The drive from Buffalo MT to Ranchester was an easy, short one (about 57 miles) and with good weather. The Lazy R Campground was affordable and pretty reasonable ($30.00/night, tax-inclusive), but the spaces were quite confined. Still, there was a small strip of grass and most sites are pull-thru, though with no margin of leeway (front or back) for the larger rigs such as ours, but we would stay there again if we were in the area and needed a short-term campground.
Here we ALMOST adopted a sweet tabby cat who came to us when called and apparently wanted to adopt us. He was the friendliest and most cuddly kitty, jumping on our laps for hugs and back-rubs (his) and would just lay by our feet and spend all day with us if we were outside. We gave him milk and tuna, which he seemed to like and appreciate. Once Mary went into the coach to get something and the kitty just followed her right into the coach, looked around and then followed her back out again. By the last night we were deliberating getting a kitty litter box and taking him with us, as he did not have a collar and looked a bit thin, but as fate would have it two women came to a small cabin behind our site for a few minutes and the kitty went directly to greet them; then returned to us when they were leaving. As they were getting ready to leave Bill thought to ask them if that was their cat. They said it was not theirs, but that it belonged to one of their ‘renters’, and that the kitty’s name is Turbo. So we were saddened that we would be missing Turbo when we left, but glad that he did in fact have a home to go to when the nights get cold. As you can see by the photos there was an instant connection between us. We miss you Turbo cat. If anyone stays there, look him up and pet him for us.
On Thursday 08/03 we took a drive to the Bighorn Scenic Byway and Medicine Wheel, on US Hwy 14 with spectacular views of Fallen City (a hill of Madison Formation limestone blocks).
THE RIPARIAN COMMUNITY
Distinct plants occur in and around open bodies of water where the water table is high. Known as riparian communities, these areas are often rich in plant life and provide food, water and shelter for a variety of animals. Riparian communities extend from the prairies to high alpine areas. The se communities are largely limited to elevations up to 6,000 feet.
THE MOUNTAIN FOREST COMMUNITY
Evergreen forests extend from 6,000 feet to 10,000 feet. Just above the foothills a white band of conifers begins. Ponderosa pine and Douglas fir grow at lower elevations. Lodgepole pine dominates mid-elevations, while Engelmann spruce and sub-alpine fir flourish higher up. Throughout the Big Horn Mountains, broad mountain meadows and small aspen groves are mixed with conifer forests.
THE ALPINE COMMUNITY
Plants living above 10,000 feet must be hardy. They are adapted to extreme weather conditions, including repeated freezing and thawing, intense sunlight and short growing seasons. Some grow in spreading mats or cushions, clinging close to the ground to better retain heat and moisture. Conifer shrubs and trees, bent and twisted by strong winds in these elevations provide a living record of prevailing wind direction.
Ancestors of contemporary Native American Indians were the first people to live in the mountain range known today as the Big Horns. They valued the mountains not only for food, clothing and shelter, but also as a spiritual resource. Rock art portrays the importance of the natural and spiritual world in this culture. Some rock art found in the Big Horns dates back some 5,000 years.
60 million years ago a tremendous geologic uplift formed these mountains. Virtually every era of geologic time can be viewed in exposed rock strata as we ventured from foothills to high alpine peaks. Twin Buttes stand as testimony to the long geologic history of the Big Horn Mountains. They are said to be composed of dolomite… a very dense rock formed in ancient sea beds, which have survived millions of years of of weathering by wind and water.
As we ascended the temperature dropped,,,
Higher and higher we went...
Even into the clouds...
And lower and lower dove the temperature...
At Burgess Junction, where there is a Visitor Center one has the choice of continuing on Hwy 14 to Shell Falls and the higher elevations, or turn off of Hwy 14 to US Hwy 14A, the Medicine Wheel Passage to Medicine Wheel, which is a sacred and spiritual Indian destination for ceremonies and as a place to make offerings and prayers, visualized pretty much as in Devils Tower (Bear Lodge) by the tying of cloths or placement of various artifacts and left there. We took the latter route and went to Medicine Wheel.
Elevation 8,010 feet
Arrowheads have changed with time. Here the differences are observed by era.
An aerial photo of Medicine Wheel in Burgess Junction Visitor Center.
Map of the Big Horns in the Bighorn National Forest and the locations
of Burgess Junction Visitor Center and the Medicine Wheel Passage (Hwy 14 Alt.) leading to the Medicine Wheel National Historic Landmark
A Ranger at the Burgess Visitor Center said that it was “about a mile and a half up the dirt road to the parking lot, and then a short one and a half mile hike to the Medicine Wheel, but not to worry because the trail is very gentle rises and falls”. So we opted to go to see it....
Could it be a spaceship that has landed on the ridge. If it was Roswell NM we would venture to accept that notion but actually it was an observatory.
And finally we arrived at the parking lot entrance to the
hiking trail to the Medicine Wheel National Landmark.
From there we drove back to the campground and spent the next two days relaxing in town before leaving and going on to the 7th Ranch in Garryowen, Montana to meet our friends Brett and Susan Wickett (who were camping at the same campground in the site next to ours) and to go visit the Battlefield of the Little Big Horn (or Greasy Grass, as the Indians called it) and Custer's Last Stand. Interestingly, the 7th Ranch RV Park is actually within the Crow Indian Reservation, See you there, in the next post. Happy Trails.