I noticed that most of the photos I’ve posted thus far are not green, either due to winter conditions or dry areas, so I figured its time for a change.
This entire area is brilliantly green, at least in the spring, and all these beautiful streams and rivers are partly the cause. This small stream is flowing into the North Fork of the Tongue River in the vicinity of Burgess Junction in the Bighorn Mountains of Wyoming.
Nearby is the North Tongue Campground where I’ve stayed several times. It was almost “magical” the first time I was there. After moving to Nebraska from California I really began to miss mountains. So I started making trips, each further and further west, initially with hills in Nebraska, then the Black Hills in South Dakota and finally the Bighorns. At last real mountains. I had no idea where to go so while I was in Sheridan Wyoming and had expected to go to the Forest Service office for maps I found it was closed (temporarily). So, fortunately there was a bicycle shop downtown that turned out to be a general outdoor goods supplier. There I got a good map but more importantly some advice on where to camp.
I picked North Tongue because it was conveniently located (not far from a lodge and general store). When I arrived driving along the North Tongue I spotted several moose down in the willows. In the small (and then wonderful) campground there were deer grazing on the fresh greens and abundant flowers of many types everywhere. The air was cool and the sun was warm and even though the snow had only recently melted the ground was dry. The campsites were large and far from the neighbors. It was wonderful.
I went back a couple of years later and it wasn’t so great. As has happened many places private operators have taken over what used to be public National Forest Service campgrounds. In this case, for some silly reason, they fenced in the entire campground, which also meant that the actual site where I’d put my tent was now “outside” the fence. So I had to camp in another site, in the gravel pad usually for RVs (instead of soft ground and grass as before). Plus it snowed a bunch and so I was far less happy the second visit.
So I searched for another campground and found an even better one, but that will be a story (and photo) for another day.
Returning to Wyoming as my favorite outdoor destination is an odd path for me. I grew up in Texas and my family often went to Wyoming or Montana for vacations. Then, at just the right time, we moved to Montana and I fell in love with the Beartooths and Red Lodge, but also visited the Bighorns. To me, the Rockies were the very definition of mountains. Then I moved to Massachusetts for college and there took up backpacking so now the White Mountains of New Hampshire became my standard for mountains (I once scoffed at the idea of climbing Mt. Washington which was a mere 6000+ feet when I was used to 12000 feet in the Rockies, but I learned it’s not just how high you are, but how much you climb from the base and how steep, so Mt. Washington is a lot tougher). Anyway, then I moved to California and continued backpacking in the Sierra. The Sierra are very different from the Rockies, mostly being very dry and less heavily wooded and almost guaranteed to have no rain in the summer (my first backpack on Mt. Washington was, stupidly, during a hurricane and we got seriously soaked; other places like the Cascades in Washington State or Rockies near Banff were also rained out trips, so dry is good when backpacking). Anyway I got used to the Sierra, so after 30 years in California it was weird to be back in the Rockies again but compared to the endless cornfields of the midwest it was also a wonderful refuge for self-rejuvenation.
Fortunately the Bighorns are the lesser known (and traveled) part of Wyoming and instead the mobs and traffic jams and over-population is mostly in nearby Yellowstone and most out-of-state tourists skip the Bighorns. But now there is a reservation system for campsites and my favorite spot is book many months before the snow even melts so, sadly, I haven’t been back to the Bighorns recently and so only have photos and memories to enjoy.