I took my summer sojourn to visit the Medicine Wheel National Historic Landmark in the Bighorn Mountains of Wyoming this past weekend. I am drawn to sacred sites and I knew that this would be a meaningful place to photograph after seeing a website photo of the rope fence decorated with colorful offerings. The cloth packets, bandanas, beads, and feathers hanging on the rope fence were left by the 81 indigenous Indian tribes who visit the Medicine Wheel. The guard told me that the tied up packets contain tobacco, sage, and cedar. I need to research this tradition, as I have never seen these beautiful handmade offerings before, many of which look like bouquets of roses.
This ancient site, believed to be 700 years old, contains an 80-foot diameter wheel of stones radiating with 28 spokes and six rock cairns. Vandalism has caused the astrologically-aligned wheel to be recently fenced in from tourists, although native people are still allowed entry inside the wheel. To me, the fence and its abundant offerings dominated the solemness of the white rocks on the earth, and commanded most of my visual attention.
The drive from Fort Collins to northern Wyoming took one short day. We rented a quaint old cabin in the historic district of Buffalo, and the next morning spent the day exploring the Bighorns on Scenic Byway 14A heading west out of Sheridan. The scenery was idyllic. Spying three moose on the way there was a good omen. Medicine Wheel, which resides at nearly 10,000 feet above sea level, hangs precipitously over the deserts of Western Wyoming. The mandatory three-mile hike was a bit of a chore for me at that elevation, but plenty of pikas and marmots kept me company along the rocky route. Medicine Wheel is well worth the effort.
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