With temperatures in Buffalo predicted to be in the high nineties, we headed out Tuesday morning to the high (and cooler) country in the nearby Bighorn Mountains. We drove about 15 miles west on US-16 before turning right on to Forest Service Road 20, also known as Circle Park Road.
A little over two miles up the dirt road we arrived at the end of the road, Circle Park Trailhead. From here hikers can join a series of trails that wind past numerous small lakes in the Circle Park Wilderness. Our plan was to hike from the trailhead (ele. 8250′) up a bit over three miles to Rainy Lake (ele. 9400′) and possibly another mile to Willow Lake.
As we headed up the trail we found the path to be very rocky, slowing down our pace as we steadily gained in elevation.
As we said, this area is filled with small ponds and lakes. We soon passed one of these ponds covered with reeds and lily pads. A closer look revealed the home of the pond construction company.
At 1.8 miles from the trailhead we passed by Sherd Lake. We spotted a few people fishing as we hiked along the shoreline.
It was then another 1.3 miles up the rocky trail to our destination, beautiful Rainy Lake.
There was a strong wind blowing as we sat next to the lake enjoying lunch (which helped keep the flies away). But unfortunately Rainy Lake lived up to its name. The weather prediction for Buffalo included a zero chance of rain. But things can be a bit different at higher elevations. In the photo above you can just see some dark clouds over the mountains. With the dark clouds approaching we finished lunch and decided to head back down the trail. Soon the sky darkened and thunder rumbled in the distance. As we headed back down the trail the thunder was right over our heads and it began to rain. At one point it came down heavily, forcing us to take shelter under a group of pine trees for a few minutes. But for the most part we hiked under a light drizzle. Returning to the trailhead we found little evidence of rain and, of course, the skies were clear all day back in town.
The next day was much cooler so we decided to enjoy a scenic drive through Crazy Woman Canyon. To get to the canyon we retraced our drive the previous day up US-16, drove five miles past the turn to Circle Park, and turned left on to Forest Road 33.
Soon the narrow road headed down into the canyon. We stopped and removed the tops on the Jeep so we could enjoy the great views overhead.
The road follows Crazy Woman Creek as it flows down through the canyon.
Beautiful rock formations loomed over us as the canyon narrowed.
Somewhere near the middle of the drive through the canyon we stopped for about an hour to enjoy lunch and some quiet time along the creek.
Continuing down the road we came to a spot where the sound of the flowing creek suddenly stopped and the water disappeared.
The water disappears underground for about a quarter mile before returning to the surface.
After a drive of about four miles through the canyon the road goes up a hill and on to a wide, flat prairie.
Turning around to look back at the mountains we were treated to a view of beautiful patterns in the rocks on the hillside behind us.
OK, how did the canyon get its name? In an photo earlier in this blog we showed you a photo that provides one possible explanation. But there are other possible answers to this question. There seem to be two popular theories for Crazy Woman Canyon. One says it was named for an Indian woman, left to live alone in her teepee here, who went insane. The other tells a tragic and violent tale of a settler who witnessed the capture and scalping of her husband by Indians, which drove her to insanity. Believe what you want, we’re (or at least one of us) sticking to the woman in the earlier photo!