Saturday, August 18, 2012

Bighorn Mountains, plans go awry

So our plans were to drive up into the southern portion of the Bighorn Canyon National Recreation Area's south entrance, then back-track to Highway 14A and head up the Bighorn National Forest to see a few waterfalls, the landscape, and then head back to Greybull on Highway 14.  Highway 14A is known as the Medicine Wheel Passage while Highway 14  to Greybull is called the Bighorn Scenic Byway.  They merge to Highway 14 at the Burgess Junction Visitor Center.  They both have fairly large grades, so taking the motor home is not advisable.  When we go over with the motor home, we are taking Highway 16, which is to the south and much easier to handle.

So we are going out the door at 8 am, get in the car and .... it won't start.  It is that battery again.  I wonder if I left lights on or something....  We jump it with the motor home, and off we go, just to realize that I forgot the camera....come back, get the camera, it starts right up...off we go.

We get to Lovell where there is a nice visitor's center for the entire Bighorn area.  We watch a 20 minute movie about the Bighorn Canyon.  We go out to the car after 35 minutes or so of being at the visitor's center...and it won't start.  At least I brought the jumper cables, and we get a jumb.  At this point, I felt we could at least do some of the Canyon, but otherwise, getting a new car battery was a top priority.

Bighorn Canyon has two entrances, one to the south in Wyoming, and one to the north in Montana.  The two roads do not meet, with a large gap between the two.  This is because the area they could have a road is in the Crow Indian Reservation.  There is also the large Pryor Mountain Wild Horse Range which is in this portion.  Here is a quip from their website:

"Wild horses still roam freely in the Pryor Mountains outside of Lovell, Wyoming. This herd of horses is very special because of its Colonial Spanish American heritage. This tough little horse, derived from the horses of Portugal and Spain, has been present in this rugged mountain area for nearly 200 years. If lost, the herd cannot be restored; and so its biological viability, together with its history, must be preserved."

We take the drive up to the Canyon from the visitor's center.  We don't have to pay to enter the park because we have the senior pass, although it was a self-pay situation anyway.  (We did see someone getting a ticket, so I do think they check.)  Quickly we reach the "Welcome to Montana" sign.  Right where we figure we are in the horse area I joke, "Ya, we are going to see wild horses just like we saw bears in Yellowstone...." and then BINGO!, there is a large group of them.

Wow, that was easy!  And we drive on about 1/4 of a mile and see the sign, "Now entering the Pryor Mountain Wild Horse Range, drive careful."   Hmmm....maybe we were not so lucky after all....but then, maybe this group got out of the boundries.  I see a turn out to get a picture of the river running along the low canyons, and BINGO, this time we got some horses for sure...and much easier to view.
So we got the horses and the river and the beginning of the canyon all in one shot!

We go down the road just another 1/4 mile or so, and there is nice information plaque about the horses.
It talks about their European Heritage, about how this was the first area set aside just for horses, and more information about the horses and how they survive.  

The landscape in the horse area is wonderful, with a combination of red rock to grey rock and many shades in between, as shown in the picture above and below.

Soon we come to or main attraction for the day, "Devil Canyon Overlook". Here you can view the 1,000 feet walls of the canyon where the Porcupine Creek merges with the Bighorn River and continues down the Bighorn Canyon and eventually into Bighorn Lake further up into Montana.  Below are some pictures I got of this area, which, unfortunately, was not accessible to Marcia.

 Above, a look to the south, below a look to the east with a motor boat in the water.
 Below, a look to the north.
Below is a picture of the parking lot area.  There is a lot of uneven ground with small pebbles in it, which was not going to be walkable for Marcia, and the GoGo would have trouble with many of the steps up and down along the view.

Although we both wanted to go on...I did not want to push our luck with the car.  The battery had warned us enough, and chances are that it would have made it longer up the canyon as long as we did not stop the car...but if it did not, without cell coverage, it was best to not chance it.  When we got a cell signal, I called the O'Reilly Auto Parts store that showed up in our GPS in Greybull, and they did, indeed, have the battery we needed.  So we continued our drive back to Greybull.

Along the way we had one more info stop pertaining to the unique landscape in the area.

 And here I thought it was called Sheep Mountain because it was full of Big Horn....oh well.


We got to Greybull, and I dropped Marcia and Skruffy and Bubba off at the motor home, I grabbed my tools, and off to the auto parts store.  Thank goodness they did have the battery in stock.

Now for you all who might have HHRs, be aware of the location of the battery.  It is NOT up in the engine area, it is back in the storage bay by the spare tire.  Also, DON'T shut the back hatch door once you get the battery out...you will not get it open without power.  And, be prepared to dish out $125 if you are in a small town, because they will carry only their top of the line battery.....

I hope we might be able to at least do the rest of the drive that we missed while we stay in Buffalo Wyoming for a few days starting tomorrow.  At least we now have a good battery...

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