Robert Witham

Nomadic minimalist, writer, and videographer

Tag: Wyoming (page 2 of 2)

An Early Spring Arrival in Wyoming

Why would anyone return to Wyoming in early March? That is an excellent question!

Actually, I did not plan to return this early, but after striking out finding a suitable campsite in southern Wyoming, I gave up and drove through to Wyoming. Hopefully I can plan better next year!

These two videos cover my return to Wyoming and a spring snowstorm that welcomed be back to the Cowboy State. I hope you enjoy the videos!

Racing the Weather Back to Flagstaff

After spending more than a month in Wyoming, it was time to head back to a warmer climate. The weather was beginning to cool by mid-September, and the rains were becoming more frequent. Since my traveling companion, Debra Dickinson, had never seen the Medicine Bow National Forest, we decided to take the scenic route back to Flagstaff.

Medicine Bow National Forest in southern Wyoming is a stunningly beautiful area. It is well worth the detour if you plan to be in the area. One note of caution, however, is that the roads are designed for summer use and many are not maintained during the winter.

As it turns out, even the middle of September can be questionable. We headed west out of Douglas with sunny skies and temperatures in the 70s. Once in the mountains though, the weather took a turn for the worse. As we climbed into the mountains, the sun disappeared and was replaced with ominous black clouds. It thundered, hailed, rained, and snowed as we pressed onward since there was nowhere to turn around with the trailer. At one point, I was driving on a road that was nothing but sand – actually very wet sand – and the van was slipping side to side trying to climb a hill. Finally, we made it through to pavement again.

Day one of the return trip concluded with a late dinner at Taco Bell and a decent night of rest at the Walmart in Rock Springs, Wyoming.

The second leg of the journey took us from Rock Springs into Utah, and then into Arizona. Still continuing the pattern of taking the road less traveled (we didn’t learn anything the day before), we continued through scenic areas like the Flaming Gorge National Recreation Area and Ashley National Forest.

Somewhere along Highway 89 in Utah, at just about dusk, we met a friendly state police officer. Apparently the trailer lights were not working, though they had worked earlier when I checked. It turns out that all the mudding we did the day before in Medicine Bow National Forest had made a mess in the wiring connector.

We arrived back in Flagstaff around midnight. Too tired to deal with finding a campsite in the dark, we spent the night parked at the Pilot truck stop. In the morning, we enjoyed breakfast with a blog reader who just happened to be at the McDonalds inside the truck stop. He recognized the van and trailer in the parking lot.

After breakfast, we headed out and found a great campsite that we had stayed at earlier in the summer with a spectacular view of Humphreys Peak. The weather was fine, and more tribe members soon arrived as they were passing through on their way from Idaho to Texas.

Summer and Family in the Cowboy State

There is a short summer season in Wyoming. If you hate winter, this is the only time you want to be in Wyoming. The Cowboy State is known for spring coming late and winter coming early.

My daughter’s wedding was on Labor Day weekend so I ended up spending about a month “moochdocking” in her yard. Fortunately, the wedding was planned during the short summer. The best part about this arrangement was being able to spend a lot of time with my three granddaughters. There is nothing quite like hearing a little voice shouting “Pops! Pops!” at random intervals throughout the day. To be more precise, those random intervals occurred whenever the three-year-old could escape from her parents for a moment. Precious memories.

The month spent in Wyoming also provided some time to work on remodeling the trailer to better suit my needs. While it is still a work in progress – and likely will be modified a bit more before it is finished – I now have a bed, kitchen, closets, and desk. I also had some “help” with remodeling from my granddaughters and a nosy horse.

I had planned to leave Wyoming after the wedding at the same time that most of the other family departed, but ended up staying an extra 10 days. This was mostly because of a reluctance to leave my granddaughters. People used to tell me that this would happen, but I did not believe it until I actually had grandchildren.

Experiencing Big Horn Medicine Wheel

Thin places. Ancient Celtic Christians used the term to refer to those places where heaven and earth seemed closer than normal – that is, where the space between heaven and earth was indeed thin.

Eric Weiner has described thin places as “locales where the distance between heaven and earth collapses and we’re able to catch glimpses of the divine…”

However you prefer to describe them, thin places are those spaces that are understood to be special, transcendent, perhaps even sacred.

I have encountered several such thin places during my explorations of the American West. Medicine Wheel (Medicine Wheel/Medicine Mountain National Historic Landmark) in Wyoming’s Bighorn Mountains was the most recent. (Another recent example is Devils Tower, also in Wyoming.)

The Medicine Wheel sits high atop a mountain in the Bighorns (nearly 10,000 feet in elevation) with a stunning 360-degree view of 18,000 acres of mountain wilderness. The stones that comprise the Medicine Wheel form an 80-foot diameter circle with stone spokes radiating outward from the center where a stone represents the Creator. The name “Medicine Wheel” was applied to the site by white men who saw it in the late 1800s.

Despite the historically recent “discovery” (USFS term, not mine) by white men, the wheel is believed to have been constructed 300-800 years ago by Plains Indians. The various cairns that comprise the wheel point to rising and setting places of the sun and stars around the summer solstice. Interestingly, while the solstice alignments are still accurate, the wheel’s alignment with stars would have been most accurate around 1200 A.D. (See Bighorn Medicine Wheel at Stanford SOLAR Center for more on this topic.)

Today the site is still viewed as significant historically and spiritually by Native American tribes. As evidence of this significance, the site is adorned with prayer cloths and other sacred items.

This site is worth visiting while you are in the Bighorns if you are interested in historical sites or Native tradition/spirituality. The parking area is approximately 1.5 miles from the wheel, so come prepared for a summer hike at high altitude (bring water and appropriate hiking gear as the weather can change fast at this elevation).

Directions

The Bighorn Medicine Wheel is located on the north side of ALT 14 in the Wyoming Bighorn Mountains. Approaching from the east, take Interstate 90 to Ranchester, then follow Highway 14 to ALT 14. Approaching from Yellowstone National Park and Cody in the west, take ALT 14 from Cody.

Experiencing Devils Tower

It’s not every hike that combines perfect, summer evening weather with a place so rich in history that the very air feels charged or spiritual. A hike last weekend at Devils Tower in Wyoming succeeded on both counts.

The weather was a perfect 72 degrees as the sun set, with a gentle breeze blowing to keep thing comfortable. The very air around the tower felt charged as if walking on sacred ground. Indeed, the tower has a rich history and remains spiritually significant to several area Native American tribes.

Devils Tower is an imposing, volcanic rock formation that rises 867 feet from its base. The tower was likely formed beneath the earth’s surface as a result of volcanic activity. The Bella Fourche River is credited with eroding softer layers of rock and leaving the current formation.

The tower is significant historically, both to Native American tribes in the area and to later ranchers. Several different legends have existed as to how the tower was formed, and they are a lot more fun than the official explanation!

Photo: Devils Tower

Devils Tower at Sunset

The tower is popular with a variety of visitors, including photographers and climbers. The first recorded ascent of Devils Tower occurred in 1893 when to men successfully climbed the tower using a wooden ladder. Remnants of the ladder are still visible with binoculars.

The tower is worth the detour from I-90 if you are traveling through northeastern Wyoming. It is a unique historical site with a lot of history.

Directions

Interstate 90 to the Highway 14 exit (either Moorcroft or Sundance). Take Highway 14 to Highway 24. Follow Highway 24 north to Devils Tower National Monument.

Newer posts

© 2017 Robert Witham

Theme by Anders NorenUp ↑