Monday, August 15, 2011

Big Horn Mountains - Part 1

We spent the entire day yesterday exploring the Big Horn Mountains.
We headed out past Greybull on a very sunny and increasingly very hot day, greatly looking forward to exploring this mountain range that we had to this point only seen from a distance.
For the past five months we have looked to these mountains dominating the landscape in the far off distance, and this huge and long chain of mountains have appeared to us as a mirage.
A long and expansive wall of mountain to the east that from Cody looks as if it blends perfectly with the clouds it seems to reach all the way into.
I have no idea why we have not made our way into the Big Horns before now.
Maybe because the roads leading into the mountains were closed even beyond the time when the East Gate of Yellowstone opened.
The road closed again just a few weeks later because of washouts and then reopened again.
I had no idea before moving here what was involved in keeping these mountain roads open.
Since seeing Sylvan Pass in the Yellowstone, seeing the Beartooth Highway with its mountain of snowbanks even in the middle of June, and since following the open-closed-open life cycle of the highway in the Big Horns, I now have a sense of just how huge of a job it is to keep these highways and passes open through the summer.
Maybe we did not make the Big Horns before now because the Shoshone National Forest is only a few miles from town and we fell in love with that forest and the huge number of big horn sheep and bison we encountered very early on.
Regardless, we finally found these mountains yesterday and we had a very outstanding time.
Passing through Greybull we headed out of town continuing on Highway 14 through the sage and dusty terrain that has become so familiar to us over these months.
And very quickly we began to climb.
Huge rock bluffs encompassed us on both sides of the highway and we had not traveled far before pulling over to stop by the river.............
The first of many signs we saw along our route yesterday.
The Big Horn Mountains we learned, contain rivers and lakes and wildflowers and animal life and abundant mountain meadows.
This mountain range is also a treasure of interesting and wonderful rock formations that are untold millions of years old...................
View of the river taken while standing in the center of the bridge before heading back to the truck and continuing further...............
While LC and James waited in the truck I climbed out only 500 yards from the bridge and snapped this picture.
Two thoughts came to mind while standing in the shade and looking up at this sight:
1.  We had climbed quite a bit to that point, with much more climbing still to go on a winding highway filled with switchbacks.  This rock face in front of me had to be around 7000 feet.  I still forget many times that Cody is at an elevation of just over 5000 feet but when I do remember, it puts the size and scope of the mountains we encounter into perspective.
2.  If we didn't move it along we would not get very far................
Absolutely gorgeous on a very very hot late summer day............
After an hour of picture taking and greatly enjoying the beautiful scenery of the early stages of the Big Horns we pulled in briefly to this Visitor Center.
There were surprisingly few people either at the Visitor Center or on the highway.
I have had the sense since we arrived in Wyoming (that may or may not true) that tourists simply blow the Big Horns much as they blow by the Shoshone National Forest.
Lovely places to drive through on the way to the star of the state - Yellowstone National Park.
Again that may not be true but the numbers seem to bear that out in our brief experience.
Such beautiful places that should also star on people's journeys.................
Pictures taken at various pull-offs as we continued further............
We saw a road sign not long before stopping at this river indicating that we were close to 10,000 feet.
After the heat of lower elevations we could feel the relief in the temperature as we continued to climb.
We had moved higher, we had moved out of the unsettled and variable weather of the mountain cliff ranges, we had moved into surprisingly wide open wild-flower filled and grassy meadows.
Although there did not seem to be a lot of tourists we came across in our travels, we did come across lots of trails and lots of folks four-wheeling.
At 10,000 feet everything is very very green................
Not far from the river we stopped again at this very beautiful and very peaceful lake.
Surrounded by pine trees and mountains............
Families fishing and kayaking and swimming and camping at this same lake...............
Snow fences spanning the entire width of one hill side.
And views of never-ending forever.................

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