Spring snow in the mountains

Continuing with some pretty outdoor scenes here is an unexpected scene.

This is a shot of the turnaround loop in the North Tongue campground in the Bighorn Mountains in early summer. Over night it got cold enough to produce a light snow on the ground. Earlier in the morning the ground was almost entirely covered with wet sloppy snow but as the sun came out it quickly began to melt.

This was not my first visit to this campground but the campground was my first visit to the Bighorns. I literally had no idea where to go so I just piled camping stuff in the car and did the long boring drive, about 1000 miles, to Sheridan Wyoming. There I expected to get information at the US Forest Service office but found it was closed for remodeling. Not sure what to do and very much needing a good forest service map and information I had noticed there was a bike store on the main street in Sheridan.

I went in there and discovered it was a general outdoor outfitter with camping stuff and more importantly a good forest service map. But even better the proprietor was friendly and happy to provide lots of information, especially recommendations about campgrounds. I choose one of his recommendations and headed into the mountains. I’d never been here before so it was great fun to drive the very steep road up to the top. The Bighorns are not really a range of separate mountains so much as a high plateau with then some peaks so everywhere was the “mountain”.

I’d passed the Tongue River driving up through Dayton and Ranchester and then discovered it had a North and South Fork that join in the mountains and then flow east, eventually into the Missouri. The North Tongue campground is quite small, L-shaped, with just a few sites (like 12, IIRC) on the upper (southern) leg that ends in this turnaround so the RVs can get back out of the campground. On my first trip the campground was almost empty and so I had my choice of spots.

On the drive in there had been a lot of moose down in the North Fork of the Tongue which is about 1/2 mile from the campground loop (which is just off Burgess Junction). In the campground loop there was lush spring growth, tons of wildflowers and a bunch of deer munching away on the new growth. It is hard to imagine a more pastoral and tranquil scene. Even when the crowds descended a week later (for 4th of July weekend) the campsites are large and far apart so it’s a great place to camp, especially when you only have a tent instead of RV.

So just lucking out to discover this spot a couple of years later I came back (when I made this photo). By then the campground had been privatized and completely fenced, thus disrupting my almost wilderness experience (I’d parked my car on the campsite pad but carried my tent back in the woods a ways, now behind the fence). So on this trip the campsites were not so good and I ended up putting my tent in the parking pad. After a couple of days this snow came.

All of this reduced the fun of this campsite so I explored and eventually found a better one, Tie Flume and site #22, on the South Fork of the Tongue. Actually I’m glad the adverse changed to my favorite campground forced me to find another since Tie Flume was better, at least those few sites along the river.

The Bighorns are mostly neglected by most tourists on their way to Yellowstone or Tetons and thus more used by locals or people looking for a more isolated nature experience. Having that good forest service map and an AWD vehicle allows lots of exploration. Much of the Bighorns is grasslands, rather than dense forest, so there is good hiking everywhere. It’s a great spot and much better than the other overcrowded spots in Wyoming.

And there are a ton of good scenes for photography. I mostly only took “snaps” while there on previous trips and now with a better camera and more interest I’d love to go back and really focus on some more serious shooting.

About dmill96

old fat (but now getting trim and fit) guy, who used to create software in Silicon Valley (almost before it was called that), who used to go backpacking and bicycling and cross-country skiing and now geodashes, drives AWD in Wyoming, takes pictures, and writes long blog posts and does xizquvjyk.
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