All the way to the top

For those of us living by the ocean, I think we fail to realize what it means to live at sea level. I can’t remember the last time I cared what my elevation was – because it seemed irrelevant. This morning we set out to visit the Bighorn Medicine Wheel, in the Bighorn mountains of Wyoming. It was a 2 hour drive to the base, elevation 9000 feet. It didn’t take long to feel the affects of this elevator.  My head started to throb, and my lungs could feel the affect of the thinning air.  But it was worth it to see the medicine wheel. However, when we arrived at the parking lot, way in the middle of nowhere, the one US Forest Attendant tells us it is a 1.5 mile hike to get there with a 800 foot elevation gain. I cringe, but am still willing to go the mile (or mile and a half in this case). Then he tells me it doesn’t matter because we can’t get there, trail has snow on it. Again, we don’t care, we will deal. He then expands his statement to say 2 days ago an archeologist went in. With snowshoes. And there are 29 foot snowbanks. And it isn’t safe. He told us to try again in a few weeks. We were saddened. So he recommended to visit Shell falls instead. Didn’t have the same historical and cultural significance, but was beautiful none the less.

One way through we passed a lady preparing to hang glide from the bighorn mountain into the Wyoming valley below. We hung out to watch her take the dive. We then proceeded to Devil’s Tower (via Gilette, as a favour for a friend) – the inside of a dormant volcano, famous for rock climbing (and from the movie “close encounters of the third kind”). It was yet another landmark that exceeded the hype. Ray walked the 2km loop around the base, while I held back as the heat was wearing on me. We then passed through a series of small towns just before the South Dakota border.

And finally we arrived in South Dakota. We are staying with Kate’s family in Belle Fourche, a town of about 4500 people and a huge fourth of July celebration. We went to the carnival in the evening and watched the rodeo fireworks and then came back to her aunt and uncles for 2 more hours of lighting our own. And for those of you who know Kate – her family is just as amazing as she is. So warm and open and full of hospitality. Looking forward to seeing what more South Dakota has to offer!

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