Discovering Granite Falls & Hot Springs

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Monday, August 25, 2014

By the time I left Jackson, WY this morning, the clouds still clung to the mountain tops as if with tentacles that would just not let go. Though the sun tugged at those stubborn clouds, trying to loosen their grip, the clouds tenaciously held fast. 

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With more peepholes of sunlight breaking through, however it was just a matter of time until the warming sunlight would heat the clouds forcing them to release their grip and ascend further up into the sky. Driving further southward, that is exactly what transpired. Taking Rt. 191 south toward Flaming Gorge in Southern Wyoming, the scenery was tremendous as highway meandered through a very pleasant valley following Hoback River. 

Being in no hurry, I stopped often to take pictures and to be on the lookout for a road leading to Granite Hot Springs, a recommended stop from Mark H. Once I located that turnoff, I proceeded on an unpaved, well used dirt road. Many potholes and some rough going, I entered another valley of outstanding beauty. By the signage at the highway, Granite Hot Springs were 10 miles into the valley. 

Proceeding at a reasonable speed of about 20-25 mph, other vehicles came into view from behind, and in less rugged vehicles than my Toyota Tacoma. Heading in the only direction we could, we all maintained a bit faster pace and drove further and further along the road, until signage indicated “Granite Falls”. I was not sure if that was the spot of the hot springs, but just being another waterfall pulled me in where I stopped, got my camera and hiking pole and walked the short distance to the Granite Creek’s edge. There I saw a couple of bundles of clothing and shoes, but nowhere in sight did I see any people. 

Walking closer to the falls, I then saw a small group, across the turbulent creek’s waters obviously soaking in a hot pool by the creeks edge near the falls. Not wanting to disturb those soakers, I wandered around the falls and took photos. All the while I was wondering how they forded the very rapidly flowing creek with many rapids across from the hot spring. I decided to just wait, observe from a distance to see where the people crossed. The hot soaking pool was created much like the one we hikers enjoyed at Dunanda Falls. With larger rocks, the flow of the cold waters were blocked and the hot waters were more contained in the pool which comfortably would hold 4 to 6. To stretch out it would be comfortable for about 3 people. 

 In time a couple left and I followed their movements as they sought the way back to the opposite shore to where they had stashed their clothes. That prompted me to start getting ready for a venture across the waters and to my own soak in the hot springs. By the time they arrived back at their truck, I was changed into my bathing suit, water shoes and t shirt. Before attempting my crossing, I asked them about their experience. They told me a much larger pool was up the road that was created by the CCC in the Depression years, but that this little pool was much better than the larger, and better known hot springs. 

It would be cold in the river they cautioned, but assured me it was worth the effort to cross over and experience it. So I headed on down the steep path to the rivers edge attempting at first to cross nearer to the falls, but the water was far too fast and I felt certain that I be pushed into the current and soaked in ice cold water before reaching the other shore. Working my way downstream a little further, I made my move and very slowly inched my way across using a hiking pole to steady myself against the very strong current and to give stability on the slippery rocks. 

With feet extremely numb from the ice cold (and I mean, ICE cold), I clambered across the rocky, shallower waters and stepped into the hot waters. 

It was so refreshing.

My popsicle toes were ever so relieved to be warmed instantly. Sliding down into the comforting, hot spring, was its’ own reward for the adventure of crossing a strong and chilling current. But, the weather, even as I started out to cross, was very quickly changing. Those nasty clouds had marched back in and were again claiming hold of the mountain tops. The sun had no chance in this battle. Though wet from the creek crossing and now from my soak in the small pool, it seemed prudent for me to not linger so that I could make my return without further hinderance from rain on top of the cold soaking I would receive from the creek. 

So, with only a brief soak, I found what appeared to be a safe (safer) crossing spot and proceeded with my careful stepping, inching around large, uneven shaped and placed rocks and boulders, steadying myself with the hiking pole, stumbling a few times but catching myself from a fall, fighting against the strongest part of the current and successfully reached shallower waters, then upon the solid ground of the shore. 

Scurrying up the steep path, I pulled open the tailgate and shed my water shoes, grabbed my towel and began rubbing my feet to help dry AND warm them. Having gathered my dry clothes which were laying next to me, a couple who had been observing from a high vantage point returnd to their SUV parked next to mine. With pleasant conversation and them asking about my experience, I sat in my cold bathing suit, still rubbing my leg and feet with the towel. Being in no particular hurry, but my enjoying the talking, they lingered there, my dry clothing sitting beside me. Oh yeah, I wanted to get changed into some dry things, but they continued to linger…

Finally, I just had to tell them I NEEDED to change clothes. With that, like a light bulb going on, they very quickly excused themselves and drove away. Now, as I was dropping my wet bathing suit to the ground, two cars, simultaneously arrived. One couple walked past and down toward the river. The other car pulled in right in front of me. OH Great! just as I’m about to drop my suit.

The heck with modesty. Let them get an eyeful, I’m getting out of these cold, wet clothes and putting on my dry things! That was a quick change even though I knew I was clearly in their line of sight. Soon after buttoning up my pants, the woman of the couple came over and started to chat. I learned they often come to this hot spring pool and soak. It is their favorite and better suited to their tastes than the larger swimming pool just up the road. Smiling at me the whole time, she was very chatty. But as the drizzle then began to fall, I had to excuse myself and quickly got back in my truck and drove away as they walked off toward the river and their own private hot spa soak.

I wished I could have spent at least a little more time in the hot springs. At least I can say I found THAT hot spring and had the opportunity to enjoy it. It might not be the one that was recommended to me, but with Granite Falls right there it was a good find and excellent little adventure.

Not wanting to be caught on what could become a slimy, muddy road, I quickly made my way back to the highway before the drizzled turned into a downpour. 

From that point, entering the highway, it was 100 miles to Rock Springs, WY, where I planned to stop for the day. It rained for the next 35 miles and then only partially cleared.

After leaving the valley, the landscape opened up into a high prairie. Long views into the distance, sparsely populated, and with views of the snow capped Rocky Mountains to my left. Clouds still clung to the higher mountain tops and to my right I could see ever darkening clouds and rain fall in the far distance. With partial blue skies and many clouds, some high cirrus, others in gray to blue gray, black and white thick rolls of clouds accompanied me for many, many miles. Nearly 20 miles outside of Roaring Springs I found a side road and a dirt road off of that was used to access the high power electric lines towering above me. That dirt road was not maintained, with deep ruts, some mud holes and rocky. Ruff and tumble as it was I wanted to get to higher ground for a better view and photo of the sky. Quickly taking several shots, I returned to the highway and merged back onto the blacktop. That was my one last off road excursion for the day. It helped to get my blood pumping and to give me a boost after a long afternoon of driving.

 I was soon in Rock Springs where I have booked a room for tonight. 

Tomorrow I will explore at Flaming Gorge National Recreation Area, another of Mark’s recommended sites to visit. From there my plans are unknown.




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