Saturday, June 28, 2014

Medicine Wheel - Bighorn Mountains, Wyoming - 2014 Author Tour - Part 9

(To start at the beginning of this series of posts about my 2014 Author Tour, go here)

I wanted to see the Medicine Wheel located off highway 14A near the northern border of Wyoming in the Bighorn Mountains. To get there, you exit the highway (it's well marked) and drive a mile and a half up a narrow dirt road, park, and then hike another mile and a half to the site. It's at a high altitude - close to 10,000 feet above sea level - and I'm not in the best shape, so I had to stop and rest often along the trail. Also - even though it was late June - parts of the trail were blocked with snow. It was a little scary walking through this slippery part, with about a forty foot drop (though not steep) to the side:

There was one particularly large snow drift that I had to walk around. On the way out, I circled above it - the way I'd recommend - and on the way back, I circled below it, slipped and fell on my butt in a bunch of mud - not recommended! Bu most of the way was clear and wide:

Along the way I met this little fella:

The Medicine Wheel is atop that rise on Medicine Mountain:

The Medicine Wheel is sacred to many Native Americans. It's estimated to be anywhere from 300 to 800 years old. It's about 80 feet in diameter, with 28 spokes radiating from the central cairn. There are six smaller cairns along the outer circle. There's a fence around the whole thing, and you need special permission to enter into the wheel. Here's the central cairn. Notice the buffalo skull. Those colorful ribbons on the fence are offerings or tokens of thanks. People also leave bunches of sage, hoops, shells, rocks; all kinds of different symbols of appreciation for their ancestors or spirits.

Tokens of prayer and appreciation:

Shell left on a post:

I found a cool looking rock on the trail that looked a little like a paw, and left it on the post. I closed my eyes and asked to know my ancestors better - the next moment, there was a strong gust of wind, as if in answer.

Some more pictures of the Medicine Wheel (considered a sacred hoop by some):

For some of the astronomical significance of the alignment of the spokes, there's some good information here.

I recommend checking this out. Just know that the trail is only clear for a few months in the summer, and that it's at a high altitude. The scenery from everywhere along the trail is beautiful. Be respectful of the place, and stay on the trail!

Here's a cool view I saw walking back to my car - the sun peeking through clouds, illuminating a spot on the distant mountains:

Thanks for stopping by!

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