Vacation in the West

Vacation was a mix of enjoying old West historic locations, Native American spiritual sites, wildlife, and wildflowers. It was a beautiful year for wildflowers and everywhere I saw them covering hillsides in masses of color that looked like planted gardens.

Near Bozeman, Montana, is a place called Buffalo Jump. There are a lot of these places where the buffalo were driven off cliffs for their meat and hides. Archaeological evidence of the encampment was found below this picture and to the left. A trail led around that side and up on top where it was not hard to see how this process worked. Sweet yellow clover was in bloom all over Montana and Wyoming. How beautiful that was a photo doesn't begin to capture.

In Yellowstone Park, the Lamar Valley is where I heard the wolf, saw antelope, moose and got a nice picture of two bull elk. At Grizzly Discovery Center in West Yellowstone, Montana, I took study photos of wolves and grizzlies.

Crow Hollow Ranch is in the Paradise Valley which was formed by the Yellowstone River. It happens to be the last river in the US still undammed.

Off the highway is a kind of cave with petroglyphs. A short and easy trail trail leads right to it and explains the meaning of some of the symbols.

This shows one of the battle sites on the Little Big Horn River. Custer had marched his men all night to reach this point He didn't do reconnaissance which might've told him how many warriors he'd be facing. His scouts told him it was a huge encampment but he divided his forces in three and attacked with tired soldiers. He had no idea that Cheyenne and Sioux had come together for a spiritual gathering. When he attacked the village, he thought he would put an end to the depredations on the settlers coming into the Sioux and Cheyenne land. He expected the Indians to run and instead they attacked with vehemence with Crazy Horse at their lead. He and Crazy Horse were really on parallel mystic paths and both men had a strong sense of luck and destiny. Their meeting might have been inevitable.

At Bear Butte in South Dakota a mile long trail climbs to the top of the butte. At its base is an encampment of either Cheyenne or Sioux who are here for spiritual purposes. One man walked up the rocky trail in his stocking feet. He sat on a pile of wood and prayed. Prayer cloths along with tobacco offerings are tied by the Cheyenne or Lakota peoples on trees all the way to the top. Might get a few New Agers contributing too, I guess these days. In the distance you can see the Black Hills.

Devil's Tower is another sacred site to the Native American. They have a myth regarding how it was formed. Children playing were attacked by a giant bear and they prayed to be saved. As the bear came at them, the rock grew. The bear's claws marked its sides. It doesn't mention how the children got off because other than rock climbers, birds, and I guess a few snakes and small critters, nothing gets up on top of that and climbing up is sheer. Here again, Native Americans come to pray and to camp at its base. You can get an idea of the size in this picture of the rock which has fallen off at the base, last one fell they said 10,000 years ago. Somewhat reassuring as you walk the trail of 1.2 miles around its base.

Hole in the Wall was one of the hideouts of the outlaw gang known as the Wild bunch which included Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid. It sits in the northeastern corner of Wyoming high in the Little Big Horn Mountains and the red rock ranching country is pretty near as close to God's country as I think anybody gets. It was also important land to the Native Americans and it was up on its high country that I gathered sage for my own smudging. In this canyon is the middle fork of the Powder River and Outlaw Cave which was used as a hideout by rustlers of the area.

There is a story about Cassidy that I thought interesting. He sold the ranch the Wild Bunch used but didn't give the buyer a piece of paper as a deed. They took each other's word and Cassidy said he'd send the deed later. A year later an Indian showed up with the deed and would only give it to the correct man. The people of the area said they accepted the Indian as a friend because if Butch had trusted him, he must be all right. The Indian stayed in the area for some time.

Casper, Wyoming is the home of a sculptor who had done a piece I liked very much a few years ago. This time we bought a small version of Spirit of the Thunderbird and took this photograph of the larger than life size work on the campus of Casper College.

In Cody, Wyoming is the Buffalo Bill Historical Center. This is a really fine museum (they give you two days to go through it) with a fantastic art gallery full of contemporary and historic Western art--sculptures and paintings a wonderful and informative display of Native American clothing, tepees and explanations of the culture of various tribes.

For beauty, it's hard to beat the Teton Mountains of northwestern Wyoming but they are getting more and more crowded. Tourism can pretty near ruin anything. This picture was taken from the wildlife art museum outside of Jackson. The hill behind the sculpture of a bear is called Snow King which is quite a climb to the top. When you get to the top and have gone through the forests, crossed what would be ski runs in the summer, you find a tram has made it a lot easier for others. There is a snack shop up there... The Gros Ventre valley has a river winding through it and right now is big ranch land but at one time it was the home of the Gros Ventre Indians.This is a a view of the Tetons coming back out of the Gros Ventre country with the Gros Ventre River below.

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