After we ran near the Porcupine Ranger
Station yesterday, we headed up Hwy. 14A about half a mile to the turn-off for the
Medicine Wheel, a 10,000-year-old sacred site for the Plains Indian tribes inhabiting this
region. It sits on the western peak of Medicine
Mountain at about 9,950 feet, perfect for some history and more acclimating.
Many legends and traditions exist that try to
explain the origin of the Medicine Wheel, but no artifacts have been found that
point to a specific culture or people, according to the
Forest Service website. "Like Stonehenge in England, it is widely
believed that the Medicine Wheel was connected to celestial observations, but
the exact ways have been long lost."
Medicine Wheel is part of a much larger
complex of interrelated archeological sites and "traditional use" areas
surrounding Medicine Mountain such as ceremonial areas, medicinal and ceremonial
plant gathering areas, sweat lodge sites, altars, and fasting/vision quest
I've been to Stonehenge. It was magical in the
light of early morning. I heard about Medicine Wheel when I lived in Billings,
but we just never drove down to see it. Now that I was so close, I had to go.
We got there too early in the season for the visitor center
to be open. From June 20 until the end of September, interpreters will be
available to give information and guided tours. There are several informational
placards near the parking area and at the Five Springs site along the walk.
There is an uphill, 1.5-mile walking path to the wheel; most visitors
cannot drive up. Jim didn't want to push himself too far too soon, so he
stayed in the truck with the dogs while I ran and hiked up to the wheel.
There were about a dozen other visitors, but none were at the wheel
while I was there. I walked when I was near the wheel, respectful of the
Here are some photos on the way to and from the
The rough stone circle of the Medicine Wheel
is about 75 feet in diameter with 28 radial rows of rock extending from a
central cairn like spokes of a wheel. You can see the "spokes" in the two photos
According to tribal beliefs, the circular
shape of the wheel represents the earth, the sun, the moon, the cycles of life,
the seasons, and day to night.
Visitors walk around the circle in a clockwise
direction, the rotation path of the earth, outside a stone and rope fence; only
people with permits may enter the inner circle during special ceremonies,
such as the upcoming celebration of the summer solstice. Visitors have left a
variety of colorful offerings and mementoes tied to the ropes surrounding the
site. A few are shown below:
I really enjoyed visiting this site and recommend it to
others. Since Jim hasn't seen it yet, I hope we can return before we leave the
Despite the snow bank halfway up to the wheel, there were
many flowers blooming in the sun. One of my favorites is the blue Pasque Flower,
growing in abundance at the beginning of the trail:
The wildflowers were spectacular along the
road leading into and out of Medicine Wheel. I took these photos on the way back
to Porcupine Ranger Station:
Another fine day in the Bighorn Mountains! Are you ready to
book a flight to Wyoming yet??
Next entry: Camp Creek Ridge training run, second
trip to Billings, update on Jim's recovery from the rattlesnake bite.