Saturday, August 11, 2012

The Bighorn National Forest

When we were talking with Shelby this morning, after wishing her a happy ninth birthday (!), she mentioned that my blog posts are so long. She's right. Yet, today's may be the longest. Yesterday we drove just over 300 miles through the Bighorn National Forest where the wildlife photos were taken. In all our travels, we have seen so many awesome places that take your breath away. The Bighorn Mountains may have the record for such dramatically changing landscapes; over and over we would just round a curve and the world would look entirely different...quite enthralling.

From Buffalo, WY we drove up to Sheridan, over to Medicine Wheel National Historic Landmark, back to Burgess Junction to catch Hwy 14, down through Ten Sleep, and past Loaf Mountain Overlook where we were on Thursday. Here is a look at our drive in the order we experienced it.

Something we had not seen before but that certainly enhanced our experience were these signs providing the name, the period, and the age of the rocks seen along the drive.

Does anyone else think this giant boulder looks like a toad?

Rich walking along the banks of the North Tongue River.

Me, wading IN the North Tongue River...of course! 
That was the coldest water I've ever been in.

I was excited to see the Medicine Wheel but when we got there, the Rangers meet each visitor with the information that it is a grueling 3 mile round-trip walk, that you must carry water, and that proper footwear is strongly recommended because it is a gravel/dirt road. Rich leashed the girls and off we went. He had water; I wore flips.

I stopped here, already out of breath at this nearly 10,000 foot elevation and in my marginal physical condition. This is where I watched the marmots and pikas.

After I got my breath, I thought I would go just a bit farther and then just a bit farther and then I got to this point. I could see the fence that surrounds Medicine Wheel at the top of that steep incline. The walk so far, on that surface and with several steep inclines, had been extremely arduous for me; I gave up, realizing that I couldn't make that last nearly half mile that you see leading straight up to the right.

Rich and The Girls were already at the Wheel before I made it to the base of that final incline. He took this photo of that special place.

See Rich and The Girls? He has on the blue shirt and is about half way down to where I stopped.

Isn't this a great shot of MOAO and our Girls?

They went on down ahead of me because I knew it was going to be slow going for me. I had not gone far when I look around and saw this rain in the distance; it was only sprinkling on me though.

I confess that this was one of the dumbest things I've ever done. Two miles of extreme grades, up and down and up and down at nearly 10,000 feet in my poor physical condition. Rich was getting worried and took this photo as I came into his view. You can see my red top. By the time I got to the car, he was rightfully irritated that I hiked that distance under those conditions. Maybe I learned something? hmmm

After we backtracked to Burgess Junction, we hadn't driven too far on Hwy 14 before we came to the Shell Falls Interpretive Center. Yes, more than a billion years of geological history in this canyon!

Shell Creek as it approached the fall.

The 120 feet of Shell Falls

Shell Creek coursing through the ancient rock canyon it has carved, at the bottom of the falls.
The Precambrian rock identified in this area is 2.9 billion years old.

We stopped at an overlook, a short distance along the road after we left the falls, to photograph Shell Creek continuing through this ancient rock canyon.

The awesomeness wasn't over, not by a long shot. Here are a few scenes from the rest of our drive.

Can you see the lighter colored rock just to the right of center in this next photo? The light colored pile of rock at the bottom of that light colored face had apparently fallen recently...but that could be years ago in the geological time that measures the age of the rock in this area.

And now we're almost back to the Loaf Mountain Lookout that I posted about on Thursday. If you know about other areas anywhere in the country where the geology is as ancient and the scenes as dramatically varied in such a short distance as the Bighorn Mountains, please let us know. We would love to see it!

Lovin' Life ~~ And the Bighorns

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