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Runtrails' Rocky Mountain Journal
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"Wheresoever you go, go with all your heart."
- Confucius


Despite our best intentions to take it easy on this trip, we love to explore the world around us. When the world around us is as spectacular as the Bighorn Mountains, it's hard to sit around the campground all day. Much as I would have loved to edit photos and catch up on journal entries today, the lure of the road was greater.

We decided to do a grand driving loop of the Bighorns. There are two-and-a-half east-west routes across this large national forest: Hwy. 16 from Buffalo to Worland via Ten Sleep (love that name!) in the far south and Hwy. 14 from Dayton to Greybull in the north.

Highway 14 splits midway through the mountains at Burgess Junction into Hwy. 14A, which takes an even more northerly route over Bighorn Lake to Lovell. Hence, the reference to two-and-a-half ways to get across the mountains. There are no north-to-south routes.

Today we decided to do a counter-clockwise route from our base in Dayton west on Hwy. 14 to Burgess Junction, where we did an hour's run/hike on the road to Dry Fork, south on a dirt road (Red Gulch Backcountry Byway) down to Ten Sleep, east on Hwy. 16 to Buffalo, over to the little towns of Story and Big Horn, then through Sheridan and back to the campground in Dayton.

As often happens, the plan morphed a bit.

We drove the now-familiar 28-mile route up, up, up to Burgess Junction and turned on the dirt road to Dry Fork. After finding a shady spot in a meadow not too far in, Jim headed up the road with Cody. Tater and I explored a snowmobile trail I spotted behind the truck.

I wonder where that goes??

This trail may be smooth when it's covered with snow, but in the summer it's mostly flower-filled meadows and cleared areas between trees.

Good thing I was only walking (testing my remaining sore calf today). Most of it was too rough to run. I almost felt guilty walking through the flowers, but in some places they were too dense to avoid.

I liked this setting with Rosy Indian Paintbrush and blue Lupines:

Tater and I saw several bucks and does on our run, but no fawns. I first thought one large buck was an elk until I saw the elegant springing motion he used to propel himself through the clearing and woods. Elks don't do that. I was captivated watching him.

Jim and Cody ran about four miles on the road; Tater and I walked fast about three miles on the snowmobile trail, I think I should be able to run again in a couple days. I've been icing and stretching my sore leg muscles and feel no pain in them now. Jim feels pretty spry after his 48 miles, too.


We returned to nearby Burgess Junction and headed west on Hwy. 14. The next photos show the approach to colorful Shell Canyon as the road drops about 5,000 feet from Granite Pass to the valley below. Except for the water shots, I took the remaining photos from the truck as Jim drove (it took some time to edit out the bugs on the windshield!!):



Although we've seen the dramatic Shells Falls before, we stopped again to see the mighty surge of water pour through the upper falls from the observation decks.


Shell Creek is 120 feet below the observation walkways, but doesn't seem that far when you're looking down at it.


The next two views are west of the falls:


Past the little town of Shell, Hwy. 14 travels through the valley and isn't nearly as interesting as up in the mountains. We decided not to follow Red Gulch Backcountry Byway because the dirt road would have taken a long time to reach Ten Sleep. It probably would have been prettier than the paved highways through Greybull, Manderson, and Worland, however.

Hwy. 16 from Worland east to Ten Sleep was full of colorful "badlands" rock formations and sculptures. I wasn't able to get any good "windshield" shots there, but took this photo of a bright reddish formation and brilliant green field next to Norwood Creek near Ten Sleep:

Ten Sleep is a little town with an unusual name. I read in a book about place names in the Bighorn Mountains that it took "ten sleeps" (ten days and nights) for the Native Americans to get there from another location. Simple, eh?

By the time we got to Ten Sleep we were ready for some ice cream, which we found in eclectic "Dirty Sally's" store, named after a character in the old TV show, Gunsmoke.

The next two scenes are through the Cloud Peak Wilderness Area farther east on Hwy. 16:


We drove past several battle sites south of the little town of Story along the road that roughly follows the old Bozeman Trail - Fort Phil Kearny, Wagon Box Fight, and the Fetterman Site. We ran out of time before getting to the Bradford Brinton Memorial and Museum in Big Horn. It houses an impressive gallery of works by famous western artists like Remington and Russell, as well as a rich collection of Native American art.

It was a long day with a lot of miles. Highways 14 and 16 are very different. Each has its merits, but we preferred the northerly routes (14 and 14A), which are more lush with greenery and flowers.

Next up: a photo essay featuring some of the flowers of the Bighorn Mountains. Then we're off to the Colorado Trail!!

"Runtrails & Company" - Sue Norwood, Jim O'Neil, Cody, and Tater

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2006 Sue Norwood and Jim O'Neil