At this point, we’re getting pretty good at setting up camp in the evening, and packing up and getting on the road in the morning. If we try, we can pack up and be on the road in an hour, including having breakfast (its not like we carry a lot of stuff with us.) Usually we’re a little bit more casual than that however.
This morning, after packing up in more cool, dry morning weather, we headed east and climbed WY Alt 14 up the Medicine Wheel passage into the Bighorn National Forest. The Medicine Wheel is a Native American archeological site with some mystery behind its origins. Constructed sometime between 1200 and 1700 AD, the wheel is stilled used by Native Americans as a spiritual place for prayer, offerings, and vision quests.
Going to see the Medicine Wheel involves a riding a couple of miles of unpaved road, and then a 1.5 miles hike up to the top. Time for more adventuring with with the monster.
(The sky really does appear a darker, more intense blue as you go up)
The road actually goes all the way up, but most visitors are asked to walk the last 1.5 miles, so the hike was very easy, despite the 9500+ ft elevation.
We spent some time at the top listening to the park ranger relate her experience participating in one of the annual ceremonies held at the Medicine Wheel by a local tribe. While its not possible to record everything she said here, a couple of things stuck out: The medicine wheel has always been considered a place for all people, and was not specific to one tribe. The wheel is viewed as a place for healing, although “medicine wheel” is the English name. The younger members of the tribe view the enter of the wheel as a place for important or high ranking people, and will only leave offerings on the outer ring, or even further out on outlying trees, if they feel they are not important enough in the tribe. One elder both prayed at the center of the wheel, and then on the outside, explaining that the outside prayers were more personal in nature, and that prayers at the center were for everyone. At the center, he prayed that the winds would provide help and guidance to all who needed it, even though he didn’t know who he was praying for, or what they needed.
The park rangers story telling adding a lot of context the really made the trip extra fun. We especially liked the juxtaposition of the several hundred year old spiritual site located on the same hill as an FAA radar dome. We’re the kind of people that would have liked to visit both, but the ra-dome wasn’t open for tours.
After seeing the Medicine Wheel, we headed south. Our next major stop is Colorado Springs, where we’ll ride and sight see until its time for the Pikes Peak race, so today we rode that direction until it was time to stop.
These antelope were close enough to the road to get a picture, but didn’t want to stick around when we stopped to get out the camera.
Finding a campsite tonight turned out to be more difficult than usual. We tried to stop at a state park, but they pulled a common tactic that state parks out west like to play, where they want to charge an entrance fee to the park, and then charge for camping, making the overall cost a little steep for what you get. At Boysen State park, the camping fee was only $10, but the entrance fee was $7. Ok, $17 is not bad, but they want that PER vehicle. That would be $34 for us on two motorcycles, for a rocky tent spot (RV oriented, as usual) with no power, no showers, no wi-fi. No thank you. To clarify, a truckload of people with a big RV is $17, but two people on two motorcycles with a tent? That’s $34. Only a government could enforce a pricing scheme that stupid. Good job, WY state parks. You could have had our $17, but instead, you got $0. And you wonder why your park was at about 10% capacity and you have a revenue problem.
After riding around quite a bit more trying to find a nice spot, we eventually gave up and stopped at the first decent looking commercial campground (RV Park) we could find. Fortunately, this was a quite, well run campground. For $20 we had a nice, soft grassy tent spot, a picnic table, running water and power at our site, and it was nice to have clean, hot showers, and some wi-fi. (read, more blogging, one of these I’ll actually catch up). That’s a good deal.
08/05/2012 – 270 miles. Sleeping Bear RV Park and Campground, in Lander, WY has the best public bathrooms in the west.