The final eighteen miles of each of the Bighorn races are identical from
the Dry Fork aid station to the finish at Scott Park in Dayton, WY.
In addition to the miles described in the 50K course description above
-- which I'll show in pictures in this entry -- runners
descend almost 3,000 feet in a little over three miles to the Lower
Sheep Creek aid station, Jim's and my turn-around point in the
entry. After dropping down the canyon to the aid station at the
trailhead, runners complete their journey on the Tongue River Canyon
Road to the town of Dayton.
I took this photo from Horse Creek Ridge last year
during the 50K race.
The view is toward the canyon and the plains
We had separate goals today:
- Jim wanted to run point-to-point from Camp Creek Ridge to the finish,
which is conveniently just a hundred yards from our camper! That's a distance
of about 17 miles.
- Since someone had to bring the truck back home, and all that downhill is
not a good thing for my Granny Knees, my goal was to hike with Cody from Camp
Creek Ridge to Horse Creek Ridge and back, a distance of about 10 miles.
This morning dawned cool (53° F.) and cloudy
but morphed into 68° and partly sunny down in Dayton. It was probably 10-15°
cooler in the mountains -- just about perfect for running/walking.
I had some dread as we drove up US 14 to Burgess Junction. Last year I was
more than a little dismayed at the "improvements" being made to the road in the
high plateau country for several miles west of the distinctive "ship's prow"
rock formation, shown below. The landscape was badly scarred as crews cut down trees and
moved tons and tons of dirt and rocks to straighten out the scenic curves and
switchbacks I loved so much.
Newly-improved road near the distinctive "ship's prow"
I was pleasantly surprised by what I saw today. Although the contractor was
unable to complete the job last year and still has two or three more miles of
pavement to complete,
the scars are not nearly as ugly as they were last year.
I found several positives. The company has installed nice rustic fencing
along this stretch, the new banks and the old sections of roadway have been
attractively landscaped, and the drive is still quite scenic. It's appreciably
faster, too! I grew to appreciate that.
There is still work to do but by this time next year the scars will be even
more healed and I'll probably forget what the old road looked like.
I sure hope the crew replaces that sign about the billion-year-old rocks,
All the geological signs going up the mountain from Dayton are still
there, from the Triassic Epoch around 230 million years ago to about 750
million years ago. (That's some upheaval, with the oldest rocks on top!) But
the sign for the billion-year-old rocks was on a tight switchback near the
ship's prow and now the road doesn't pass it. Maybe this weekend (when the road
crew isn't working) I'll stop and walk over to the spot where it was and see if
it's still there . . .
Still ugly here where the road work
hasn't been completed.
After reaching Burgess Junction, we turned right on FSR 15 and followed
various dirt roads to the location of the Dry Fork aid station. We didn't see much snow along the way but it appears the area is having a
late spring. There aren't as many flowers as I remember seeing in "early
spring" years. By race day there should be more.
As always, I hoped to see some elk or moose. I was disappointed to see
"only" a few deer.
DRAMA AT DRY FORK
We parked at the location of the Dry Fork AS and got out of the truck to
stretch and admire the views down the valley toward the Cow Camp AS
and up the ridges that lead to Riley Point (on the 50K course only) and Camp Creek Ridge:
The road to the lower left goes to Cow
Camp, the middle one to Riley Point,
and the right one to Camp Creek Ridge. The
Dry Fork AS will be at the intersection.
We were pleased to see that there was very little snow near
Riley Point (below). Last year we ran into a lot of snow there
when we tried to do a training run before the race.
Ahh . . . yes, it's good to be back! One year when we
lived in Billings, MT we drove our old Prowler camper to this
location and parked overnight while training prior to the race.
That's a great memory!
As I headed toward the creek on the right side of the road to let Cody get a drink, I was
shocked to see someone's disgusting display of three dead
marmots spread out on top of a large rock. The little furry
critters had been shot
very recently. I took pictures (evidence?) but will not show
them here. They are too disturbing. [Later: Thank
goodness someone removed them before the race.]
CAMP CREEK RIDGE TO THE UPPER SHEEP CREEK AID
We've both hiked the mile from Dry Fork up Freeze Out Road and a
maze of animal trails through a drainage to Camp Creek Ridge
enough times that we weren't interested in doing it today. We
didn't need the extra mileage or the strain of starting our
We drove up the road to the ridge, hung a right over the cattle
grate, and parked the truck in the flat, grassy area next to the
fence. This is the view looking back down the mountain toward
Cody soon spotted a big patch of leftover snow in a shaded spot
and started rolling around in it:
He'd repeat that game with the few other nearby snowdrifts we
Jim and I were pleased that there wasn't very much snow on the
road. We were able to bypass most of the muddy and wet spots:
I wish somebody would throw this stick for
me to chase!
I like to chase snowballs, too. I'm a
retriever; that's my job!
Yuck. Hope this dries out by race day.
These scenes are from Camp Creek Ridge to the location of the
Upper Horse Creek AS, a distance of about three miles. These
photos are in order and face forward, the direction inbound
runners will be going toward the finish.
Although the sky was mostly cloudy, we didn't get any rain.
These pictures don't make the scenery look as picturesque as it
is on a sunny day. <sigh>
Either jump over the creek (like Jim did) or walk
through it to get the mud off your shoes (like I did).
There is still some snow next to the creek in the shade
along this single-track trail section.
The moles have been busy in the soft, moist
One of the branches of Sheep Creek
parallels the trail.
Interesting rocks on the ridge to the left;
no leaves on these trees yet
This is a mostly-rolling section of trail at about 7,600-8,100
feet in elevation. There is one steeper climb about half a mile
before the aid station. This trail soon dead ends into a rough
4WD "road" that takes runners up the ridge
toward the left:
There are good views of Horse Creek Ridge in the distance from the trail (below) and
from the ridge going to
the Upper Sheep Creek AS:
Jim skirts the muddy ridge road down to the location (marked
with a red X) of the Upper Sheep Creek AS:
UPPER SHEEP CREEK AS TO HORSE CREEK RIDGE
After the aid station the course turns right and continues
downhill gradually to Sheep Creek:
Runners turn left just after the fence to parallel the creek for
about 1/4 mile on a single-track trail. That's an easy turn to
miss if you run the course before it's marked.
The trail crosses Sheep Creek on a sturdy log bridge at
about 7,300 feet elevation:
Then runners face a rather steep
700-foot climb in less than a mile to Horse Creek Ridge on a single-track trail
and rough 4WD road (there aren't very many smooth dirt
roads in this race!).
Jim was walking up the mountain just ahead of me when he spotted
this large bear track. I put my foot near it for size reference
(I have big feet!):
Cody wasn't going nuts so I don't think any bears were nearby.
We couldn't see where the tracks went. We had our bear radar up,
though. (I went back down this hill within half an hour.)
I was looking forward to seeing some of my favorite views from
the entire Bighorn course at the top of Horse Creek Ridge.
Unless the ridge is socked in by clouds, the ~ 300-degree views
make the climb worth the effort to me. There weren't as many
flowers or as much sun as I've sometimes captured on the ridge,
but I was still glad I climbed up there this morning.
Runners will head down the slope to the
left and follow a fence line for a while on single-track trail.
As runners head left down toward the Tongue
the "ship's prow" rock formation is to
their right (in distance above).
Those are totally dull pictures compared to the blue-sky
ones I've taken
in previous years up here (like the photo at the beginning of
this entry). See for yourself in the 2006, 2007, and 2009
Despite my protestations that he should be running, Jim walked
with me for five miles to the high point on Horse Creek Ridge
(elev. ~ 8,000 feet). We took a ten-minute break to relax, eat
some lunch, and tempt Cody (who got his own doggie bones, not
Jim's sweet roll):
Cody is so easily amused!
Then Jim continued on down the trail to our camper in Dayton, a
distance of about twelve more miles and a net loss in elevation
of about 4,000 feet (more if you count all the ups and downs).
That's the part I wanted to avoid to protect my knees.
HORSE CREEK RIDGE BACK TO CAMP CREEK RIDGE
Cody and I turned around and retraced our steps to the truck,
for a total of about ten miles. There were two fairly steep
descents on the return but nothing like a cumulative drop of
I took more time for photos on the return since I wasn't
hustling to keep up with Jim. Too bad it was still overcast.
I'll wait and do a separate entry on Bighorn flowers after
hiking more trails. They aren't as prolific as some years but
the ones that are blooming are quite pretty.
Note that this is the direction the 100-milers take outbound
from about seven to twelve miles into their race.
Back down to the bear paw print and Sheep
There were more flowers in the meadow after
the log bridge than up on Horse Creek Ridge.
Heading up the rutted, muddy 4WD track to
the Upper Sheep Creek AS (red X)
Downhill on another muddy "road" to the
single-track that parallels Sheep Creek
Back on a wider track, heading for the
With all the creeks and snowmelt, this is a
good route for dogs. Cody didn't need to carry any water.
Ironically, about half a mile from the truck the sky cleared
up in the direction I was walking!
I fought the urge to re-do the hike today so I could get better
photos! Maybe another day . . .
We were both pleased with our run/hike today. Jim finished his
16+ miles in 4:20 hours (he ended at the camper, which
was a little closer than the finish in Scott Park). The first
five miles hiking with me got him warmed up but really slowed
his total time. Despite the sun and heat near the end of his
trek, he did a lot of running the last 11+ miles through the
canyon and along the dirt road to Dayton.
Next entry: photos from the upper elevations of the
Bighorn 52- and 100-mile courses
"Runtrails & Company" - Sue Norwood, Jim O'Neil,
and Cody the Ultra Lab
© 2010 Sue Norwood and Jim O'Neil