The Abandoned Downtown of Shoshoni, WY

I've said it time and time again--A family vacation [with my family, anyways] isn't complete until we've stopped on the side of the road to explore something abandoned. [example: 1, 2.] I should get it embroidered on a pillow or something.

When I drove through Shoshoni on my way to Thermopolis, I fell in love with its tired facade and ramshackle buildings immediately.  The strange thing, however, was that because it sits at the crossroads of two highways, it's fairly well traveled and the roads are busy.  There's a gas station on the corner whose parking lot is constantly bursting at the seams, as vehicles with license plates from all over the country attempt to navigate in between large camper vans.

Originally, I had my heart set on stopping at the abandoned motel [second picture], but as we drove through after going to Lander we were all tired + hot, ready to get back to the hotel. "Let's just go a little further, though," one of my parents suggested, so we passed the turn we were supposed to take--and found the 'downtown, ' jutting off the main highway.

On either side, there were half a dozen buildings or so--boarded up, falling down stores on a wide street that was once well tread, ending at the train tracks. Grass was growing through the cracks in the sidewalk; the white paint was peeling. The only operating business still left was the "Silver Sage Saloon" [which, later, I found out is a great place to stop for a beer!]

Every building had murals of Native Americans, ranging in their skill from beautiful to cartoonish [and fairly offensive] painted across their closed facades. It was so quiet--in the 10 or 15 minutes that we wandered around, we didn't see a soul.

It's places like these that make my mind wander. Shoshoni is still home to 500 odd people--at its height, it only had 800--but the downtown is abandoned, derelict, decimated. What was it like, when the storefronts were open? When families walked down the sidewalks, when the bar was filled with patrons--the train rumbling by, the houses neatly painted? Was it ever like that?

Even now, a month out, these questions still rattle around my brain. Maybe I'll have to go back.


If there's a hidden gem in Wyoming, and if that hidden gem isn't Laramie--well, it's Lander.

Surrounded by green fields and ranches, right after a tiny little town called Hudson, it's an old fashioned sort of place. The downtown is one long main street, old facades painted in different colors, with trims and tidings of salmons and yellows and bright blues. It has outdoor equipment stores, restaurants, and even a little movie theater. 

We started off our day by driving to Sinks Canyon State Park, where we hiked up to the falls. It's a 1.5 mile hike, which was perfect for my family and I--especially since they were still acclimating to the mile high altitude. The path wasn't very steep, and was dotted with wildflowers + small rocks. At the top, across a small chasm, a waterfall crashed, angry and fierce, down the rocks--since it was June, the river was at its highest point of the year. 

After our hike, we headed to the Gannett Grill, where we ate burgers + drank beer and sat in the shade--sunburned, tired, hungry, but happy. 


It takes me four hours, seven bathroom trips, and one wrong turn--but on the first day of my vacation, I find myself pulling into Thermopolis--county seat of aptly named Hot Springs County, population 3,000, and home to Hot Springs State Park. [noticing a trend, here?] 

I'm meeting my family for an epic[ish] seven day road trip through the state that starts here, in a small town accessed through a canyon, a small town with craggy, red rock dirt landscapes, a small town with a row of shops and a handful of local stores. 

Thermopolis is much cooler than I had initially anticipated, in a very 'quaint but slightly tired' sort of feeling. From the small, family owned supermarket to the ice cream + fast food stand connected to a mini golf course, to the 'washeteria' with brown wood paneling and yellow machines, there is a whiff of days gone by wafting through the town. 

Hot Springs State Park is no exception to this, either. Many of the hotels are located in the park proper and have their own hot springs hot tubs, including our hotel--and we spend a lot of time there, soaking in the sulfur water--but there are also bathhouses built on the springs, some complete with pools and water slides. 

It's a sunny afternoon when I arrived, and my father and I wander around the park, peeking into and around the back of these old bathhouses. While there are some clouds in the sky, the sun is still high overhead, giving everything that washed out, harsh colors sort of look that makes everything look like a fifties photograph. We walk across a boardwalk that floats over the hot springs, learning about the process, and standon a suspension bridge, jumping so that the bridge will sway. The river is high, a muddy tan that has flooded parking spaces and taken parts of a walking path underwater--typical June, in Wyoming. 

The next day, we drive up to the top of the park, where buffalo roam on the side of the road. From there, we can see the entire town, spread below us, and the hills around it--the deep gouges in the earth that looked like veins, cut into the hills. And so, we sit, still, watching the golden light slowly reach the furthest corners of the landscape. 

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