Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Bighorn National Forest, Wyoming - US 14A West!

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     Bighorn National Forest, Wyoming - US 14A West!
     The Bighorn National Forest covers a vast expanse of land in north central Wyoming.  The geography of this protected land is unique.  This National Forest actually is a tall mountain range on the high desert plains.  The drive going up the mountain is steep, but at just over 7,000 feet above sea level the terrain turns into a paradise of high mountain meadows and rolling hills.
     U.S. Highway 14 runs through the Bighorn National Forest from Greybull to Sheridan.  Highway 14 also branches off in a westerly direction as Highway 14A (Alternate Hwy 14) at Burgess Junction.  Just to give fair warning, Alternate Highway 14 West happens to be one of the steepest roads in America, so large RVs and trailers may have a tough time on this road.  The steep downhill run can even be a challenge for cars and this thrill ride will surely test the nerves of the passengers.          
     Taking a drive on Alternate Highway 14 West will result in plenty of majestic sights to see and plenty of things to do.  Deep evergreen forests and grassy rolling hills are overlooked by many towering mountain rock outcrops along this road.  There is a 3 mile hiking trail that leads to an ancient native Medicine Wheel on top of a mountain peak.  The views from the Medicine Wheel and the cliffs along the western rim of the Bighorn Mountains overlook a valley that stretches out to the horizon.  This is a place where the mountains tough the clouds!           
     The U.S. Forest Service describes the Bighorn as "a land of many uses" and this is clearly evident upon arrival at the high elevations.  The Bighorn is a haven for wildlife, cattle ranching, horseback riding, sheep herding, outdoor sports, winter sports and off-road recreational vehicles.  The Bighorn can be described as a playground for outdoor enthusiasts and rightly so.  
     This National Forest offers some of the best elk hunting and fly fishing in west.  There are many spring fed streams and rivers that run through the ravines and valleys.  ATV and snowmobile trails run just about everywhere on the mountain.  There are Nordic Ski trails and plenty of hiking trails too.
     Wildlife viewing and nature photography is what many people like to do in the Bighorn Mountains.  When conditions are right, there is plenty of wildlife to see.  Moose, elk, and mule deer are fairly easy to spot during the summer months.  It takes a little more effort to spot some Bighorn Sheep on the high rocky outcrops.  When hiking through rocky terrain, small animals like marmots and chipmunks pop up from underground burrows everywhere to say hello.  
     There are a few bears, coyote, wolves and mountain lions on the mountain.  These predators are rarely seen, but it does not mean they are not there.  Keeping an eye on small children and pets is advisable in the Bighorn, just like any wilderness area.  
     Keeping an eye on the adults is advisable in some cases too.  In this modern age of taking selfie photos, some folks get a little bit too close to the wildlife and this can lead to disaster.  Moose and elk sure do look docile when grazing, but by taking one step too close, a wild moose or elk will stop at nothing to defend its territory or offspring.  Many people on the Bighorn agree that an angry moose is the most dangerous animal on the mountain, especially if it is a mama moose with its offspring!  So by all means, keep at least 100 yards between you and the docile looking big wild animals!  
     The drive to the Bighorn National Forest is quite a distance from anywhere that visitors may come from.  This means that to get the most out of a venture to the Bighorn, it is best to plan on spending a few days on the mountain.  There are plenty of campsites and a few rustic lodges that visitors can call base camp.  It is best to stock up on food and camping gear at cities and towns near the base of the mountain, because there is nothing but restaurant food on top of the hill.  Satellite communications are just about the only thing that works on the mountain, so those who do e-business while on vacation should keep this in mind.
     No matter whether the vacation plan calls for a week of rustic camping in the mountains or just taking a scenic drive through the wilderness, one simply cannot go wrong.  Experiencing the Bighorn National Forest is something that belongs on the lifetime bucket list.  This Wyoming wilderness area offers plenty of fun things to do and plenty of nature to explore!           

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