Friday, August 30, 2013

Five Springs Basin, Bighorn Mountains, WY

Papa grew up at the foothills of the Bighorn Mountains, Wyoming, which means we frequently return to his stomping grounds to visit family and friends.

One of our favorite activities whenever we visit is to head up into the Bighorn Mountains for a day of driving scenic byways and hiking to beautiful spots.

One of the historic spots we like to visit is Medicine Wheel, a National Historic Landmark that is still being used today by Native Americans for their cultural and religious ceremonies.

Medicine Wheel, Bighorn Mountains, Wyoming

Taken from the Wyoming tourism website:

"The 75-foot diameter Medicine Wheel is a roughly circular alignment of rocks and associated cairns enclosing 28 radial rows of rock extending out from a central cairn. This feature is part of a much larger complex of interrelated archaeological sites and traditional use areas that express 7000 years of Native American adaptation to and use of the alpine landscape that surrounds Medicine Mountain." 

There is much I do not know about Native American culture and the Medicine Wheel, so suffice it to say I enjoy visiting this site to honor the history of the people who have used it and continue to use it as an important part of their cultural heritage.

The hike out to the wheel is not too steep, although I always have to stop along the way and catch my breath due to the elevation - 9642 feet above sea level, a bit of a jump from my normal habitat at 970 feet.

Thankfully there are several spots to stop and rest along the hike, all with breathtaking views of the Bighorns.

Papa stops to rest along the hike out to Medicine Wheel, Bighorn National Forest

Beautiful views on the way to Medicine Wheel

If you pay attention as you hike, you may spot an American pika, a small rodent found in the mountains of western North American in boulder fields above the treeline.

I learned when looking them up later that they partake in an interesting summer foraging activity referred to as 'haying," which literally involves gathering grasses, drying them on the rocks, then caching them in "haypiles" to be consumed throughout the winter (they do not hibernate).

American pika living among the boulders at Medicine Wheel, Bighorn National Forest

So in a way, you could think of them as little rodent farmers.


View of Bighorn Mountains from the road to Medicine Wheel

On the road to Medicine Wheel, Bighorn Mountains

Bighorn Mountains near Medicine Wheel

At last the wheel comes into view.

viewing the wheel from afar

Because this is an active culture site for Native Americans to this day, it is possible to arrive and find this area of the park is closed to the public for short periods of time, during ceremonies.

Approaching the Medicine Wheel, Bighorn Mountains, WY

We did have to wait just a bit before journeying out here today, but it was not an inconvenience. There are so many beautiful views to enjoy during the wait.

Prayer flags circle the perimeter of the wheel

One of the very first thing you notice is along the fence that circles the wheel, visitors have left color bits of cloth, prayer flags, all along the fence. They wave and flutter in the wind.

The circle itself is closed off except for ceremonies, but it is quite lovely to walk around the perimeter and marvel at the cairns which offer up a mystery:

"A 1972 investigation of the site by Astronomer John Eddy determined that various pairs of the cairns were used to determine/predict certain astronomical events, like the summer solstice. And the layout was very accurate for the time period between 1200 CE and 1700 CE."

Quote from here.

The walk back from the wheel is equally as lovely as the walk out to it, and always seems shorter, or perhaps my lungs just acclimate a tiny bit from having been outside on the top of a mountain for several hours.

Bighorn Mountains along the road to Medicine Wheel

Hungry from the walk and the altitude (or using that as an excuse to stop for a picnic), we pulled over at a campground (there are many of them all over in the Bighorns!) for a bite to eat. Note the lovely picnic basket - a gift from my mother-in-law {Thank you Jean!}.

Papa and the picnic basekt

Properly refreshed and rested, we decided to stretch our legs and test our glutes on another challenge - the trail to Bucking Mule Falls.

Papa climbs out for a view at Bucking Mule Falls, Bighorn Mountains, WY

Hang onto your hat there Papa Bear!

Papa at the top of Bucking Mule Falls, Bighorn Mountains, WY

Windy up here!

It's a very long way down!

Looking down into Devil's Canyon at Bucking Mule Falls, Bighorn Mountains, WY

A photo of me taking a photo of Papa (see me in his glasses?). I wonder, is this the path to Infinity?

Well nothing else to do now but head down the trail into Devil's Canyon.

Papa heads down the trail at Bucking Mule Falls, Bighorn Mountains, WY

first glimpse at Bucking Mule Falls, Bighorn Mountains, WY

Papa enjoys the view of Bucking Mule Falls, Bighorn Mountains, WY

It was at this point on our hike we noticed the rain moving in, and decided perhaps it best not to go all the way down to the floor of the canyon, but rather hike out before the rain reached us (and the camera!)

rain moving into Devil's Canyon, Bighorn Mountains, WY

You don't even have to leave the highways to get gorgeous views while driving in the Bighorns. There is plenty to see right from the vehicle.

Gorgeous views from the Bighorn Scenic Byway

We were even lucky enough on this trip to spot a moose!

Moose in the Bighorn Mountains, WY

moose grazing Bighorn Mountains, WY

All in all a delightful, if not a bit tiring, day in the Bighorn Mountains.

Cheers -
Gypsy Farmgirl explores the Bighorn Mountains, WY

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

one little monkey hanging on a rope...

Participants pay to play this non-rodeo event, a time-filler as rodeo scores are being tallied and winners are being determined.

The object of the game is for two riders to come out on horseback, one of which has to catch a rope and dangle while his/her partner takes the horse around a barrel and then back to pick them up again.

Needless to say this combination of maneuvers leaves much room for error - and comedy.

young or old, girls or boys can all try their skills at monkey on a rope

little monkey on a rope - Sheridan Elk's Youth Rodeo 2013

hang on little monkey!

hang on little monkey!

almost there!

got it!


one big monkey hanging on a rope...

um, about that maneuver...


is this what they call sidesaddle?

ruh roh Reorge...

here we go!

becoming the monkey

hang on monkey!

I'll just hang around here for awhile...

so this is what they meant by "tie a knot and hold on..."

the tongue helps give you extra gription

she'll be coming 'round the barrel when she comes...

does this horse have a "reverse" gear?

feet... are... off... ground...

I'm not sure this horse is too excited about this...

cowgirls just wanna have fun

here... we... go!!!

whacha doin'?  oh, just hanging around...

makin' it look easy

just about got it...


the end of our monkey tale

Cheers -
Gypsy Farmgirl visits the Sheridan Elk's Youth Rodeo

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