those canyon walls pretty well. Since rainy weather has dominated this Spring, many areas of the state of Wyoming and several other states, flooding is a word that we have all gotten used to hearing. Since our state has been in a relative draught for a number of years, the ground has had a hard time absorbing all that water that has been coming in. And then there is the fact that we have had a few fires in key areas around the state. That adds an additional danger to certain areas…one of which is the Wind River Canyon, which was hit with mudslides and rockslides earlier this year.

This morning, Bob and I decided to take a drive up to Thermopolis to see for ourselves, exactly how the canyon face had been changed by the mudslides. Our granddaughter, Shai Royce decided to come along to see it too. imageimageWe had seen the pictures of it on television and on the internet when it happened, but you really can’t get a clear picture of something like that until you see it up close. So, after breakfast we set out. It was a nice drive up to the Wind River Canyon, and at first, it didn’t look so different, but then we got to the area where the main slides were. It was much different.

I expected it to look different, and it did, but what I didn’t expect was to have it occur to me that I was looking at the changing face of the canyon. I thought about how the canyon had changed over the years of its existence. The river made most of the changes that had taken place, slowly carving out the depth of it with erosion. Soon, its walls were high and filled with the hard rocks that had survived the erosion process. The trees grew along the face of the walls, and in time we all thought it wouldn’t change much, but rock and mudslides can change the face of those canyon walls overnight. I found myself thinking about how easy it was to pick out the slide path of each imageimageslide area. The coloring of the upturned earth made it stand out as if it were florescent paint. I was able to see the complete path the mud and rocks took on their way down.

I realized that this was just one event, but it didn’t matter, because I was looking at the changes brought about by time. This was the canyon’s changing face, caused by the effects of weather, water, wind, and fire to bring about an entirely new look to a canyon that had been there so long, looking, or so I thought, always the same. In reality, it was ever changing.

Going for a swimI See YouSometimes, you have to do something that makes you happy. That is how I feel about photography. Not everyone sees what I see in my pictures…but I see it. They say that “beauty is in the eye of the beholder”, and I always thought they meant finding love, but it really means any kind of beauty. My photography may not be beautiful or even unique to everyone, but to me each shot is an amazing expression of my own discovery. I say discovery, because most of the time, I don’t do anything, but see something that I think is photo worthy. Sometimes, I see other people who like the same kinds of things that I do, but just as often, other artists have very different styles than I do. And some seem very strange to me, as perhaps my photography does to others.

This past weekend, while Bob and I were in Thermopolis, we took the time to walk along the river, and up by the hot springs pools. The birds, including ducks, geese, and at least one Great Blue Heron, live in the area year round. It seems strange that they don’t migrate south, until you realize that with the hot springs, the river and especially the pools provide a warm climate for them. This makes migration unnecessary, and that is a cool thing for the people who love to visit the area. The birds, while not tame, are very much used to the scores of people who come to the area, and while they will not let you get seriously close to them, they are much more tolerant of people nearby…provided you move slowly. Of course, for the sake of my photography, having a child try to run up to the birds provides a perfect opportunity to try to get a good “flight” photograph.

Flight photographs are much harder to take than one would think. While all birds fly, and fly often, it is not that easy to take their picture doing it. They go very fast, and trying to chase them with your cameral lens and focus in time is not easy. Then, there is the problem of catching them in a position where they actually look like than Double FlightGreat Blue Herona bird and not a ball of feathers. A tripod doesn’t work for this type of picture, obviously, because you have to be able to move. In reality, the best way to take this type of picture is to get your camera ready, and have someone move quickly toward the birds, making them fly away. While that may not be a spontaneous photograph, it is often the best way to get that coveted “in flight” shot. While I didn’t ask them to, there were kids who caused my birds to take flight. To me, it doesn’t really matter what made the birds take flight, but rather the fact that they took flight that makes the scene photo worthy.

Wedding of the Waters 2There 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 Wedding of the Waters 1and 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.

Our Wedding_editedCaryn and Bob share a laughIt’s a yearly tradition for my husband, Bob Schulenberg and me…a time to re-connect. We make this trip to Thermopolis, Wyoming every year on a weekend near our anniversary. Some years have been harder to take this trip than others. When you have a parent that is not feeling very well, and you are a caregiver, you struggle with me time. There is always that feeling that you might be needed here. This year is a little bit hard too, because I suddenly have one less parent to care for, making this anniversary trip a little sad, but much needed after the stresses of planning a funeral and saying our goodbyes. I only wish that my family could all take this weekend to unwind too, because I really think they all need it badly.

In reality though, this trip is about spending time with the love of my life…my dear husband, Bob. When I think about the fact that we have been married for forty years, all I can think is, “Where did the time go?” Forty years seems like such a long time, and yet, it seems like just yesterday that we said, “I do.” I guess that is the way it is when the marriage is right. I feel so blessed to have been in such a marriage all these years. The squabbles and tough times never manage to stay in our lives very long, because the love always shines through. Love just couldn’t get any better than that…now could it?

So, as we head out, with a slightly heavy heart and high hopes for a wonderful weekend, I am reminded of just how beautiful the Thermopolis area is. We love the fact that there is so little to do there. Very few shops are open on the weekend, so we just relax, soak in the hot tubs, and walk the trail along the river and up by the mineral pools. It is kind of a forced way to relax, I guess, but with our busy lives, sometimes that is the only way to make us relax…how sad is that? Nevertheless, through all the caregiving work of the past ten years, I Bob and Caryn - the early years20100623_31_editedmust say that my husband, Bob was my biggest supporter, helper, confidant, and comforter. Could love possibly be more strong and compassionate than that? When he said, “for better or worse, in sickness and in health”, he took those words very seriously, and for that I am eternally grateful. So, now…today, and this weekend…is our time to re-connect. It is our time to relax and enjoy being together again, with the love of our lives…each other. I could not be any more blessed if I tried. I love you Bob Schulenberg!! You have filled my life with love and blessings. Happy anniversary weekend!!

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