Our journey to the Bighorn Mountains marked my return to these familiar hills 30 years after I left my job as a firefighter with the US Forest Service. Our first activity of the day was a six-mile hike in the Cloud Peak Wilderness Area just west of Buffalo.
From the Circle Park Trailhead, we followed the trail to Sherd and Rainey Lakes before turning around. At Sherd Lake, we had beautiful views of the lake with the 13,000-foot granite summit of Cloud Peak towering in the distance. Although the Forest Service classifies this trail as “heavily used,” on this clear, fall day, we didn’t see another person.
At the base of these peaks is the Medicine Wheel Ranger Station, the place I called home for two summers. It was nice to see that, other than a new paint job, the place looked pretty much the same as it did those many years ago.
But some things do change: now, in an effort to protect this fragile piece of history, the road is closed below the wheel, requiring a three-mile round-trip hike. Unfortunately, by the time we got there, it was late in the afternoon, we were tired and hungry, the nearest restaurant was more than 20 miles away, and we just didn’t have the energy for another hike. So, we saved the Medicine Wheel for a future visit, when I get the urge to once again visit my former home in the Bighorn Mountains.