Our Fourth of July Road Trip continued on northward along the Wyoming Scenic Backway road called Alkali Road. This rough mountain road began in the arid low lands of Bighorn County. As we climbed higher, we found ourselves surrounded by a band of sheep. I grew up around sheep, so I knew how to get them to move off the road. The other members of our group were not so familiar with sheep, so they enjoyed seeing them, and were especially entertained by the two sheep dogs (Great White Perinese) that were with them.
After we passed over the top of the mountain, the entire ecosystem changed from high desert to alpine forest. The wildflowers were stunning!
The next stop was Shell Canyon. This is a beautiful narrow canyon with Shell Creek running through it. Because of the geological uplifts and erosion, rock formations dating back 10 Million years can be seen here.
We followed Highway 14 north, then turned west at Burgess Junction, heading for Medicine Wheel National Historic Landmark. Medicine Wheel is a 1.5 mile hike from the parking area, but well worth the trip and we had wonderful cool weather by the time we arrived at 5 PM.
The Medicine Wheel is a sacred aboriginal site where Indians still perform religious ceremonies. Located at the top of Medicine Mountain at an elevation nearly 10,000 feet, the wheel consists of 28 spokes radiating from a central hub. The wheel is 80 feet in diameter and is made from unhewed rock pieces. Six additional mounds or cairns are spaced unevenly around the rim. Each mound has an opening that faces a different direction.
The origin and meaning of the wheel are unknown. Some archaeologists suggest that it resembles the Mexican calendar stone, while other think it was used for astrological purposes.
Nobody really knows how old Medicine Wheel is - or who may have constructed it.
Visiting Medicine Wheel can be a powerful and mystical experience. It was an amazing feeling the first time I visited. I was profoundly moved, and continue to feel its power when I visit.
I've been visiting Medicine Wheel nearly every year since the late 90's. I've always found spiritual inspiration here during my meditations, and it has called me back time and time again.
Our last stop on the Fourth of July Road trip was at the Five Springs Campground for a picnic supper and a short hike up to Five Springs falls.